What’s in a name? Trophies reveal intriguing histories

Tomorrow evening Waterford or Tipperary will send a captain forward to raise the Munster Hurling Cup, assuming there is no draw.

It is a quirk of Munster that neither of its two senior trophies carry ‘proper’ names, with initial plans to name the hurling trophy after Waterford’s Dan Fraher never coming to fruition.

The province’s minor hurling cup doesn’t have an official name either but it is affectionately known as ‘the TWA’ after the ill-fated airline – the first to fly trans-Atlantic from Shannon — presented it in 1946.

Both U21 versions are known as Corn na Cásca (Easter Cup), having been first presented in 1966 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising, but perhaps the most interesting of all the Munster cups is the intermediate hurling, which will be played for between Clare and Tipperary next Wednesday week.

The trophy is known as the Sweet Afton Cup, named for the brand launched by PJ Carroll to celebrate the links between its home town of Dundalk and Scottish poet Robert Burns (the Afton is a river in Ayrshire which Burns namechecked in a poem). There is no way it would happen today, given the concerns about smoking, but 61 years ago there were no such qualms.

In its July 21, 1951 issue, the Nenagh Guardian reported: “At a meeting of the Munster Council GAA held at Thurles, Mr Jerh. Shelly, representative of Messrs PJ Carroll & Co., Dundalk, presented a large silver cup, donated by his firm, as a perpetual trophy to be awarded to Munster junior hurling champions.”

Mr Shelly was happy to donate the cup: “My company feels especially pleased to have this cup accepted by your council as a further incentive to the attainment among the younger generation of that very high standard of games and sportsmanship for which your council is famous.”

The Sweet Afton brand was discontinued last year, so that cup now shares the distinction of carrying a defunct name with that awarded to the All-Ireland minor hurling winners, the Irish Press Cup.

In 1949, the newspaper presented a silver cup to mark the competition’s 21st anniversary. An article announcing the donation of the cup remarked: “while hurling flourishes in what may be termed the ‘traditional’ districts, it has been slow to spread out over the country and in those counties where it had to be fostered as a ‘new’ game, progress has been somewhat restricted.”

Restriction of progress was, and has been, most notable in Connacht, so much so that no hurling championship is played there now. When it was, the ‘Inky’ Flaherty Cup was on offer, named for Galway hurler MJ Flaherty, who never finished on the winning side in a championship game despite playing from 1936-’53. Though the Tribesmen defeated Kilkenny in the ’53 All-Ireland semi-final, Flaherty was an unused sub.

In the days before naming rights of competitions, cup donations were the extent of sponsorship. As a result of the cups keeping their names, today we have the anomaly where the winners of the National Football League – which is sponsored by Allianz Insurance – receive the New Ireland Cup, named after a life assurance company.


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