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The ghosts of the first Sam Maguire All Ireland
stir again in Croke Park
The ghost of GAA history were alive and well in Croke Park on an evening in early October when Gaels from Kildare and elsewhere gathered to mark the 80th anniversary of the first presentation of the Sam Maguire cup, the most iconic trophy in the Irish sporting repertoire.
The occasion was a seminar organised by the GAA Museum people in Croke Park to commemorate the 1928 All-Ireland final in which Kildare beat Cavan by a point. The Kildare captain Bill ‘Squires’ Gannon from Kildare town became the first man to lift the Sam Maguire cup which was presented for that first time that year.
The seminar was kicked off by one of Ireland’s leading sports historians Professor Mike Cronin of Boston College who enlightened the audience on the enigmatic of Sam Maguire, a Cork born Protestant who became involved in the GAA and the Irish Republic Brotherhood in London. He was a leading light in the London GAA who were a prominent unit in GAA in the early years of the 20th century. He returned to Ireland in the 1920s and had a job in the civil service in Dublin but had difficulty settling down in the new Free State Ireland. After his death  in 1926 a number of his friends decided to commission a trophy in his honour. Modelled on the Ardagh Chalice, a triumph of art from early Christian Ireland, the Sam Maguire was presented to the GAA for the 1928 final to replace a miscellany of trophies which had been used in earlier years.
Seminar chairman, Dr. Paul Rouse, then handed over to Kildare GAA historian Eoghan Corry who was in flying form – tracing with great energy the path of the Lilywhites to their fourth All-Ireland in 1928. Eoghan deployed all his technological wizardry along with his unparalleled knowledge of Kildare GAA and wowed the audience by showing some old Pathe newsreel films of Kildare in Croke Park from the 1920s. He delved into the personalities on the Kildare team and highlighted the different backgrounds of, and different influences on, the different Kildare players. All the great names including Gannon, Joe Curtis, Paddy Loughlin, Paul Doyle, Matt Goff, Jack Higgins and Gus Fitzpatrick  and others featured in his account.
The final contribution on the night came from Liam Kenny and Brian O’Reilly of Naas who read excerpts from the provincial newspapers of the day,  the Leinster Leader for Kildare and the Anglo-Celt from Cavan which had been compiled by Cavan-born Kildare historian Brian McCabe. The two were wearing Kildare and Cavan shirts respectively to add to the drama of the occasion.  They read out in dramatic fashion the extensive reports of that 1928 all Ireland which were written in an energetic and elegant style bringing the audience back into the mindsets of the people who attended the match on the day.  Brian O’Reilly, from the Fairgreen Pharmacy in Naas, although born in Kildare has impeccable Cavan credentials being a nephew of the great John Joe Reilly of the famous Cavan team which played in the Polo Grounds New York in 1947.
Impressive as these presentations were the star of the show did not say a word. Yes Sam Maguire was in the room – the original trophy first presented in 1928 and fought for over blood, sweat and tears for the following 60 years – stood resplendent in the room. After the talks had finished there was a rush to be photographed with the cup. Among those who had made the trip from Kildare to GAA headquarters was Bernadette Prendergast from Kildare town whose grandfather was Bill Gannon the first man to lift the trophy. Donning white gloves Bernadette got to lift Sam again two generations later. Another unique family group present were the Loughlins – Eddie, Paddy, Dermot, John and Mary – the four sons and daughter of Paddy Loughlin whose controversial goal for Kildare still provokes debate sixty years later. Mary brought along her father’s all Ireland medal. Other Kildare folk present were Marjorie Moore, well known from the National Stud, who was a niece of Frank Malone of the original team. The Naas contingent on the team was represented by Joe Curtis whose father Joe, although injured in a previous game, had been strapped up and given a baby power to take to the field for the All Whites. Other Kildare historians who made the trip to GAA headquarters were Michael Jacob of Newbridge and Paul Connolly of Leixlip and Caragh. They and the families of the Kildare players lingered for a long time in the shadows of the great stadium as the October darkness closed in over Drumcondra, the Sam Maguire trophy reflecting the colours of the cosmopolitan night sky over Dublin as the last lights were switched off in Croke Park.
- Liam Kenny, 10 October 2008.

A note from Liam Kenny on the commemorative evening in the G.A.A. Museum on Thursday night, 8th Otober 1928, which celebrated the 1928 All Ireland final,  the first to feature the Sam Maguire Trophy, and sadly the last All-Ireland (to date) won  by Kildare.

The leinster Leader articles covering the entire 1928 All-Ireland Football Championship for Co. Kildare can be found on the Local History online resources section of the Kildare Library and Arts Services website, under 1928 All-Ireland

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