The Sam Maguire Cup is one of the most iconic symbols in Irish sport. The cup, which is awarded to the winners of the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship, has a rich history and an interesting backstory.
The cup was first presented in 1928 by a group of London-based Irishmen, led by Sam Maguire, a former player and administrator from County Cork. Maguire, who had passed away the previous year, had been a strong advocate for the promotion of Irish sports and culture, and the group felt that a cup named in his honor would be a fitting tribute.
The original cup was made of silver and stood at 18 inches tall. It was designed by the renowned Irish silversmith, Robert Garratt, and featured intricate Celtic knotwork and the GAA crest. The cup was donated to the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), the governing body of Irish sport, and has been awarded to the winners of the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship ever since.
Over the years, the cup has undergone several changes. In 1988, the GAA commissioned Desmond A. Byrne to craft a new cup , as the original had become worn and was in need of replacement. The new cup, which is still in use today, was made of sterling silver and is slightly larger than the original, measuring 20 inches tall. The design remains largely the same, with the addition of the GAA's new logo.
The manufacturing of the Sam Maguire Cup is an important process and was done by highly skilled craftsmen. The cup is made of sheet silver, which is carefully raised using hammer blows and then shaped into the final form. The intricate Celtic knotwork and GAA crest are then added, using a process known as repoussé. This involves hammering the silver from the reverse side, creating a raised design on the front. The cup is then engraved and finished to a high standard, before being presented to the winning team.
The Sam Maguire Cup has become a symbol of Irish pride and is one of the most sought-after prizes in Irish sport. The making of the cup is a testament to the skill and craftsmanship of the Irish people and is a fitting tribute to the legacy of Sam Maguire. It is how I ended up a gold and silversmith as the maker was my master and I his apprentice. I did not have a hand in the making, but seeing it before it was finished drew me in to this trade and the making of Irish jewellery.