Jack Neville: A century of the Liam MacCarthy Cup

“If St. Peter met me at the gate, I wouldn’t be as happy as when they won that cup. Let me hold it! Can I hold it!?”

Appearing on the late late show in the wake of Limerick’s 2018 All-Ireland success, lifelong Limerick supporter John Hunt spoke of his delight on getting to lift the Liam MacCarthy cup, after travelling 6,000 miles from his home in Chicago to Croke Park at the age of 98.

The late Mr. Hunt was clearly delighted to get his hands on one of Ireland’s most prestigious relics, the Liam MacCarthy cup, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.

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Commissioned by Irish Nationalist Liam MacCarthy, this cup was offered to the GAA central council in Croke Park and has since represented excellence in the game of hurling.

The cup is presented to the winners of the All-Ireland championship each year, and travels the length and breadth of the wining county with people of all ages eager to get their hands on the trophy, year in, year out.

And fittingly, on its 100th anniversary, the trophy resides in Limerick, its first home.

Limerick claimed a third ever All-Ireland success after winning the 1921 championship and thus became the first recipients of the now iconic cup, although the championship wasn’t concluded until 1923 due to the War of Independence.

Nonetheless, the trophy made its maiden voyage to Limerick all those years ago. It would return three times from 1934 to 1940 with Mick Mackey hoisting it aloft as captain on two of those occasions.

Mick Mackey poses with the Liam MacCarthy after captaining Limerick to All-Ireland success

Yet, in the 77 years following the 1940 success, the fabled cup would only venture to the Treaty once more with Eamonn Grimes captaining the 1973 side to victory over Kilkenny.

45 years after the success of 1973, the Liam MacCarthy cup would finally return to its spiritual home as the John Kiely led Limerick side ended the famine.

Declan Hannon was on hand to lift the trophy to joyous scenes in Croke Park. The cup would spend the next year in the escorted around the county by various Limerick hurlers as the majority of the local population got their hands on the cup for the first time.

Hannon repeated the feat just two seasons later as Limerick wrote themselves into the record books capturing a ninth ever All-Ireland title in December of 2020.

It almost seemed like fate that the new Limerick jersey to commemorate the 1921 side on the centenary of their success, was unveiled, draped over the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

Buy the Limerick 2021 commemoration jersey

The jersey is based on the design of that side a hundred years ago, with the Liam MacCarthy emblazoned on the sleeve. Underneath, a message is written,

“Bronnadh Corn Liam Mhic Cárthaigh don chéad uair ar bhuaiteoirí Chluiche Ceannais na hEireann 1921.”

Limerick will always be regarded as the first recipients of the Liam MacCarthy cup but for a trophy that has symbolled success in hurling, their history with the trophy is sporadic at best.

That is until the 2018 season, where the Shannonsiders recaptured the trophy and have since dominated the landscape of hurling.

GAA All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Final, Croke Park, Dublin 19/8/2018 Galway vs Limerick Limerick’s Darragh O’Donovan celebrates with the Liam MacCarthy Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Success evaded them in 2019 as they fell at the penultimate hurdle, but Kiely and co were back in 2020 as they stormed to the trophy.

Although the pageantry that usually follows the cup, has been put on hold due to the global situation, its prestige still carries as Limerick head into the new season with the ultimate target on their back.

But, while it is symbolic that Limerick head into the centenary year of the Liam MacCarthy cup with the trophy on hand, it would be even more fitting if they could close out 2021 with it residing on the banks of the Shannon.

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