The Sam Maguire Cup
When the GAA announced the original schedule for the 2020 Provincial and All-Ireland hurling and football championships in October 2019, we had no idea then that the 2020 final between Dublin and Mayo would set the record for the latest playing of an All-Ireland football final in December in the 133 years of the championship.
But there were four December All-Ireland football finals in the early years of the 20th century!
The 1909, 1913, 1916 and 1917 finals were played on 5, 14, 17 and 9 December respectively, all in the year of the competition. In fact, the 1909 final was only the second final to be played in the correct year when Tralee Mitchels of Kerry defeated Tredaghs of Louth by 1-9 to 0-6 on 5 December.
In the 1913 final Killarney represented Kerry (2-2) against Raparees of Wexford (0-3) on December 14. Despite the military and political turmoil of the events of 1916, Wexford’s Blue and Whites won the final against Mayo’s Ballina Stephenites by 3-4 to 1-2 on 17 December.
It is all of 103 years since Wexford, again represented by the Blue and Whites, had the better of a Clare selection by 0-9 to 0-5 on 9 December to win the 1917 championship.
There was no championship in 1888 due to the ‘American Invasion’ when 50 Irish hurlers and athletes travelled to the United States to play a series of fund-raising games and to promote the GAA in that country. Many of them did not return and the whole adventure was a financial disaster.
The 1889 football final which took place in Clonturk Park on 20 October of that year was played on schedule, but none of the next 19 finals (1890 to 1908) was played in the championship year.
Clonturk Park was also the venue for the finals of 1890, ’91, ’92 and ’94, all of which were one year late.
It is noteworthy that the 1891 final in which Dublin (Young Irelands) defeated Cork (Clondrohid) by 2-1 to 1-9, a goal outweighing any number of points, was played on the same day (28 February 1892) as the semi-final (Dublin v Cavan).
And the hurling final, Kerry (Ballyduff) 2-3, Wexford (Crossabeg) 1-5, after extra-time, took place between the football semi-final and final!
The venue for the 1893 final was the Phoenix Park where Wexford’s Young Irelands lined out against Dromtariffe of Cork on 24 June 1894 in a game that was unfinished. Wexford led by 1-1 to 0-1 and were declared champions. The first final hosted in Jones’s Road, later Croke Park, was that of 1895 on March 15 1896 when Arravale Rovers representing Tipperary defeated Pierce O’Mahonys of Meath 0-4 to 0-3.
Finals out of Line
There next 10 finals were hopelessly out of line with the year of the championship. Starting with 1896, Limerick (Commercials) had the better of Dublin’s Young Irelands by 1-5 to 0-7 on 6 February 1898. Of the 10 finals, the 1903 final between Kerry (Tralee Mitchells), 0-11, and London’s Hibernians, 0-3, on 12 November 1905, set the record for the latest playing of a final.
Sam Maguire, who was born about four miles north of Dunmanway on March 11 1877, in whose memory the All-Ireland trophy is named, captained, the London team in the 1901 and 1903 finals and he also played in the 1900 decider.
Kerry and Kildare met in the 1905 ‘Home’ final, a three-game series which set the GAA world on fire with the intensity of the competition.
On July 23, 1907, Kerry’s Mitchels defeated Clane by 1-4 to 1-3 at Tipperary. The result was disputed, and the replay ended in a 0-7 to 1-4 draw at Cork on ugust 27.
The second replay, again at Cork, on October 13, 1907, resulted in a six-point win for the Kingdom 0-8 to 0-2.
That was the last final to be played two years late and that after Kildare had scored 4-15 to Cavan’s 1-6 in the semi-final, eight months earlier on September 30 1906!
The next three finals (1906, ’07, ’08) were played a year late but in 1909 Kerry defeated Louth at Jones’s Road on 5 December 1909.
The 1910 final was not played: Kerry’s Tralee Mitchels refused to travel, and Louth were declared champions. There was a further complication in that Dublin had already beaten Antrim (3-5 to 0-2) in an All-Ireland semi-final, but Louth later defeated the Dubs in the Leinster final and thus qualified for the All-Ireland final.
The 1911 final was played two weeks into 1912 when Cork, represented by Lees, scored 6-6 against Antrim’s Shauns’ 1-2.
The finals from 1912 to 1917 were held in the year of the championship, that of 1913 (Kerry 2-2, Wexford 0-3) being the first in Croke Park, officially named when the GAA purchased the grounds from GAA trustee, Frank Dineen. And that was the first of Wexford’s six finals in a row, culminating in four successive All-Ireland football titles for the Model county’s Blues and Whites Club.
The 1918 final (Wexford 0-5, Tipperary 0-4) was delayed until February 16 1919. Understandably, due to the political and military circumstances, the finals of 1920 and 1921 were delayed until June of 1922 and ’23 respectively.
Two finals took place in the same year on six occasions.
The 1890 and ’91 deciders were played in 1892, those of 1905 and ’06 took place in 1907. Similarly, the 1908 and ’09 finals were in 1909. The 1918 and ’19 deciders were in February and September 1919 respectively.
The last time two finals were played in the same year was in 1923: the 1921 final on June 17, 1923 and the 1922 decider on October 7, 1923 as The War of Independence and The Civil War impacted the championships.
The All-Irelands of 1920, ‘23 and ’24 were all a year late, but the 1925 final did not take place and Galway were declared champions.
Kildare’s fortunes took a turn for the better in 1926. That was the first in an unbroken series of 94 finals which were held in the year of the competition up to 2019 thus ending the confusion of dates which bedevilled the fixtures calendar in the first four decades of the Association.
The Lilies contested four finals in a row, losing to Kerry in 1926 and ’29 and winning against the Kingdom in 1927, and Cavan in ’28 with the same 15 players - the only time this happened in the history of the championship.
And Bill ‘Squires’ Gannon from the Round Towers club was the first man to lift the Sam Maguire Cup, on September 30, 1928: Kildare 2-6, Cavan 2-5.
AIFF Venues 1887 – 2019
The records show that 132 All-Ireland senior football titles have been won from 1887 to 2019 but four finals were not played to a satisfactory conclusion and were awarded to counties in the committee room.
Five championships fell victim to various circumstances: the 1888 championship was not finished due to the ‘American Invasion’, so there were no champions. The 1893 final was unfinished and Wexford’s Young Irelands were declared champions. The 1894 final was drawn, and the replay ended in a dispute when Dublin left the field. Cork refused to travel for the re-fixture and Dublin were awarded the title. The 1910 Louth v Kerry final was not played as Kerry refused to travel, and Louth were awarded the title. Galway were declared champions for 1925.
The 128 All-Ireland finals which were decided on the field of play were held in 11 venues. The first was the 1887 final in Clonskeagh, on 29 April 1888, between Limerick’s Commercials 1-4, and Louth’s Dundalk Young Irelands, 0-3. Inchicore hosted the 1889 final. Clonturk Park held four of the next five deciders, the 1893 final taking place in the Phoenix Park.
Jones’s Road, renamed Croke Park when the GAA purchased the ground from Frank Dineen, took care of 11 finals between 1895 and 1912.
Finals went ‘on tour’ on seven occasions but only the 1947 final was played in the correct year. Tipperary Town hosted the 1898 and 1907 finals; Cork took care of the 1902 and 1904 events; Thurles held the 1905 Kildare v Kerry final in 1907; Athy was the venue for 1906 on 20 October 1907, and, most famously of all, Cavan had the better of Kerry by 2-11 to 2-7 at The Polo Grounds, New York on 14 September 1947.
Draws and Replays
There was a total of 14 drawn finals, Kerry winning six replays.
Results of 15 replays
1894: Cork 1-2, Dublin 0-5 – Dublin awarded title, Cork refused to travel
1903: R1: Kerry 0-7, Kildare 1-4 R2: Kerry 0-8, Kildare 0-2
1914: Kerry 2-3, Wexford 0-6
1926: Kerry 1-4, Kildare 0-4
1937: Kerry 4-4, Cavan 1-7
1938: Galway 2-4, Kerry 0-7
1943: Roscommon 2-7, Cavan 2-2
1947: Kerry 2-8, Roscommon 0-10
1952: Cavan 0-9, Meath 0-5
1972: Offaly 1-19, Kerry 0-13
1988: Meath 0-13, Cork 0-12
1996: Meath 2-9, Mayo 1-11
2000: Kerry 0-17, Galway 1-10
2016: Dublin 1-15, Mayo 1-14.