Sam is ready for his big day

John Knox

Reporter:

John Knox

Silversmiths Des Byrne (right) and David Byrne with the Sam Maguire in their workshop for refurbishment. Picture: Michael Brophy
Sam has received a good Cats licking and he is sparkling and ready to go to his new home for the next year in either Dublin or Mayo.

Sam has received a good Cats licking and he is sparkling and ready to go to his new home for the next year in either Dublin or Mayo.

The famous Sam Maguire Cup, the glittering prize for the winners of the All-Ireland senior football championship, was back in Kilkenny last week for a health check so he will be looking his best in Croke Park on September 22.

“The trophy is being cared for very well we have to say,” was the word from its creators and restorers, Des and Dave Byrne.

Actually, the trophy presented on All-Ireland final day is Sam Mark II. The original Sam was retired to the GAA museum in 1988 when the Mark II version was created by Master silversmith Des Byrne and his then apprentice, Dave Byrne at their workshop in Kilkenny Design on The Parade.

“It is hard to believe it is 25 years since we made the new trophy,” Des Byrne told us as Sam received the final polishing before being brought to Croke Park prior to the big showdown between Leinster champions, Dublin and Mayo.

“There were no major repairs to be done,” Des Byrne explained. “It needed a bit of polishing and so on after 25 years, but it is in good shape. People are looking after it well.”

Lavished care

Mr Byrne said last year’s champions, Donegal, obviously lavished care on the famous cup because it was presented to them in Kilkenny in good condition.

Sam Mark II now travels in a specially constructed metal case for safety and security reasons, and he is not suffering the same battering the original trophy had to endure, apparently.

The original Sam was first played for in 1928, and he was retired on his 60th birthday.

The new trophy, which stands 22” tall when perched on its wooden base, weighs in at 8.5 kilos.

“It was the biggest single piece of silver I have ever work on,” Des Byrne explained. “It was a great challenge to take it on. It is lovely to see it looking so well and being cared for so well.”

Sam Mark II took 500 working hours to create. The silver was painstakingly hammered out in sections before the cup was pieced together.

Hand wrought

The top bowl section of the trophy, which measures 17” x 9”, took 100 hours alone to hammer out. The trophy was hand wrought all the way before the various sections were pieced together - bowl, base with 17” circle, handles, stem and 20 Gaelic mounts, including one with an engraving of Sam Maguire.

“It appears that the trophy is being cared for much better now than in times past,” Mr Byrne said cheerily. “It has been repaired a few times during the past 25 years, but in recent times a polish and shine more or less does the job.”

It is known that Tyrone appointed a special minder to the trophy when it was in their possession, and this man travelled everywhere with it, even to the other side of the world on occasion.

“The initial building of Sam Mark II was a team effort, involving four or five people,” Des Byrne remembered. “It is great to see it looking so well and being cared for so well.”