Friday 22 September 2017

GAA heroes died poor and alone

Tom Prendeville

As the All-Irelands loom, the Sam Maguire and Liam McCarthy cups are the best known and iconic symbols of GAA excellence.

But the trophies for football and hurling that are paraded around Croke Park in September take their names from two men who died forgotten and poverty stricken.

Sam Maguire forfeited his British post office pension because of his IRA activities and died of starvation almost alone and forgotten in west Cork in 1927.

Liam McCarthy, a founder member of the GAA, was buried in an unmarked pauper's grave in London and a headstone was only erected over his grave four years ago.

"Liam McCarthy really helped the Irish in Britain. He was a brilliant man all round -- exceptional. He was a great Irishman, but he was not treated very well in his later years and he died in 1928 a poor man and was buried in an unmarked pauper's grave," says Cavan-based Joe McIntryre, life president of Dulwich Harps GAA club.

"I particularly blame the GAA for this. The GAA never even put a headstone over his grave. There is no memorial for Liam McCarthy in Ireland."

Four years ago, Joe McIntryre and a group of friends found McCarthy's unmarked grave in the middle of a field. They organised a gravestone and memorial mass to commemorate a man who has given his name to hurling's biggest prize but was largely forgotten by the organisation he helped to found.

Sam Maguire, who gives his name to the All-Ireland football cup is an even more tragic figure.

The one-time 'head of intelligence' for the IRA, who had an equal rank to Michael Collins in the organisation, retired from the British Post Office in 1922 and came back to Ireland where he joined the new Irish civil service.

In the intrigues surrounding the Civil War he lost his job -- and when the British government discovered his secret role as an IRA mole they cancelled his pension.

Cork-based Margaret Walsh, who has written Sam Maguire: The Enigmatic Man Behind Ireland's Most Prestigious Trophy, says that "what became of him was very sad".

"In 1924, he was sacked and deprived of his pension. They (the Irish Government) gave him £100 and that was it.

"In 1925, he came back to west Cork to live. He then developed TB and died in penury in 1927. They say that he died of a broken heart and penniless," she says.

Sunday Independent

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