Dunmanway is a town lost in the folds of time. For many years it was a prosperous enough market town in the heart of West Cork. My grandparents on my father’s side built a cottage (Tonafora) on an acre of land in Kilbarry township and there raised a dozen children – par for the course for old Ireland. As a child I used to visit often, but these visits became rarer as I grew up. The town remains stuck in the 60s in many ways, too far out of Cork city to be popular as a commuter town, such as the likes of Bandon has become.
Some years ago I visited the grave of one Sam Maguire who lies in an unprepossessing plot in St Mary’s churchyard in the town. Sam was born in Malabraca township in 1879 and attended the same national school as the great Michael Collins. He went to work in London but kept his Irish links by captaining the successful London Hibernians Gaelic football team, and later entering GAA administration. He was also active with Collins in the Irish Republican Brotherhood. This was to prove his downfall and he lived the rest of his life in penury, developed TB and died in 1927 aged 48.
The Sam Maguire Cup was presented to the GAA soon after his death and has since been the prize for the top footballing county. Today, after following the scenic route, the Cork footballers defeated Down at Croke Park by a single point and thus brought Sam home for the first time in 20 years.
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