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The Gaelic Football Village That Houses The World Rugby Cup

By 5th December 2014January 8th, 2020No Comments


by Brian O’Sullivan – Experience Gaelic Games

Today it has been announced that the Irish Rugby Football Union with the support of the Gaelic Athletic Association, the Irish Goverment and Northern Irish Executive will bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup Finals. To mark the occassion our man Brian O’Sullivan brings to you a unusual connection between Gaelic Games and The Rugby World Cup

November, 2014, was a landmark month for Irish Rugby. Successive victories against South Africa and Australia placed Ireland No. 3 on the World Rankings. Hopes and dreams continue to grow as they now focus on 2015; with a World Title a realistic goal.

The Webb Ellis Cup resting on Irish soil would be a culmination of the progress the oval ball game has made in Ireland since the late nineties. However, unbeknown to many, an exact replica of the Webb Ellis Cup has been resting in a small village in the south west corner of the country since 1930.

Moyvane is where you’d have to travel to get a glimpse of a cup all of Ireland will be striving for in 2015. Theoretically speaking Moyvane is a little village Google Maps fail to recognise. A Google search will rightly feed you Newtownsandes. The struggle the local people have gone through to rename the village Moyvane would fill a volume.

In short it is a place in North Kerry, not far from the Limerick border, where a duel player was once classed as a man who played Gaelic Football and kept a few greyhounds. And it is with Greyhounds our story begins.

When the first ever Irish Coursing Derby was run in 1930; a red and fawn dog called Dainty Man took the title for Tom O’Connor. O’Connor won a grand total of 350 guineas in prize money; he was also presented with the Henry Sawtell Cup for keeps. It still rests in Moyvane.

If you never heard of Dainty Man or Henry Sawtell and viewed the cup with the naked eye you wouldn’t be wrong in guessing that it was the Webb Ellis Cup itself. They are the exact replica of each other. It is an amazing tale because Rugby is as alien to Moyvane as Gaelic Football is to the street children of Detroit. The village prides itself on Gaelic Football exclusively.

Moyvane is the place sports historians have yet to discover. There is no richer sporting tradition within the confines of Ireland. The local GAA Club are renowned for producing local legends.

Con Brosnan went a step, further than most, and won six All-Ireland Football medals; at a time Kerry were rebuilding relations after a bitter Civil War that divided families until a generation ago.

The greatest feather in a Moyvane man’s hat is a North Kerry Gaelic Football Championship medal. Someday someone will do a thesis on the impact that competition has on the local psyche. Moyvane will feature the strongest. They may not be the biggest club within the district but they lie head and shoulders above the rest with a grand total of eighteen titles.

They showcase all that is good about local sport. They see the North Kerry Championship as their Everest. They aspire for that title before national honours. The passion that stems through Moyvane during the competition is similar to the way Brazilians focus on their national team during a World Cup.

Thirteen teams, including Moyvane, strive for honours each year. The grading of the teams showcases the wide variety of ability that Gaelic Games offers. Teams from Senior, Intermediate, Junior, Novice and Novice B ranks go into the hat. The definition of a Novice B team is: the willingness to work with a poor hand of cards that is dealt to you without ever throwing in the towel!

With that in mind it wouldn’t be a rare surprise for a Novice B side to topple a Senior side. It happens on a regular basis. Naturally the Novice B men are legends until their dying day. The giant killing feat is often recalled in their funeral masses. To the outsiders it is the Gaelic Games version of the FA Cup. Although the people around Knockanure, Duagh and Knocknagoshel will tell you ‘the FA Cup is dam like the North Kerry Championship’.

Tom O'Connor holding the Sawtell Cup in 1930

Legends continue to grow each year. Ordinary fellas do extraordinary things for the pride of their parish. As the local poem around the North West corner of Kerry goes ‘You cannot box nor bottle it, Nor grasp it in your hand, But pride of race and love of place, Inspires the love of land’.

Moyvane will strive for local honours while Gaelic Football is played. They will do so to preserve the tradition that bore them to where they lie today. The power of the GAA is often in hidden gems like Moyvane. Stand on a grassy terrace during their tussles with Tarbert, Ballydonoghue or Listowel Emmett’s and you will leave with a degree in understanding local tribalism.

Should Ireland capture the Webb Ellis Cup an excursion to Moyvane should be high on the priority list. To see the Webb Ellis and Henry Sawtell Cups side by side again would be a unique reunion. Once Moyvane are North Kerry Champions at the same time all will be well with the world.

Experience the excitement and thrills of Gaelic Football withExperience Gaelic Games.

The Story Of Dainty Man and the Sawtell Cup


Moyvane v Castleisland Desmonds – 2003 North Kerry Final


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