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The Exiles Cup

By Bertie McHugh

When I arrived in New York in 1961, several Garrymore exiles were involved in the administration of the Mayo Football Club in that City and also representing the Club on thye playing field at Gaelic Park. Those included Jimmy Joyce, Sean and Micko Prendergast, Michael and Tom Fitxpatrick, Pete and Sean Tierney, John Joe and Jimmy Feerick, Jimmy and Hubie Burke, Mike McHugh, Jim Sheridan and Gerry Fitzgearld. With so many of my former Club-mates involved it was only natural that I, too, became active.

In early 1963 when Tom McHugh who was secretary of the Garrymore Club, wrote and informed me of the club’s intention to run a football tournament annually at Easter. It was suggested that I organise the collection of funds towards the purchase of a cup, which would be known as “The Exiles Cup”. When I told our exiles of the Clubs plans it was enthusiastically received and in a short time, I had enough dollars collected to purchase a Cup and set of trophies to be presented to the first winners of the tournament. The full list of those who contributed at the time were – Tom Fitzpatrick, Sean Fitzpatrick, Hubie Burke, Jim Burke, Micko Prendergast, Mike McHugh, Gerry Fitzgearld, Jim Sheridan, Pete Tierney, P.J Cunningham, John Morley, Tony Greene, Joe O’Grady, Martin O’Neill, Willie Maghan, Billy Hennelly, and Bertie McHugh. Included in this list are a number of people from other parts of mayo who wished to be associated. There were several more Garrymore exiles whom I know would have contributed, but because some were away from the city at that time and my difficulty in contacting them, they were unable to do so. There was also a contribution from Gabe Heaney and Jimmy McHugh, who were in England at the time.

And Thus “The Exiles Cup” becamr reality and was first competed for at Easter, 1963, and was won by Castlebar Mitchels. The tournament – which has been competed for every year since – has long been recognised as the premier competition in Connacht. Many of the top clubs in the province have won it, including Dunmore McHales, Claremorris, Milltown, Tuam Stars, Kilmaine, Hollymount and Davitts. It was not until 1969 that the Cup was won by Garrymore. They have now won it 9 times, including three-in-row in the mid-seventies. Those years were 1969, 73, 74, 75, 77, 78, 80, 81,and 83.

In the earlier years the semi-finals of the tournament were played on Easter Sunday with the final being played on the next available Sunday. Because of an over-crowded ficture list in the county, it was often several months before the final was played with a consequent loss of interest. In an effort to remedy this situation it was decided in the early seventies to play the semi-finals on Easter Sunday and the final to be played on Easter Monday,

Since this was introduced the competition has gone from strength to strength with the result that many top clubs in the county have intimated their interest in taking part in it. With the Cup now in its 21st year I can see the tournament staying at the top for many years to come