Northern Ireland

How Sam Maguire turned to stone in Donegal field

Antony Barrettes' sons Peter and Anthony jnr with the Sam Maguire made from stone Image copyright MARGARET MCLAUGHLIN
Image caption Antony Barrett's sons Peter and Anthony jnr with the Sam Maguire made from stone

Standing 10ft tall in a field in County Donegal is one man's tribute to the beautiful game - the Irish version of the game that is.

Anthony Barrett, 56, has built a replica of the Sam Maguire Cup - the trophy traditionally presented to Ireland's Gaelic football champions each year.

His trophy is, however, built from stone. But Anthony is a farmer, not a stone mason by trade, nor is he trained in the skills of dry stone walling.

The Omagh man took up the hobby after his family acquired a farm near Newtowncunningham in County Donegal.

Dry stone walling is the process of using stones to build walls without mortar that are often seen throughout Ireland.

Anthony discovered his passion after finding a large amount of stones on the Donegal land that he has farmed since 1979.

Image copyright MARGARET MCLAUGHLIN
Image caption A huge stone-built castle on the land is fortified with steel and cement to keep it in place

Anthony told the BBC: "It was very, very gravelley ground on the farm. There were a lot of stones on it.

"I started, about 10 years, ago building walls. There used to be a driving range on the farm and that's why I built the walls.

"It was just a hobby, I had no experience at all."

His farm is built on land once occupied by the manor house of the Earl of Wicklow.

It was stones from this house that were used to build the walls.

Several years on, and dotted throughout the farm are his masterpieces, which include a huge castle and two round towers.

However, Anthony humbly points out that a trained stone mason "would not consider it good".

But he does admit that he is most proud of his most recent addition - the homage to Irish football that stands majestically in a field by itself.

Collapsing

It's my wee treat," he says, "because of my love of football and the fact my daughter plays with the Tyrone minor ladies".

The stone version of Sam Maguire is 12ft wide and took about three months to complete.

"It took a bit of time. I could only build an inch or so each day. If I had put on more stone at the same time I was afraid of it collapsing," he said.

Unlike his other stone creations, the Sam Maguire and the castle are also fortified with steel and cement due to their sheer size.

Although the structures have attracted much attention from passers-by and the media, Anthony has played down his talents.

When asked if he has any pictures of him with his creations, he told the BBC: "Aw, no. I'm much better with a stone, than a camera or phone."