One-of-a-kind blackthorn shillelagh walking stick, measuring 36″ long, with a plain silver band at the bottom and a silver presentation band around the upper portion, inscribed, “Notre Dame-Northwestern Football Trophy, Presented by William T. Cosgrave, President of The Irish Free State, 1931.” The band is decorated with a shamrock pattern and bears a silver hallmark. In fine condition, with some chips and cracks to the original finish, and tarnishing to silver bands.
This shillelagh was presented to Knute Rockne by the president of the Irish Free State, and Coach Rockne proposed that it be used as a trophy awarded to the winner of the annual football game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Northwestern Wildcats. Rockne hoped that emphasizing their long-standing rivalry, which began in 1889, would help build Notre Dame's fanbase in Chicago. The teams played yearly from 1929 through 1948, and despite having a generally successful football team Northwestern only took home the shillelagh six times. The rivalry was reignited in the 1960s, and the Chicago Daily Tribune’s sports section headline preceding the 1962 game read: ‘Fight for Shillelagh Spurs N. U., Irish.’ By the mid 1970s, however, the trophy was forgotten. The present owner found it being discarded at Northwestern in Evanston sometime in the mid 1970s; although the shillelagh rests on a trophy stand in old photographs, the stand was not recovered and seems to have been lost to history. The oldest of Notre Dame’s football trophies, long since thought to be gone, this is an absolutely unique, historic piece of sports memorabilia.
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