Tralee's entry to the competition proved especially fruitful when they won successive titles in 1998 and '99. The stranglehold of the larger Universities, UCD, UCG and UCC, has now been broken. The colleges in the North have gained a new confidence in the competition, and with a whole raft of new participants joining in recent years, the trophy is now harder won than ever
The Sigerson Cup, named after a former UCD University Professor, Dr. George Sigerson, is the trophy presented for the Higher Education Gaelic football championship. Dr. Sigerson donated the salary from his post at UCD so that a trophy could be purchased for the competition. The cup was first presented in 1911, with the inaugural winners being UCD.
In the early days of the tournament, only UCD, UCC and UCG took part. The competition has been run off every year since, with the exceptions of 1920, 1942 and 1967.
Dr. Sigerson was born in Strabane, Co. Tyrone, in 1839, and was a leading light in the Celtic Renaissance in Ireland. Dr. Sigerson's old Alma Mater, UCD dominated the competition from the off, and they lead the way with 32 titles, there greatest era being in the 1970s when they won the title six times in seven years. These Sigerson Cup wins proved to be the launch pad for success further afield, as UCD went on to add two All-Ireland club championship wins to their haul.
UCG are second in the pecking order in terms of championships won, currently having 21 victories to their credit. UCG actually outdid UCD in that they hold the record for the longest winning sequence. After their victory in 1936, the Galway University went on to claim the next five titles as well, and their six in a row is a record that will do well to be equalled.
As the years passed, the domination of the original big three was challenged by a number of new participants. Queen's University, Belfast, entered the competition for the first time in 1923, but did not enter thereafter until 1933. They have participated in the competition every year since, however, and won their first title in 1958. Queen's have eight titles to their name, winning their eighth tile this year 2007 defeating UUJ 0-15 to 0-14 in the final.
As society in general changed with time, and more and more people began to enter third-level education, the number of Colleges and Universities grew rapidly. The impact of these changes on the Sigerson Cup has been immeasurable. Trinity College Dublin first entered in 1963, followed by NUIM in 1972, University of Ulster (Coleraine) in 1976, and Jordanstown in 1985. The next colleges to enter were Thormond, NIHE Limerick and St. Mary's, Belfast, all in 1988. Further expansion, and the admittance of Regional Technical Colleges to the competition, saw DCU enter in 1990, the RTCs from Athlone in 1991, Sligo in 1992, Cork in 1995 and Tralee in 1996.