TONY Doran doesn’t like the word ‘retire’. Regarded as one of the greatest and toughest full-forwards to ever grace a hurling pitch Doran’s career spanned more than 30 years.
During that time he won one All-Ireland, four Leinster and two National League medals with Wexford.
This success also seeped down to club level where 12 Wexford Championships led to arguably the sweetest success of all for Tony — the 1989 All-Ireland club title with his beloved Buffers Alley.
Yet even after finally hanging up his hurl in 1993 at the age of 47, Tony has never considered himself as being retired — just as having stepped back.
Sitting in his family farm in Monamolin outside Boolavogue in Co Wexford, Tony told the Farming Independent that he has taken the same approach to farming.
While he is happy to help his son Tony Jnr manage their 80-strong dairy cow herd, he knows that just like hanging up his hurling boots, he also has to take more of a step back from the land.
“Farming is a bit like hurling. You see a time when you have to cut back and you’re not doing what you used to do. I’m happy to step back. I like helping out and I am happy to see my son involved in it,” says the 72-year-old.
In his recently released autobiography, A Land of Men and Giants, it’s clear that farming always went hand in hand with his hurling career. One of five brothers, Tony followed in his father Willie’s footsteps in to farming.
He says that he didn’t see his first milking machine until he was 20.“We all milked by hand. Growing up our farm had a little bit of everything cows, cattle, tillage and pigs. Dairying wasn’t so big in the area at the time. So much has changed now in farming. Things are far more modern,” he says.
He recalls occasions where he and his fellow Buffers Alley team-mates would tog out in the grain loft on the Doran farm and train in one of their fields across the road — a world away from the training facilities that players are now accustomed to. “Anyone who remembers lofts from those times will know what they were like. It was messy enough and very cold. It wasn’t any way hi-tech like the facilities they have now but it was an improvement from the side of the ditch,” laughs Tony.
Tony’s family owned a milk lorry and collected milk cans from up to 25 farms in the area and delivered it to the creamery in Ballycanew. He recalls how in the week leading up to the 1968 All-Ireland Final against Tipperary, he had to take a break from the round as everybody was talking about the upcoming match.
Dubbed as “a day of history” and “an astounding recovery” by the late broadcaster Mick Dunne, the purple and gold of the Wexford team prevailed against Tipperary thanks to one of the greatest comebacks of all in an All-Ireland final.
The old adage of “goals win games” couldn’t be more apt than in this case. Eight points down at half-time, Wexford scored four second half goals to win by 5-8 to 3-12.
Then 22, Tony Doran scored 2-1 in the final and was yet to hit the prime of his career, but ‘68 was the only time he managed to lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup with the Model County. He returned to the milk cans two days later, and he wishes now that he appreciated the win more.
“I just wanted to get back to my normal routine. It’s strange; I remember playing a lot of the match but the celebrations not