Fair play to Fethard for break­ing strong Kilkenny mo­nop­oly

New Ross Standard - - SPORT - With Alan Aherne

ONE OF the most elu­sive tro­phies on the club hurl­ing front has fi­nally come to Wex­ford thanks to the tremen­dous ex­ploits of a fired-up Fethard side in Satur­day’s AIB Le­in­ster Ju­nior cham­pi­onship fi­nal.

This is the 15th year of the com­pe­ti­tion, and twelve of the pre­vi­ous 14 were won by the Kilkenny rep­re­sen­ta­tives. In fact, they have con­tested ev­ery sin­gle fi­nal, with their only losses be­fore last week­end com­ing in 2005, when Erin’s Own of Car­low beat Thomas­town, and in 2013, when Bal­li­namere from Of­faly pipped Lis­downey.

This first-ever win for Wex­ford was a won­der­ful achieve­ment, es­pe­cially as it was achieved with such a strong dis­play.

John Lockes from Cal­lan had al­ready won this ti­tle in 2010, strolling to a big vic­tory over Drum­cullen from Of­faly, but they sim­ply weren’t al­lowed to dic­tate mat­ters on this oc­ca­sion and I’d say they were taken aback by the strength of the Fethard chal­lenge.

It’s im­por­tant to clear up one im­por­tant mat­ter be­fore I progress, as I heard some com­ments to the ef­fect that the Kilkenny side were play­ing in a do­mes­tic grade one rung be­low the new cham­pi­ons.

This sim­ply isn’t true, as there’s twelve Se­nior and twelve In­ter­me­di­ate teams on Nore­side, the ex­act same as our­selves.

The only dif­fer­ence comes in the nam­ing of the next (third) grade in the re­spec­tive coun­ties, as we call ours In­ter­me­di­ate ‘A’ whereas their next batch of clubs com­pete in the Ju­nior cham­pi­onship.

In other words, Satur­day’s game pit­ted the 25th best team in Wex­ford against the 25th best in Kilkenny in terms of fin­ish­ing places this year, so any­one try­ing to pick holes in Fethard’s suc­cess on that ba­sis is wide of the mark.

I should also give Askamore a men­tion at this junc­ture, be­cause they may be un­happy with the ref­er­ences to Fethard as be­ing the first-ever Wex­ford win­ners.

How­ever, that is the case, and here’s why: prior to 1996 the Le­in­ster Club cham­pi­onships were con­fined solely to Se­nior in both codes, but in that year a Ju­nior foot­ball tour­na­ment for county win­ners was or­gan­ised.

Be­cause of its suc­cess, it was even­tu­ally ex­tended to Ju­nior hurl­ing, and the first com­pe­ti­tion was open to the 2000 county cham­pi­ons and played for in the early months of 2001, be­fore and af­ter the Foot and Mouth cri­sis.

Askamore were the in­au­gu­ral out­right win­ners, beat­ing Naomh Eoin in Myshall be­fore record­ing a trio of home vic­to­ries against neigh­bours Carnew Em­mets, Cam­ross from Laois, and fi­nally Board­smill of Meath in the fi­nal by 2-11 to 0-11.

How­ever, it was only a tour­na­ment with no All-Ire­land di­men­sion, and this didn’t come in un­til full cham­pi­onship sta­tus was be­stowed on the grade by the prov­inces in 2003.

Since then, and prior to Satur­day, just one Wex­ford club had reached a Le­in­ster fi­nal, with Clongeen go­ing down to Tul­logher-Ros­ber­con by 1-19 to 3-8 in a thriller in Nowlan Park in 2008.

And while Askamore’s achieve­ment was im­pres­sive at the time, it’s a far more pres­ti­gious grade to win nowa­days when Fethard find them­selves a mere two hours away from a pos­si­ble Croke Park ap­pear­ance.

They have a trip to Bri­tain to over­come first at the end of the month and an All-Ire­land quar­ter-fi­nal hur­dle to be sur­mounted, so hope­fully they will cur­tail the cel­e­bra­tions for a while and give that trip into the un­known their full at­ten­tion.

Not­with­stand­ing the loss of Starlights, it was one of the best week­ends for Wex­ford in a long time on the pro­vin­cial club scene, as Ki­lanerin be­came our first side to qual­ify for a Le­in­ster In­ter­me­di­ate foot­ball fi­nal since that cham­pi­onship be­gan in 2003.

I hate to fin­ish on a neg­a­tive note then, but I can­not help my­self. Next Sun­day the St. Martin’s hurlers will play Cuala in Par­nell Park at 2 p.m., while their camo­gie team is set to take on Thomas­town in the Le­in­ster fi­nal in Net­watch Cullen Park, Car­low, at 2.30 p.m.

This is a shame­ful state of af­fairs, putting some fam­i­lies in an im­pos­si­ble po­si­tion, not to men­tion sup­port­ers. It’s easy to fill the air with empty words, and ‘in­te­gra­tion’ is the one I’m fed up hear­ing as far as camo­gie and the G.A.A. are con­cerned. Both venues are flood­lit, so why couldn’t one game be moved to Satur­day night?

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