A spe­cial year to re­mem­ber

Bren­dan Fur­long re­flects on the glory of 50 years ago

Wexford People - - SPORT -

THE FIRST Sun­day of Septem­ber, 1968, may well be re­mem­bered as the day of the hurl­ing mir­a­cle.

For Wex­ford’s re­mark­able re­cov­ery, which sent them soar­ing from the depths of cer­tain de­feat to the peak of cham­pi­onship tri­umph in the sec­ond-half of the All-Ire­land fi­nal, surely bor­dered on the mirac­u­lous.

When I look back on 1968, I can first re­call the Na­tional Hurl­ing League Fi­nal of 1956, which I at­tended as an eight-yearold on the usual fam­ily out­ing tak­ing in Wex­ford’s games.

That was a game in which Wex­ford also staged a re­mark­able rally, be­liev­ing we had wit­nessed the great­est sec­ond-half come­back of all time, and yes, it was Tip­per­ary who pro­vided the op­po­si­tion.

But even that mag­nif­i­cent surge to vic­tory melted into in­signif­i­cance com­pared with the heroic re­cov­ery of that 1968 fi­nal.

In the 1956 league fi­nal, Wex­ford stepped out for the sec­ond-half of a game against Tip­per­ary with a mighty gale in their backs, and there can be no deny­ing it was an enor­mous help as they pulled down the big lead against them.

But on that Sun­day of 50 years ago they had no such help. Dur­ing half-time there can hardly have been one spec­ta­tor of the 63,451 in Croke Park who an­tic­i­pated a Wex­ford vic­tory.

They had fallen be­hind in the sixth minute, and were eight points in ar­rears when they trudged to the dress­ing-room at half-time.

Then the storm broke. Team man­ager Padge Ke­hoe warmed their ears with a thun­der­ing lec­ture dur­ing the in­ter­val, and soup bowls and cups were sent crash­ing from the ta­ble as he ploughed his hur­ley in hand down­wards with venom in his voice.

Wex­ford took the field with those words still ring­ing in their ears. They brought young John Quigley into the at­tack, moved Tony Do­ran to full-for­ward and Jack Berry to the left cor­ner, with Paul Lynch go­ing to cen­tre-for­ward.

Quigley and Do­ran be­came scourges to the Tip­per­ary de­fence. Paul Lynch with his deft over­head flicks took a pre­vi­ously dom­i­nant Mick Roche out of the game.

The fear­less Quigley played with de­ter­mi­na­tion and brought new life and men­ace into the at­tack, while Do­ran car­ried Tip­per­ary de­fend­ers on his broad back as he bashed home the goals, with Jack Berry also storm­ing through for cru­cial goals.

One can re­call his sec­ond-half goal, a left-handed strike across the body of ‘keeper John O’Donoghue into the op­po­site cor­ner of the net, lead­ing to the leg­endary Nickey Rackard rac­ing onto the pitch, with arms raised, to give the Rathangan man a hug with de­light, as emo­tions were run­ning high.

This was a game brim­ful of hurl­ing riches, which de­serves to be cher­ished, par­tic­u­larly when one re­calls cap­tain Dan Quigley lift­ing the Liam MacCarthy Cup as Wex­ford sup­port­ers stormed onto the pitch in sheer de­light at what can best be de­scribed as a mir­a­cle vic­tory.

It was a day when Wex­ford took the road to glory as ear­lier in the af­ter­noon, the Mi­nors made it a truly his­toric oc­ca­sion when lift­ing the Ir­ish Press Cup af­ter an en­thralling bat­tle with Cork.

Wex­ford and Cork had met on sev­eral oc­ca­sions in the lead up to this fi­nal, but it was the Model county boys who pre­vailed.

It was a golden year for Wex­ford, as a few weeks later it was the turn of the ladies to win the All-Ire­land Se­nior camo­gie ti­tle for the very first time with a mar­vel­lous fi­nal per­for­mance.

But for Ned Power, it was also a year when he cre­ated his own piece of his­tory, be­ing the first trainer to guide a county to All-Ire­land Se­nior and Mi­nor ti­tles on the same day, while ear­lier in the year he brought St. Peter’s Col­lege to All-Ire­land suc­cess.

It was a spe­cial year but for me that first Sun­day of Septem­ber, 1968, will live long in the mem­ory.

It did not all start there as ear­lier in the year I re­call that mag­nif­i­cent St. Peter’s Col­lege team which beat the aris­to­crats of col­leges hurl­ing and foot­ball, Coláiste Chríost Rí of Cork, in the All-Ire­land fi­nal fol­low­ing a re­play, deny­ing the Cork col­lege the dou­ble in that year.

That was a dis­play of pure hurl­ing that laid the foun­da­tions for the county’s sub­se­quent Mi­nor suc­cess.

While all the cel­e­bra­tions were tak­ing place, the ladies on the Wex­ford camo­gie squad were hid­ing away, con­tin­u­ing their prepa­ra­tions for the All-Ire­land Se­nior fi­nal just two weeks fol­low­ing that glo­ri­ous hurl­ing day in Croke Park.

That was a fi­nal I equally en­joyed cov­er­ing as I bore wit­ness to that ma­jor break­through and a first All-Ire­land Se­nior camo­gie ti­tle.

They im­pres­sively came through Le­in­ster, go­ing on to com­plete the job with a mag­nif­i­cent 4-2 to 2-5 vic­tory over an ex­pe­ri­enced Cork side.

One could only mar­vel at the in­di­vid­ual dis­plays of Mary Sin­nott, Mar­garet O’Leary, Brigid Doyle and team cap­tain Mary Walsh, dis­plays that set Croke Park alight as they an­nounced their ar­rival on the camo­gie scene.

This mar­vel­lous pho­to­graph ad­e­quately con­veys the sheer depth of Wex­ford’s suc­cess in 1968. As well as the var­i­ous hurl­ing and camo­gie tro­phies, it in­cludes the hand­ball cup won by Joe Howlin, Dick Lyng, Sea­mus Buggy and Jimmy King, the All-Ire­land tug o’war tro­phy col­lected by Bo­ley, and the box­ing sil­ver­ware that re­turned to the county.

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