A tall 'storey' from the days when shy players struggled
One of the most enjoyable traditions of my early playing career, particularly in the 1980s, was the compulsory after-match visit to a local watering hole to discuss the events of the day which sadly has been gradually eroded over the last decade or so.
Whilst not in any way promoting a drink culture (because the enjoyment came from the interactions and not the alcohol), it was a wonderful way to socialise with supporters, team-mates and opponents alike.
In Buffers Alley's case, habit dictated the venue with the Wren's in Wexford, Murphy-Flood's in Eniiscorthy and the 64 in Gorey being the must-visit venues, with Ross being a town we rarely frequented given our northerly location.
The conversation is rarely less than interesting in the Sycamore House and Sunday evening proved no exception. Nostlagia ruled the waves after the Oulart game had been dissected and the conversation turned to yesteryear and comparisons to the modern day game.
It was noted and agreed that even though the modern game is more physically demanding, the dangers are not comparable to 'our day', with one man asserting that even the more shy players are catching the ball without fear of fracture these days.
Despite the heated nature of the exchanges and frequency of melees in the '80s, there was a great respect between players and some tremendous acts of sportsmanship.
One such alleged 'storey' (if you'll pardon the pun) which surfaced on Sunday evening relates to a goalmouth disagreement in an Oulart game in the mid-eighties. An opposing defender mistimed a tackle (mildly put) and was immediately confronted by a number of Oulart forwards seeking retribution.
Suddenly he was jumped on from behind by a moustachioed Ballagh forward (who captained Wexford to All-Ireland victory and whose identity I will protect to avoid legal backlash). Having wrestled and pinned his opponent to the ground, nose down, he whispered into his ear, 'stay down or you will be killed', leaving the aggressor with no choice and thus protecting him from any backlash during the ensuing fracas which lasted for several minutes.
If this storey (again pardon the pun) is true, the player concerned should be accorded some retrospective award for his compassion.
When two teams are reasonably evenly matched it is vital to maximimise the return from periods of dominace. After eleven minutes on Sunday last Oulart were five scores to nil ahead and dominating.
After 18 and a half minutes they were nine scores to two in the ascendancy and hurling as well as I've seen this year. After 24 minutes the teams were level, and with the Kilkenny men entering the tunnel up by two at half-time, the writing was on the wall.
The rest of the first-half story was the cruellest of luck for Garrett Sinnott's men, with the concession of two goals that would normally be dealt with giving O'Loughlins the lifeline they scarcely deserved.
Another early goal due to a breakdown on the short defensive passing game (which was becoming more difficult to execute as the tie went on) finished the game as a contest, and in fairness to Aidan Fogarty's men they well deserved their victory.
After their initial problems, the transfer of my man of the match, Mark Bergin, to a roving third midfielder role did a lot to transform the game, with strong performances too from Martin Comeford, Mark Kelly, Alan O'Brien and Stephen Murphy in goal.
Oulart will be disappointed and resorted in the second-half to the unfamiliar game for them of long, high balls which suited the strong O'Loughlins defence which had reinvented itself after their uncomfortable opening. David Redmond was one of the outstanding performers on the field and captain Garrett Sinnott carried the forward threat with a solid five-point return from play. Hopefully they will both be available for Davy Fitz's future plans.
A nine-point difference is hard on the Oulart men and doesn't reflect their efforts, with the three hammer blows - whether unlucky or not - being the major factor in determining the result.