Joe looks back
1965 stalwart recalls sole success
'Fifty years ago would you believe, ah sure it's crazy isn't it?'
As Joe Doran slides into his seat to watch the Wexford Under-21 side of 2015 take to the Semple Stadium field on Saturday evening, some of those distant memories of a wet afternoon in Kilkenny on September 12, 1965 might become that little bit more lucid.
Those 50 years that have flown by for the Buffers Alley stalwart, initially in a whirlwind of sporting achievement as medals - four Senior county championships among them - were piled up in the Doran household before watching and supporting became the norm.
Brother of Tony, one of those men of the halcyon days where the adjective 'great' has become a prefix, Joe was no slouch himself. One year earlier, in 1964, Wexford embarked on their maiden voyage into the inaugural running of the Under-21 championship and Joe was there all the way to the final.
'We played Tipperary in the All-Ireland that year in Nowlan Park and they beat us well,' he remembered. 'I think Tony was injured that day; anyway, he wasn't playing.' In the end the Premier county ran riot and took the title on a scoreline of 8-9 to 3-1.
A year that promised so much, with comfortable wins over Kilkenny, Dublin and Laois in Leinster, and Antrim in the All-Ireland semi-final at Casement Park, had ended with such disappointment. Sound familiar?
Well, that disappointment only strengthened the Wexford resolve a year later when the season kicked off again. At that time deadly rivals Buffers Alley and Oulart-The Ballagh were joined together at Under-21 level (unsurprisingly they went on to win the county title too), meaning a good percentage of the team was playing together regularly.
As a precursor to any successful run in a championship you need the team to gel. Back then there was a bigger emphasis on challenge games, and training wasn't at the intensity level that it reaches today.
'We probably had a couple of training sessions a week but we use to have a good lot of matches at that time,' Doran said. 'I remember playing teams like the Aidan's, the old St. Aidan's of the time, we'd play them in challenge matches. We used to go to Patrick's Park to train with a bit of hurling and a bit of running but it wouldn't be as concentrated as today.'
That approach certainly didn't do Wexford any harm. They scorched through the provincials with their old foes as their toughest test. Kilkenny, Offaly and Dublin were the victims on the march to a second of three straight Leinster titles.
'Would you believe I was playing on Jimmy Keaveney that day,' remembered Doran of his battle with the footballing great. 'Oh Jesus, he was a good hurler. I actually got knocked out that day, I got a belt on the head and a belt on the arm all the one day. I got a clatter, I got stitches then after and that was it.'
It was lucky for Doran and his team-mates that they all made it to the final that day, as in the previous year against Offaly in the semi-final they had played without the influential Willie Bierney. The midfield general recalls:
'I remember when we went up to play Offaly, this was on a church holy day. Willie Bierney from Wexford (Na Fianna), he was on the team but he was working down in Johnstown Castle and they had to work on the holy day and he wasn't let off for the match, he couldn't go! Big change to now!'
With Leinster in the bag, Antrim were dispatched in Gorey to set up an All-Ireland decider against familiar foes Tipperary. For the final Wexford were captained by Willie O'Neill from Kilmore-Rathangan and had other notables such as Mick Jacob in goal, Dan Quigley at full-back, Joe in midfield and Tony at full-forward (one of three sets of brothers with the Jacobs - Christy - and Quigleys - Pat).
Preparations for Doran and the team of '65 were somewhat different from what J.J. Doyle's side can expect on Saturday. 'We had to tog out in a little hotel, down just beside where Langton's is now, I think it's maybe gone out of it now. We had to tog out there and walk up to the pitch.
'It was absolutely spilling rain. There was construction work going on in Nowlan Park at the same time. Where the small stand is in Nowlan Park now, that was only being constructed at the time and that whole side was all cordoned off.
'There was no one on that side they were all on the far side, there was a big bank on that side, there was no stand at all. It really wasn't fitting for an All-Ireland in the state it was in.'
In the end Wexford didn't let the poor facilities and unsuitable venue dent their aspirations. They met Tipperary head on and put in one of the greatest performance ever by a team from the county, winning by nine points on a scoreline of 3-7 to 1-4.
'We won it fairly handy that day,' Doran recalled. 'Jack (Berry) and Tony in the full-forward line, the two of them were very good that day. Dan Quigley was full-back, of course he was very good too.
'I hope our record as being the only -21 winners in 50 years will go wallop on Saturday, we've had it long enough now,' said Doran, who is optimistic about the prospects but wary of a talented Limerick team.
'I think we've a very nice team now,' he said. 'I saw the Limerick team the last day, there's no question about it they're strong, a big strong physical team. We've a good spine of hurlers, if things go any way right for them you know they should win. I'd be hopeful they would now anyhow.'