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Tuesday 16 October 2018

2018 marks 50th anniversary of last Minor hurling win

Brendan Furlong's Hop Ball

The 1960s was a fertile decade for Wexford under-age hurling - and it was in 1968 that the county won its last All-Ireland Minor hurling title.

2018 marks the 50th anniversary of that remarkable story - a story that many felt was built on the back of that glorious 1950s decade, when the county won two Senior All-Ireland titles.

It was in 1962 that the foundation for Wexford All-Ireland Minor success was laid, when St. Peter's College won the All-Ireland Colleges Senior hurling title for the very first time. The year 1963 saw the county win its first All-Ireland Minor hurling title.

The exploits of the fifties inspired hurling in the county. We had the introduction of the Nickey Rackard Primary Schools League in 1956, but it was in the sixties that the county arrived on the scene as an under-age force.

Wexford, will in 2018, honour their last All-Ireland winning Minor hurling side. Remarkably that 1968 victory marked the county's last Minor success on All-Ireland final day - leaving quite a worrying period of fifty years without All-Ireland honours.

That September Sunday was a remarkable day for Wexford - it was the day the Model county won both All-Ireland Minor and Senior hurling titles.

For fear of being accused of looking over one's shoulder which, as author Jeremy Archer once stated, only gives one a creek in their neck, it is only fitting that as one prepares to move into 2018, the year 1968, 50 years ago this September, when the purple and gold set the green sward of Croke Park alight with that remarkable 'double'.

For the record in that historic 1963 victory Wexford recorded a 6-12 to 5-9 victory over Limerick, in a side captained by Na Fianna's Willie Bierney, now sadly deceased, who had the honour of bringing the Irish Press Cup to Wexford for the very first time.

Another title followed in 1966 when Wexford overcame Cork in a final when the Rebel County looked on their way to victory with a nine point advantage, but in a typical Wexford comeback, goals from Tom Royce, Liam Bent and a later winner from Tom Kavanagh gave Wexford the title.

The Rebel County had revenge a year later when winning by a three point margin, but in 1968 Wexford completed a hat-trick of titles in the sixties by overcoming the same opposition.

Both sides contained eight of the previous year's finalists and had particularly potent attacking formations, the Munster boys registering 19-23 in the campaign while Wexford had chalked up an impressive 14-36 when defeating Dublin, Kilkenny and Antrim.

In a thrilling final with the lead continually changing hands the Rebel boys held a four point advantage at half-time due to a brace of goals conceded by a jittery Wexford backline.

An early second half goal from a free by Larry Byrne, followed by another from Mick Butler set up by Martin Quigley, helped Wexford to a three point advantage entering the closing stages, and despite finishing a man short after Larry Byrne had retired injured, an inspired Wexford defence withstood a late Cork onslaught to run out winners by 2-13 to 3-7.

National and local press described the performance of Wexford centre-back Larry Byrne as the greatest ever seen by a Minor inter-county hurler. In attack the right wing duo of Martin Quigley and Mick Butler, who shared 1-11, caused endless problems for the Cork rearguard.

The occasion marked Wexford's last Minor title victory with Mick Butler and Pat Cox (substitute goalkeeper in 1966) collecting their second All-Ireland Minor medals.

The WINNING 1968 TEAM WAS: Pat Cox (St. Aidan's); Jack Russell (Geraldine O'Hanrahans), George O'Connor (Fayrtrhe Harriers), Peter O'Brien (Ferns St. Aidan's); Aidan Kerrigan (Ballyoughter), Larry Byrne (Kilmore-Rathangan), Liam Bennett (Faythe Harriers); Phil Kennedy (Ranmsgrange), Tom Byrne (captain) (Oulart-the-Ballagh); Martin Quigley (Rathnure), Pat Walsh (Faythe Harriers), James Murphy (Faythe Harriers); Mick Butler (Buffers Alley), Martin Casey (Buffers Alley), Martin Byrne (Askamore). Subs: Tom Walsh (Faythe Harriers), Larry Kinsella (Ferns St. Aidan's).

For THE RECORD THE HISTORIC FIRST WINNING TEAM OF 1963 WAS: Liam Byrne (Rathnure); John Hartley (Horeswood), Michael Nolan (Oylegate-Glenbrien), Eddie O'Connor (DUffry Rovers); Joe Murphy (Geraldine O'Hanrahan's), Michael Kinsella (Wolfe Tones), Vinnie Staples (St. Martin's); Willie Bierney (captain) (Na Fianna), Conor O'Rafferty (Wolfe Tones); Con Dowdall (Faythe Harriers), Tony Doran (Buffers Alley), Freddie Swords (Wolfe Tones), Wiullie Carley (Na Fianna); Seamus Barron (Rathnure), Pat Quigley (Rathnure). Subs: Brendan Gaul (Na Fianna), Nicky Rossiter (Na Fianna), Eddie Cousins (St. Martin's), Brendan Reck (Davidstown-Courtnacuddy), Michael Mooney (Rathnure), Luke Power (Cushinstown).

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