Monday 16 September 2019

Footballers seek a first championship win in Cusack Park

Alan Aherne
Alan Aherne

Alan Aherne: On The Line

It's just as well that the hand of history doesn't have an impact on what happens on the pitch when the ball is thrown in, although there are some readers who may beg to differ.

I make that statement because a perusal of the records shows that Wexford have never beaten Westmeath in a Leinster Senior football championship game played in Cusack Park, Mullingar.

While we now boast a one hundred per cent record there in hurling after Sunday's routine victory, it hasn't been a happy hunting ground for us so far in the other code.

The history of games played there is a relatively recent one, starting in 1989 when Aidan O'Brien of Good Counsel fame played at left half-back for his native Westmeath in a 3-9 to 1-7 win over an injury-hit Wexford.

Our columnist, Billy Dodd, top scored for the visitors with five points, three from frees, while midfielder Louis Rafter chipped in with a goal and a point.

The next meeting in Mullingar was a replay eight years later after the teams played a 2-5 to 0-11 draw in New Ross when Jason Lawlor and Michael Mahon rattled the net for the home side.

Alas, they were on the receiving end of a 2-17 to 1-15 loss at the second attempt when Fethard free-taker Jim Byrne led the scoring stakes with eight points, seven from placed balls.

The circumstances were similar in 2001 when the sides initially couldn't be separated on Wexford soil. They played out an epic 1-19 each draw after extra-time on the night Wexford Park was re-opened, with Leigh O'Brien accounting for nine of his eleven-point haul from frees.

The return trip to Mullingar was sadly another damp squib for the visitors though as Westmeath prevailed by 1-16 to 1-8 despite five points from Leigh and a Matty Forde goal.

It's not a wonderful record then, but in order to offer some hope it should be noted that the last league clash there resulted in a 0-13 to 1-7 victory for Wexford in 2011 when the team included two of Sunday's hurling side in Liam Og McGovern and Daithí Waters.

The only other league tie in Cusack Park was in 1997 when the home side won a low-scoring clash by 0-9 to 0-6.

The general championship history with Westmeath stretches all the way back to 1893 when Wexford won in the Phoenix Park by 2-6 to 0-1 and went all the way to All-Ireland glory afterwards. Tom O'Connor scored 1-3 for the Selskar Young Ireland's who were representing the county in that golden era, but we'll just settle for a win on Sunday right fairness, the likelihood of repeating the feats of the late 19th century are highly unlikely!

We also locked horns with Westmeath once during our four-in-a-row All-Ireland reign, with Seán O'Kennedy leading the way with 1-2 in a 1-7 to 0-1 victory at Croke Park during the 1917 campaign.

A long gap followed until the next meeting in Portlaoise in 1951. Nickey Rackard's goal helped us to a 2-5 each draw but the replay in Croke Park was lost by 1-10 to 2-5 despite 1-3 from the recently-deceased Paco Sheehan.

Paco and John Ryan managed 1-1 apiece in the 2-11 to 1-5 triumph in Carlow in 1956, the year of the famous semi-final win over the Dubs at the same venue.

Twenty years later the meeting in Athy was won by 2-11 to 0-14 as Martin Quigley and Ned Waters led the way with 1-3 and 1-2 respectively.

Sandwiched in between the clashes of 1989 and 1997 mentioned above was a 0-12 to 1-3 loss in Wexford Park in 1995 when Billy Dodd scored the consolation goal from a free.

We let a chance of reaching the Leinster final slip in 2004 when Westmeath prevailed by 2-15 to 1-14 in Croke Park, but in fairness that was an exceptional team as they had already dumped Dublin and went on to win a first-ever provincial crown at the expense of Laois.

Matty Forde with eight points, four from play, and Jason Lawlor with 1-1 were the chief marksmen that day.

Let's hope current captain Ciarán Lyng is in the same form as when they last clashed in the championship in Wexford Park in 2011, scoring ten points on that occasion including just three from frees in a 1-24 to 0-15 win.

Wexford People

Most Read