Saturday 17 August 2019

Memories of 1976 and the last major games on Leeside

Championship Special

Alan Aherne
Alan Aherne

On the Line with Alan Aherne

The venue for Sunday's All-Ireland Senior hurling championship quarter-final adds a certain novelty to proceedings, leaving aside for a moment the complete lack of consideration shown to two sets of supporters travelling in the same direction to a difficult-to-access venue.

No doubt some of our more mature readers will recall memories of our last trips to Cork on big summer occasions, as it's not the first time that we've visited Leeside to mark the opening of a new stadium.

Tipperary and Clare will be beating us to the accolade by 25 hours on this occasion, but back in 1976 we had the distinction of playing the first-ever All-Ireland Senior hurling semi-final to be staged in the all-new Páirc Uí Chaoimh, opened earlier that summer as a replacement for the old Athletic Grounds.

Galway were our opponents, and they were a decent side at the time after shocking Cork at the same stage in 1975 before losing to Kilkenny in the decider.

After losing five provincial finals on the trot to the Cats from 1971 onwards, there was a general air of shock on the hurling scene when we emphatically gained revenge with a 2-20 to 1-6 hammering in the 1976 meeting.

As a result, there was a heightened sense of anticipation for the trip to Cork to face the westerners and, as it transpired, two games were required before we qualified for a first All-Ireland final appearance since 1970.

The first game took place on August 15, and it ended in a high-scoring 5-14 to 2-23 draw after Wexford recovered from an interval deficit of 1-13 to 3-6.

Mick Butler top-scored with 2-3, and the returns were completed by Tony Doran (2-0), John Quigley (0-5), Ned Buggy (1-2), Christy Keogh (0-3) and Martin Quigley (0-1).

The journey to the Rebel county was repeated seven days later when three first-half goals powered the Leinster champions to a 3-5 to 0-12 interval lead and ultimate victory by 3-14 to 2-14.

This time Tony Doran and John Quigley scored 1-2 apiece, with Ned Buggy striking 1-1, Martin Quigley and Mick Butler managing 0-3 each, and Christy Keogh, Johnny Murphy and Billy Rowsome picking off points.

Unfortunately, Cork had a very good chance to assess our worth in those two games on their own doorstep, and they shattered our All-Ireland dreams in the subsequent final by 2-21 to 4-11.

It was the first of two successive losses on the big day to the Leesiders and, as we're well aware at this stage, the wait for another All-Ireland title would continue until 1996.

I managed to dig out the match programme for that drawn 1976 game in Páirc Uí Chaoimh from my collection, and the first thing to note is that just 21 names were listed on the Wexford squad which was the norm for the time.

It's sad to see that three of those stalwarts have since gone to their eternal reward: sweet-striking wing-back Liam Bennett, wily corner-forward Christy Keogh, and versatile substitute Tom Walsh.

Another interesting name to stand out is that of number 18 Andy Doyle, as the St. James' man was the only Junior club representative on the squad. While it's generally acknowledged that the Ramsgrange outfit have only shot to prominence in hurling since the turn of this decade, U.C.D. star Doyle stood out like a beacon in a panel dominated by the Buffers Alley and Rathnure contingents.

Those 21 men who were successful in Cork 41 years ago were:

John Nolan (Geraldine O'Hanrahans), Teddy O'Connor (Rathnure), Willie Murphy (Faythe Harriers), Jimmy Prendergast (Oulart-The Ballagh), Liam Bennett R.I.P. (Faythe Harriers), Colm Doran (Buffers Alley), Ned Buggy (Faythe Harriers), Mick Jacob (Oulart-The Ballagh), Billy Rowsome (Monageer-Boolavogue), Johnny Murphy (Crossabeg-Ballymurn), Martin Quigley (Rathnure), John Quigley (Rathnure), Mick Butler (Buffers Alley), Tony Doran (Buffers Alley), Christy Keogh R.I.P. (Rapparees), Henry Butler (Buffers Alley), Paddy Kavanagh (Buffers Alley), Andy Doyle (St. James'), Tom Walsh R.I.P. (Cloughbawn), Fr. Martin Casey (Buffers Alley), John Conran (Rathnure).

Wexford People

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