Memories return of sole U-21 win
NOW THAT the hurling season is in full swing, memories came flooding back, particularly on Bank Holiday Monday when I covered an Under-21 Premier championship game.
I began to think back and it's quite an amazing statistic that in such a proud hurling county as Wexford, it is some 48 years since we won the All-Ireland Under-21 hurling title.
Wexford made an immediate impact on the newly-introduced grade by contesting the first three All-Ireland hurling finals in a row from 1964 to 1966. Despite provincial title success being in double figures, Wexford have won just one All-Ireland championship along the way, and that was way back in 1965.
An up and coming youngster called Tony Doran spearheaded the attack against Tipperary, and Mick Jacob manned the goal at the other end. Jacob was later to go on and become an All Star centre-back.
Cork, as they so often have done, proved our bogey on the next five final occasions, including the famous three-match final of 1966.
The Wexford team announced for the 1964 All-Ireland final against Tipperary came as a disappointment to many people. The selectors made sweeping changes in the team that had brought the county to its first final in the grade. Seven players were dropped, and the papers at the time said that the prospects of winning were far from bright.
Out went such notable hurlers as Christy Martin (Geraldine O'Hanrahans), John Leacy (Ferns St. Aidan's), Willie Bierney (Na Fianna), Tony Doran (Buffers Alley) who had scored six goals versus Dublin in the Leinster semi-final, and Tom Dunne (Enniscorthy St. Aidan's), while Mick Kinsella (Wolfe Tones) and Pat O'Connor (Enniscorthy St. Aidan's) were named as substitutes. As it transpired, the side was decisively beaten 8-9 to 3-1 in the final at Nowlan Park.
The team was: Mick Jacob (Oulart-The Ballagh); Jim Dunne (Davidstown), Dan Quigley (Rathnure), Bernard Doyle (Faythe Harriers); Vincie Staples (St. Martin's), Jim Berry (Kilmore-Rathangan), Willie Murphy (Faythe Harriers); Martin Byrne (Rathnure), Joe Doran (Buffers Alley); Con Dowdall (Faythe Harriers), Christy Jacob (Oulart-The Ballagh), Oliver Cullen (Liam Mellows); Seamus Barron (Rathnure), Tony Maher (Enniscorthy St. Aidan's), Pat Quigley (Rathnure).
In 1965 Wexford exacted revenge when they decisively beat Tipperary by 3-7 to 1-4 before nearly 5,000 people in the All-Ireland final at Nowlan Park.
That historic team was: Mick Jacob (Oulart-The Ballagh); Willie O'Neill (Kilmore-Rathangan), Dan Quigley (Rathnure), Aidan Somers (Rathnure); Vincie Staples (St. Martin's), Mick Kinsella (Wolfe Tones), Willie Murphy (Faythe Harriers); Joe Doran (Buffers Alley), Eugene Ryan (St. Patrick's); Con Dowdall (Faythe Harriers), Pat Quigley (Rathure), Seamus Barron (Rathnure), Tony Maher (Enniscorthy St. Aidan's), Tony Doran (Buffers Alley), Jack Berry (Kilmore-Rathangan). Sub. - Christy Jacob (Oulart-The Ballagh).
Having covered seven hurling games over the past week, I was keeping a close watch for emerging new talent, particularly players who would be available to the various inter-county management teams who for some reason have not made the breakthrough.
Having attended the beautifully laid out grounds in Camolin on Saturday afternoon, the same evening took me to scenic Farmleigh. In keeping with the surrounds one witnessed two quality Intermediate hurling games and young names to really catch the eye were the St. Patrick's duo, Michael O'Brien and Dermot O'Leary, as well as Pádraig Foley of Crossabeg-Ballymurn.
It was on to Blackwater on Sunday afternoon. Here's a name to put in the diary for future reference: Yusuf Frih. The 16-year-old Liam Mellows attacker scored 1-2 in a display of real quality.
In Piercestown on Bank Holiday Monday I witnessed the scoring exploits of Minor player Seán Stafford in St. Martin's two-point Under-21 victory over Rathnure. Scoring eleven points, nine from frees, it amazes me that this quality attacker is not even included in the county Minor squad.
Let's hope the selectors are looking at players from the smaller clubs too, although I cannot rate St. Martin's small for fear of being attacked by club stalwarts Jim O'Mahony and Bernie Radford!