Minor breakthrough was 50 years ago
THE 1960s was a fertile decade for Wexford under-age hurling, and it was in 1963 that the county won its first-ever All-Ireland Minor hurling title.
This year we celebrate 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 All-Ireland Senior titles.
It was in 1962 that the foundations for this All-Ireland Minor success were laid when St. Peter's won the All-Ireland Colleges Senior hurling title for the very first time.
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 hurling force.
Wexford will this year honour the first winning All-Ireland team of 1963, which was followed by further All-Ireland success in 1966 and 1968. Remarkably that 1968 victory marked the county's last Minor success on All-Ireland final day - leaving a quite worrying period of 45 years without All-Ireland honours.
In addition to our All-Ireland success, Wexford have won seven Leinster titles, but a barren spell was endured in the 1970s when not a single Under-18 provincial title was won.
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 to recall that year of 1963, 50 years ago this September, when the purple and gold set the green sward of Croke Park alight with a remarkable 6-12 to 5-9 victory over Limerick.
Five times during the hour the scoring was level. The Leinster champions won with six points to spare and deservedly so, and their feat of holding the opposition scoreless for the last eleven minutes crowned a magnificent display.
Wexford goalie Liam Byrne was only 15 years of age at the time and the scorers on that historic occasion were: Con Dowdall (0-8), Tony Doran and Willie Bierney (2-0 each), Vinnie Staples and Seamus Barron (1-1 each), Freddie Swords and Willie Carley (0-1 each).
The team was 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.
The historic Wexford team was: Liam Byrne (Rathnure); John Hartley (Horeswood), Michael Nolan (Oylegate-Glenbrien), Eddie O'Connor (Duffry Rovers); Joe Murphy (Geraldine O'Hanrahans), Michael Kinsella (Wolfe Tones), Vinnie Staples (St. Martin's); Willie Bierney (Na Fianna), Conor O'Rafferty (Wolfe Tones); Con Dowdall (Faythe Harriers), Tony Doran (Buffers Alley), Freddie Swords (Wolfe Tones); Willie 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).
It was in 1965 that Wexford won their one and only All-Ireland Under-21 hurling title, having contested the first three All-Ireland finals in a row from 1964 to 1966. More about that next week.
This upcoming weekend is all about the club with the opening rounds of the adult football championships from Senior right down to Junior.
This is the time of year that the club players look forward to as they believe they become an integral part of the Association, having watched their inter-county colleagues' exploits in the National League.
Wexford, like last year, are bringing the game out to the rural parishes as there are matches listed in venues north, east, south and west, which should appeal to the general public.
Now, we all hope that the warm weather will prevail, as the players and clubs would appreciate the support of everyone as they strive to bring eventual glory to the parish.
There are some mouth-watering games down for decision from Friday evening right through to Sunday.
An action-packed weekend is assured.