Sunday 20 October 2019

Richie Pierce Memorial Cup sought by family

Alan Aherne

We are appealing to our readers, particularly those from Wexford town, who may know the whereabouts of a long since forgotten cup.

Many people of a certain vintage will recall the football street league which was a very popular and competitive event which ran without a break from 1975 to 1982. The participants were divided on a geographical rather than a club basis, so bitter rivals in District championships became team-mates for the honour and glory of their part of town.

The Richie Pierce Memorial Cup was presented to the winners, and a family member was in contact with us recently to see if we could shed any light on its whereabouts.

There's an interesting history to the competition, as the original version was organised in 1925 in a bid to encourage young men who had never played football before to start on a formal footing. The political turbulence of the previous decade ensured that many able-bodied townsfolk had no involvement in competitive sport at the time.

The most significant aspect of that novice league was that it marked the revival of the Sarsfields club for the first time since 1911 when they entered a team.

They were one of twelve participants along with St. Ibar's, Castle Rangers, Blue and Whites, St. Mary's, Shamrock Rovers, Volunteers, Faythe Harriers, Parnells, Starlights, Hibernians, Selskar Young Irelands and Dan O'Connells, all from Wexford town.

Not surprising for a competition at that time, it was marred by a series of objections and counter-objections and didn't conclude until a meeting on July 19, 1926, when Volunteers were declared champions in the boardroom and presented with solid gold medals.

Richie Pierce had attended the first meeting to form the league, in the Pierce Institute on April 7, 1925, and made a proposal on player eligibility which was passed. Therefore, it was appropriate that a cup should be presented in his memory when it was decided to revive the competition in 1975 to mark its golden jubilee.

Incidentally, that 1925 event had been a one-off and wasn't repeated in the years that followed, although it was still credited with reviving Gaelic football in Wexford town and attracted huge crowds to the games in Wexford Park.

There had been one street league played prior to the golden jubilee, in 1969 when the Wexford Park committee acted as organisers, Johnny Hore presented trophies, and the players competed under club names although the town was still divided on a geographical basis.

The Blue and Whites beat Dan O'Connells by 4-8 to 3-9 in the final, and the other participants were Sarsfields, Volunteers, St. Joseph's, St. Mary's (Maudlintown), St. Michael's and P.H. Pearses. It seems incredible to contemplate at present, but our main county town - with a much smaller population than now obviously - did produce eight football teams for the championships 46 years ago.

Once again, 1969 was a one-off, but the street league finally established itself on a firm footing in 1975 when Corish Park, Maudlintown, John Street, Bishopswater, Carrigeen Street and Slippery Green were the participants.

Unfortunately, a final didn't take place though, with Corish Park awarded a walkover after Slippery Green refused to play due to a dispute over suspended players.

Thankfully, the controversy abated, and the league ran successfully without strife from 1976 to 1982. Slippery Green bounced back in '76 to beat Maudlintown in the final by 1-16 to 3-5, with Bishopswater winning for the first time in '77 when they overcame John Street by 2-5 to 0-4.

The street league played a key part in getting the Clonard club off the ground in 1978, and they won the title that year for the only time when Maudlintown were outpointed 12-9.

Bishopswater bounced back to win a second title in 1979, beating Maudlintown by 2-10 to 1-5, but the bridesmaids from the Rosslare Road finally had their big day in 1980 when they turned the tables with a 1-5 to 0-3 success.

Slippery Green bridged a five-year gap to triumph by 2-14 to 1-6 over Bishopswater in 1981 when none other than Billy Walsh won the best young footballer of the tournament award thanks to his exploits for the winners.

Bishopswater returned to claim a third title in 1982 with a 2-5 to 0-8 win over Maudlintown, and it would appear that the league didn't take place in 1983 and 1984 when inter-firms football took over, with ABS Pumps and National Aluminium having some great battles.

My records suggest that the last street league was played in 1985 when Maudlintown won it for the second time, beating Slippery Green by 4-7 to 0-5.

And if that's correct, there's a strong chance that the Richie Pierce Memorial Cup is in the possession of somebody involved with that winning team.

If any of our readers can provide some concrete information on this topic and shed some light on the whereabouts of the silverware, please make contact with Jazzer Kinsella of St. Joseph's (087-2781811) who is a descendant of the Pierce family.

Wexford People

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