U21 hurling history a welcome addition to shelves
Hot off the presses and filling a welcome void in the area of Gaelic games literature is 'The Cross of Cashel' by Jim Fogarty, a near 200-page history of the All-Ireland Under-21 hurling finals played from 1964 to 2014.
This popular competition celebrated a significant milestone last year, and it's only fitting that this book has been published given the many memorable players, teams and matches to grace the hurling fields in pursuit of glory down through the decades.
Author Jim Fogarty is a native of Tipperary who was county and city librarian in Kilkenny before taking early retirement in 2008. A regular contributor of historical items to match programmes published in Nowlan Park, he immediately indulged in his passion for research once he had more time on his hands and this is his second publication. The title refers to the trophy presented to the winners every year since 1967.
The book follows a similar pattern to Jim's first, 'The Dan Breen Cup - Tipperary County SH finals, 1931 to 2011', as the author takes us on a chronological journey from the start of the Under-21 hurling championship up to the present day.
For each year there's a brief match report of the final, a round-up of the main results from the provincial deciders onwards, and a photograph of the winning team and in some cases in more recent years, the losers as well.
The clubs of all final participants are included after their names in the list of line-outs, and that adds considerably to the finished product. And while it wasn't possible to obtain team photographs for all winners taken on the actual day of the final, the author has managed to unearth one from a previous round to fill any gaps.
While we may have won just one Under-21 title - in the second year of the competition in 1965 - on the whole our county enjoys a healthy relationship with the grade.
Indeed, it's worth recalling that Wexford contested the first three finals (five games in all as the 1966 decider with Cork went to a second replay), and in the first decade we featured on the big day no fewer than seven times.
And even after our lengthy barren spell at Senior level kicked in from 1977 onwards, the Under-21 grade was generally good to us. Leinster successes in 1979, 1986 and 1987 ensured that the well didn't run entirely dry, with that middle year ending in an All-Ireland final defeat to Galway in Thurles.
Three double provincial victories have followed, in 1996 and '97, 2001 and '02, and of course we will be seeking our first Leinster three-in-a-row since 1971 when the 2015 campaign starts next month.
It's just unfortunate that we haven't been able to crack the All-Ireland code since 1965, with defeats to Galway in '96, Limerick in '01 and Clare last September adding to the tales of woe.
All of those games are recalled in this timely history of a grade which is one of the few left in the G.A.A. to fully embrace the straight knockout principle.
Perhaps that's why some of the best games of hurling down through the years have been at Under-21 level, as young men play with abandon and give it everything they have knowing that a second chance simply doesn't exist.
There's no better way to recall those memorable matches than by purchasing this book which retails at €20.
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