Wednesday 23 October 2019

Mick Kinsella - a life less ordinary

Part one of a two-part series

semi-final between Dublin and Cork. It was actually one of the last games that Christy Ring played and at one stage we were walking from one side of the pitch to the other behind the goals and by the time we had crossed over Ring had scored two goals from two flicks off Dublin's Noel Drumgoole. St. Peter's that time had Dan Quigley at full-back, Vincent Staples, Conor O'Rafferty, Nicky Scallan, Pat Quigley, Mick Rossiter and Watty Shortle. Wexford is the only county to have two colleges competing at 'A' level in both hurling and football. Add to that F.C.J., Gorey Community School and Enniscorthy C.B.S. in the 'B' and it's an amazing achievement,' he added.

With that accolade under his belt it was off to Galway for Mick to take up a position with the Post Office in 1963. But, given the ability of the man, a couple of training sessions back home and weekly outings in a place called 'The Swamp' near Salthill under the tutelage of Pat Donnellan were enough to guarantee him his place on the team that took on Limerick in the Minor All-Ireland final.

'I remember the thrill of playing in Croke Park on such a big occasion. I was centre half-back on Vivian Cobbe, a speed merchant, and I thought he was going to take me asunder but he didn't,' he says coyly.

Another huge achievement nailed down, it was to Arklow in county Wicklow he moved next after a promotion in work. His hurling remained a massive part of his life but it had to make room for a very determined individual who went in search of his heart.

'I worked in Arklow for five years and there was this one young lady who worked as a hairdresser and she kept coming in to buy stamps off me. She didn't post any letters but she kept buying stamps,' he said boastfully.

Concerned that this was pure bravado talking, we decided to question this 'young lady' to see if her version of events matched those of Mick.

'Who would I have written letters to,' said Mick's wife, Pat, 'sure everyone I knew was in Arklow'.

In 1964 the Wexford U-21 side that Mick was a part of were beaten by Tipperary in the All-Ireland final. The following year on a dirty day in Kilkenny they would return to face the Premier County and they would emerge victorious on a scoreline of 3-9 to 1-4. The team featured a young man called Liam Griffin on the subs' bench.

The following year the Wexford U-21 heroes would return to the All-Ireland final again only to be denied in the third of a three-game epic against Cork.

More glory was to follow for Mick when in 1967 he lined out at centre half-back for his county against Kilkenny in the NHL final, which they again won. The ambitious Mick is extremely proud of his county's record against the Kilkenny men, saying that they beat them regularly in those days.

And then 1968 rolled around. Having had a team of stars rise from Minor to Senior to join the household names already there, a Senior All-Ireland was an achievable goal.

However, a re-jigging of the defence saw Mick lose his place to Dan Quigley for the All-Ireland final. Ironically it was because Dan had had a nightmare in a practice game in Cork that caused the rejig.

So it was as a substitute that Mick Kinsella watched his county take home the ultimate honours but in what is a testament to the man's character, he bears no ill feeling over the move.

'Dan Quigley played, I lost out to Dan and I always say that Dan was a finer hurler than I was,' he said.

His club years too are bedecked with county honours; their first in 1968 when they defeated Faythe Harriers who had earlier beaten them in the first round. Four county titles in all were brought home to his beloved club whom he represented with pride and honour at all times.

Mick Kinsella played during what he calls the 'golden age' of Wexford hurling. He stood like a rock at centre half-back armed with a raging fire in his belly, a wealth of skill and grace and a boyish grin. He formed part of several teams that boasted the names of some of the finest hurlers ever to hold a piece of ash in the Model county and he brought a host of All-Ireland honours home to his beloved county in an era the likes of which shows no sign of returning.

Today the boyish grin remains, the raging fire in his belly shows no sign of dimming and no doubt if he were to pick up a hurl that skill and grace would still be lurking.

But when those playing years were over he took on new challenges and met them with that drive and dedication with which he has brought to every aspect of his life over the years.

His hurling prowess and knowledge helped to guide teams in Waterford and Wicklow to county glory and his administrative aplomb engineered a period in Wexford's G.A.A. existence that saw progress on an unprecedented level.

For now we pay tribute to Mick Kinsella the hurler, a wielder of the camán, a warrior in every sense of the word.

Next week we will follow Mick as he travels to Passage in Waterford, manages the Arklow Rocks in Wicklow to an historic county title and finally returns home to Wexford.

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