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Memories of County Final Day

Memories of County Final Day - Fr. Martin Casey

From the end of the nineteen sixties to the early nineteen nineties, Buffers Alley had its golden period as a hurling club inside and outside county Wexford.

In all, its hurlers contested 21 county finals between 1967 and 1992.  They drew 3, lost 6 and won 12.  Three times in this period they failed to reach the county semi-final, Ferns-St. Aidan’s, Adamstown and  Gorey being their conquers.  That meant that players gave a great deal to compete at such a high level for twenty five years.

How did players prepare?  We must remember that the Ireland of the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s was very different from today.  Foreign holidays were few.  Money was scarce.  Pioneers were in abundance.  At one stage 12 non-drinkers on the Alley team.  The smokers could be counted with two fingers. Illegal or enhancing drugs were unheard of.  It was easy to prepare teams.  Lack of discipline off the field was not a problem.  It was well known that some families would leave hay untouched in the fields for days before a county semi-final.  Likewise, the harvest was saved when the final was over.

How did the individual prepare?  Each player had his own routine.  For yours truly, it was a case of lying low.  When training finished on the Tuesday evening, it was back to the parochial house in Arklow, to St. Peter’s College, Wexford or to the parochial house, Caroreigh.  There and then boots were removed from the tog-out-bag, washed and put away.  Socks and togs were placed in the washing machine and then dried.  Then it was a question of lying-low for the next few days.  Previews of the match in the local newspapers were not read – one knew enough about ones colleagues.  Why worry about the opposition?  No interviews to the radio.  And most important of all, no visits to places where once encountered G.A.A. people.

Early to bed, at least one to two hours before normal bed time.  That applied to the week before and the week of the county final.  An intake of better quality food.  Then on the Sunday morning of the Final it was a 7 o’clock rise.  A substantial breakfast.  Three Masses were celebrated which helped to keep one’s mind off the game.  After Mass a light snack.  This was followed by relaxing in a special way for a few hours before heading off to Wexford Park.  One aimed not to arrive too early to Wexford, have a few words with some of the other players in the dressing room,then consume a recognised legal food used by rowers in the Olympic games.

Then it was time to tog-out.  The mind was re-focused with a few final words from the trainer.  On to the field.  After a short puck about the parade took place.  During the parade it was very important to remain focused on the game forgetting about supporters, band, parade and opposing players.  The ball was thrown in and we know what happened for the next 60 minutes.

Sports psychologists were unknown of in the Alley.  If one failed to come up trumps on the day, you got a strong reminder from the sideline that the game was on or one got a stronger reminder from another player.

One queries have things gone too far within the G.A.A.? Hurling is a great game.  It is meant to be enjoyed and of course everyone wants to win.  There has to be a loser.  While winners should remain humble, losers should take pride in that they competed in the final.  A trend today that did not exist in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s was that losers did not celebrate with the winners.  They had pride in their own club, even in defeat.

Win or lose the ladies associated with the Alley club provided a substantial meal the night of the final.  Players and supporters chatted for a few hours and celebrated or drowned their sorrows with a few drinks.  And then it was home at about midnight.  Players of that period turned up for work or school the next day.

 

Life, for yours truly, returned to normal on Monday morning with one’s priestly duties.

 

Rev. Fr. Martin Casey, PP. -  Co Final Programme 2007

 

 

 

 

 

 


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