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First and Only Club Championship for Wexford St. Patrick's Da

First and Only Club Championship for Wexford  -  St. Patrick’s Day 1989

 

With the heartbreaking defeat to Kilruane-McDonagh’s of Tipperary on St. Patrick’s Day 1986, and the loss of the two subsequent county championships with many of the key players on the wrong side of thirty, the collective wisdom was that Buffers Alley had missed its chance of landing the All-Ireland Club Championship.  And when you consider that Rathnure had earlier lost out in four finals, it’s understandable that another unexpected opportunity was going to be seized with open arms.

To win any championship you need many things to go right, remain injury free, and have immense good luck.  To win the All-Ireland Club Championship you need all these in abundance.  The long and arduous campaign of fourteen games began with victories in the group section of the Wexford championship over Cloughbawn, Oulart-The Ballagh, Faythe Harriers, Rapparees and Duffry Rovers.  In those days of no quarter finals, we drew with Cloughbawn in the semi on a scoreline of 1-15 to 2-12 and had to call on some of that luck I mentioned in order to do so.  A low scoring replay saw us through by 1-9 to 1-4.

The dream Wexford final pitted us against arch rivals Rathnure.  And if luck was needed in the semi-final, it was certainly needed here.  Trailing by 0-13 to 0-4 at half-time, a truly remarkable and spirited second half performance enabled us to grind out a superb result on a scoreline of 3-11 to 2-14. We regained the Wexford championship a week later in atrocious conditions by 2-10 to 1-5.

We began the provincial campaign with a high-scoring 5-8 to 4-6 victory over Carlow Town Hurling Club.  Following a semi-final win over Seir Kieran’s of Offaly (1-12 to 1-7), the Leinster final brought us into battle with the then, as indeed now, kingpins of Leinster club hurling, Shamrocks of Kilkenny.  After an epic and titanic struggle on a December Sunday in Carlow, we came away with a narrow 1-12 to 1-9 victory.

Following a well-earned Christmas break, training resumed on the 6th January.  We are still grateful to the Blackwater and Castletown clubs for the use of their all-weather pitches.  The All-Ireland semi-final saw us take on the Connaught champions in Wexford Park in February.  Surprisingly, this turned out to be Four Roads of Roscommon who had slipped a rare one over the Galway champions that year.  Didn’t I tell you that you needed luck?  We won that semi-final much easier than expected - 2-19 to 0-9.

Meanwhile our good luck was continuing elsewhere that same afternoon when club championship favourites, Patrickswell of Limerick, were surprisingly beaten by O’Donovan Rossa of Antrim.  I can still see the smiles in the dressing-room when the word filtered through.

This led us to St. Patrick’s Day and the greatest and most famous occasion in the history of the Buffers Alley club when, following a scary first twenty minutes in which Ciarán Barr was rampant, we went on to land the All-Ireland club championship for the first and only time by a Wexford club.  It was a fitting climax to the careers of a number of Buffers Alley veterans, and a very proud Pat Kenny, who has three sons in action today, received the Tommy Moore Cup on behalf of an exceptional group of players with whom it was a pleasure to work for so long.  For the record, they were Henry Butler, Barry Murphy, Pat Kenny, John O’Leary, Paul Gahan, Matty Foley, Colin Whelan, Eamonn Sinnott, Sean Whelan, Tom Dempsey, Martin Casey, Paddy Donohoe, Mick Butler, Tony Doran, Seamus O’Leary, Ben Martin, John Donohoe, John Gahan, Fintan O’Leary, Marney Burke, Matt Furlong, Harry Lee, Ger Sweeney and Colm Doran who missed the All-Ireland series due to injury. The selectors for the marathon campaign were Jack Hall, Pierie Butler and John Doyle, and the victorious team and officials were honoured with a civic reception in Gorey the following evening.

This team retained the Wexford championship the following season and tagged on two more in ’91 and ’92 when they also added another Leinster title.  Disappointingly, they have made very little impression since.  But even more disappointing and alarming from an overall Wexford hurling point of view is the fact that, with one exception by Rathnure, the Wexford champions have consistently failed to make any impression outside the county.  We listened for years to people advocating that the dominance of Rathnure and Buffers Alley in the seventies and eighties was bad for Wexford hurling. I have yet to be convinced that the declining influence of these two strongholds, in more recent years, has, in any way, been good for it.

Fr.. Jim Butler  -  Team Trainer 1989     


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