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Wednesday 3 September 2014

Death of a legend

Published 12/07/2014 | 12:00

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HURLING FOLLOWERS throughout Wexford and beyond who warmed to the tremendous skills of Tim Flood were saddened to hear of his passing on Thursday last.

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One of the famous band of hurlers of the fifties and early sixties, the Cloughbawn corner-forward carved out a special niche for himself as one of the most skilful players on the all-conquering Wexford Senior hurling team of that memorable era. His deft stickwork and silken runs at opposing defences saw him emerge as a key figure playing alongside the legendary late Nickey Rackard.

The ball player supreme on this Wexford 15 was the smallest player on the team, but he was brainy and spectacular, fast becoming one of the finest forwards of the Wexford All-Ireland sides.

He first emerged as a hurler with Cloughbawn Juniors in 1945 and was a member of the side which won the Junior county final of 1946.

Born in Clonroche, Flood first excelled at hurling in his youth. He arrived on the inter-county scene at the age of 22 when he first linked up with the Wexford Senior team. He made his Senior debut in the 1947-'48 National League.

He went on to play a huge part in Wexford's golden hurling era, winning three All-Ireland medals, two National League medals, and being All-Ireland runner-up on three occasions. He also had to his name six Leinster hurling titles, along with Oireachtas and Railway Cup success

He was a member of the Leinster inter-provincial team on a number of occasions, winning two Railway Cup medals in 1954 and 1956, while at club level he won three championship medals with his beloved Cloughbawn. His career tally of 26 goals and 59 points marked him out as one of the county's top scorers, a remarkable achievement given that the championship through those years was on a straight knockout basis.

Throughout his inter-county career, Flood made 38 championship appearances for Wexford, with his retirement coming after the 1962 All-Ireland final defeat to Tipperary. His brother-in-law, Oliver 'Hopper' McGrath, and his son, Seán, also enjoyed All-Ireland success with the Model county.

Born on January 8, 1927, in Clonroche, Tim was a farmer by occupation, and came to prominence in 1949 when he was one of the stars of the Cloughbawn team which captured the county Senior hurling championship for the first time ever. He added a second medal in June, 1952, contributing the superb total of 2-4 as the men from Cloughbawn beat Horeswood in a replay in the delayed final of 1951.

By that time Tim had figured in his first All-Ireland Senior hurling final, playing at right corner-forward on the Wexford team which lost to Tipperary by 7-7 to 3-9.

That defeat was only a minor hiccup for Tim and his colleagues, but the Cloughbawn wizard had to endure more heartbreak when he played at left half-forward on the Wexford team beaten by Cork in the 1954 decider.

All the disappointments were forgotten about the following year when Tim lined out at left corner-forward on the team which defeated Galway to collect the first All-Ireland Senior hurling title for the county since 1910. And in 1956 Tim was back at left half-forward as the Slaneysiders defeated old rivals Cork in one of the greatest finals ever.

In 1960, he lined out at left corner-forward on the winning All-Ireland team, defeating Tipperary in the final in one of the greatest shocks for many a year, as the Premier county were the warmest of favourites to win a game that saw Oylegate-Glenbrien's John Nolan, on his Senior debut, giving an immaculate display in curbing the great Jimmy Doyle.

It was in 1962 that Tim played his final game in the purple and gold when losing to Tipperary in the All-Ireland final. The elegant attacker called it a day shortly after that game, but in what was a remarkable career he had left followers with a store of memories which were still being recalled with great fondness at his funeral Mass on Saturday last.

Tim continued to play for Cloughbawn until 1969. He was one of the most respected and influential players of his era, bringing honour and pride to his native team and parish, but most of all he helped greatly to bring Wexford hurling to the top level by showing on the field that skill, craft and sportsmanship are a great combination.

His son, Seán, won an All-Ireland medal in 1996, but unfortunately missed out on the final victory over Limerick through injury. Both Seán and Garry also contributed handsomely to Cloughbawn teams while his other son, Seamus, also gave great service down through the years.

On retiring from the playing pitches, Tim became involved in team management and coaching. He served as coach of the Cloughbawn Junior hurling team before later serving as a selector.

Flood is widely regarded as one of the greatest hurlers of his era and has been voted onto teams made up of the sport's greats, including at left corner-forward on a specially-chosen greatest-ever Wexford side in 2002.

After retiring from hurling, Tim was heavily involved in sheepdog trials, and represented Cloughbawn, Wexford, Leinster and Ireland on numerous ocasions. He competed in his first national trial in 1970 and made his debut on the Irish team in 1972. He and a collie called 'Cosy which won the national title in 1975, the first of his twelve All-Ireland titles. Six of the dozen were in the singles event, while six were doubles, working with a brace of dogs. He also made several appearance on the BBCs 'One Man and His Dog' programme.

Tim also played music all his life and was the mainstay of the well-known Castleboro Céilí Band. He, along with Larry Harrington, Larry Joyce, Bill Simpson, Jack, Noel and Ramie 'Buzzer' Ryan and Paddy Joyce, and later with Jim Murphy, Knoxtown, kept the flag flying for Irish music in the parish and outside it. He played and competed at all the Fleadh Cheoil around the country and sometimes adjudicated at competitions all over Wexford and beyond.

He, along with the late John Jude Doyle, trained and schooled participants in Scór competitions down through the years. He successfully trained Tim and Pat Harrington along with his own daughter, Norma (later Clonroche N.S. Principal), to become All-Ireland winners, when in 1972 they performed the 'Kettle Boiled Over' in the novelty act section. He also had an All-Ireland runners-up in 1974 and winners award again in 1979 with 'Hurling Boy Hurrah'.

Tim Flood and Castleboro won many Tops of the Parish and other Tops competitions throughout the years, and the appetite for competition was always evident.

Married to Kathleen McGrath, a sister of his Wexford team-mate, Oliver 'Hopper' McGrath, the couple had four children, Seamus, Norma, Seán and Garry.

Tim was a farmer all his life until an outbreak of BSE destroyed his herd in 2002.

He passed away at the Farnogue Residental Health Care Unit at Wexford General Hospital on Thursday last, July 3.

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