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Saturday 7 December 2019

Chin and O'Keeffe feted

Wexford duo collect our first All Star awards since 2004

Lee Chin and Diarmuid O’Keeffe with their All Star awards in the Convention Centre in Dublin on Friday (November 1)
Lee Chin and Diarmuid O’Keeffe with their All Star awards in the Convention Centre in Dublin on Friday (November 1)

Brendan Furlong

Two Wexford Senior hurlers got their hands on coveted PwC Hurling All Star awards when they were announced on Thursday.

Lee Chin and Diarmuid O'Keeffe were among the 15 honoured after leading their county to a Leinster title before losing out narrowly to eventual champions Tipperary in the All-Ireland semi-final.

It's Wexford first time to be recognised in the All Stars since 2004, with goalkeeper Damien Fitzhenry being the last hurler to receive the accolade in the same year that Matty Forde was crowned as our first, and to date only, football winner.

Chin and O'Keeffe were chosen ahead of some outstanding players for right half-forward and midfield respectively, while both Liam Ryan and Matthew O'Hanlon could be deemed somewhat unlucky not to have joined them in the selection.

The two awards helped make it a great year for the county, having broken through for a first provincial title in 15 years with a final victory over Kilkenny.

Although they finished the campaign with that All-Ireland semi-final loss to Tipperary, it was still one of the county's most competitive years in the past two decades.

It was a huge boost for Wexford hurling to see the two players join their elite colleagues on stage at the Convention Centre in Dublin on Friday night, as both were earning their first All Star.

In the year that's in it, it was fitting to see the two players honoured since both gave outstanding displays through both the National League and championship.

Midfielder O'Keeffe was superb in Wexford's draw with Kilkenny in Innovate Wexford Park where he contributed four points from play as home county made it through to the provincial final along with their opponents.

It was one of the St. Anne's clubman's finest 70 minutes, but he somehow managed to continue that form in both the provincial final and All-Ireland semi-final.

Attacker Lee Chin set the championship alight with some wonderful individual displays, marked by his excellent free-taking through the course of the campaign.

Perhaps he will be remembered most for his high fetch of a Kilkenny free on the edge of the square in additional time that saw his side hold off a late rally to lift the Bob O'Keeffe Cup after 15 years.

It was the Faythe Harriers clubman's finest-ever season in the purple and gold and justified the faith placed in him by manager Davy Fitzgerald who had him as joint captain along with Matthew O'Hanlon.

Chin now joins clubmates Willie Murphy, recipient as full-back in 1976, Ned Buggy, who was honoured as left full-forward in 1979, and Larry O'Gorman, left full-back and hurler of the year in 1996, in bringing All Stars to the Wexford town club, joining elite company in the process.

For St. Anne's, it was a second All Star as O'Keeffe followed in the footsteps of his clubmate, Darragh Ryan, who was honoured as right full-back on the 2001 team.

Wexford's first All Star recipient was Oulart-The Ballagh's Mick Jacob in 1972 when he was selected as centre-back in the second year of the scheme.

The county's most honoured All Star on four awards is Martin Quigley, whose first cam in 1973 at right full-forward, when he was joined by Colm Doran (Buffers Alley) at right half-back.

In 1974 the Quigleys joined the band of brothers to be honoured, when Martin was selected as centre-forward, with John at right full-forward.

Martin then continued his marvellous record when being the only Wexford selection in 1975 as right half-forward.

Following the county's All-Ireland final heroics in 1976, losing out to Cork, Wexford received four All Stars: Willie Murphy (full-back), Mick Jacob (centre-back), Martin Quigley (centre-forward) and Tony Doran (full-forward).

Wexford once again lost the All-Ireland final to Cork in 1977, resulting in just two All Stars, for Mick Jacob (centre-back) and Christy Keogh (right half-forward).

In 1979 just one All Star came the way of the county in Ned Buggy at left full-forward.

St. Martin's stalwart and one of Wexford's finest, George O'Connor, was selected as centre-forward in 1981.

Rathnure's John Conran broke a long barren spell without an All Star when he was the sole county player honoured in 1987 at left half-back, while George O'Connor received his second accolade when chosen as one of the midfielders in 1988.

Eamon Cleary, now a greyhound trainer of renown, joined the Wexford list when the Rathgarogue-Cushinstown player was selected as full-back in 1989.

Oulart-The Ballagh's Liam Dune received his first All Star as left half-back in 1990. Wexford had to wait until 1993 to once again join the honours list, with Dunne receiving his second award at right half-back along with club colleague Martin Storey at right half-forward.

Wexford received their highest-ever number of All Stars following their 1996 All-Ireland final victory over Limerick when receiving seven accolades: Larry O'Gorman (left full-back), Liam Dunne (right half-back), Adrian Fenlon (midfield), Rory McCarthy (right half-forward), Martin Storey (centre-forward), Larry Murphy (left half-forward), and Tom Dempsey (left full-forward).

Having relinquished their All-Ireland crown with a semi-final loss to Tipperary in 1997, Damien Fitzhenry was the county's sole All Star.

Martin Storey returned for a third accolade as centre-forward in 1998, while Darragh Ryan was honoured as right full-back in 2001, before Damien Fitzhenry's selection in 2004.

Enniscorthy Guardian

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