Tuesday 23 October 2018

Warm reception on cards for heroes of 50 years ago

The All-Ireland winning Wexford Senior hurling team of 1960.
The All-Ireland winning Wexford Senior hurling team of 1960.

BRENDAN FURLONG Sports reporter

REMEMBER THE TEAM. The Wexford Senior hurlers of 1960 will be honoured 50 years later, having created a huge shock when decimating Tipperary in the All-Ireland final.

Now supporters who remember the day when the wizards of Wexford shocked the mighty Munster side will get an opportunity to meet their heroes, while for those young followers present at Wexford Park on Sunday next, they will be brought back to the glory day when the county won its fourth All-Ireland hurling crown.

Wexford County Board has decided to fete the players who brought the Liam MacCarthy Cup back to Slaneyside as they will be presented to the crowd during half-time in the Senior final, while after the game they will attend a reception in their honour.

Defying popular belief before an attendance of 67,154, Wexford Senior hurlers inflicted a crushing 215 to 0-11 defeat on the Munster champions. Their power-packed hurling was reminiscent of the mighty team of the ' 50s and their opposition had no answer to it.

It was a victory that brought such joy to Wexford followers who had travelled in their thousands to Croke Park. Like thousands more, I had the privilege of attending the game, as the under-age section of the Kilmore club was brought to Croke Park by Fr. Paddy McDonald, Peadar Byrne, N.T., Larry Furlong and Sgt. Dan Spillane, occupying the special seats for groups behind the Railway goal.

The report of the final in the 'Evening Press' by Seán Óg Ó Ceallacháin spoke of the speed and zest at the start being an eyeopener, and in a matter of minutes the forwards were cutting lanes through a shocked Tipperary defence.

A goal from a 40 yards free by Padge Kehoe in the third minute was the beginning of the end for the Premier county for it established a lead which Wexford never subsequently lost.

The winners kept up the pressure. They moved confidently, picking off scores and the much-vaunted Tipp. defence began to show distinct signs of alarm.

Tipperary cut Wexford's lead to two points at half-time (1-7 to 0-8), and the big attendance awaited the second-half with huge expectations.

Wexford did not take long to shatter illusions - right from the re-start they got cracking and in the space of a minute Oliver McGrath shook the Tipp. net for a beautifully-executed goal.

Very much in command, the Model county men dictated the play, raising the tempo to suit their mood or slowing it down to gain valuable breathing space.

Tipperary could only bow to the inevitable. The Munster men had no alibi for this defeat. They were knocked completely off their game by tenacious tackling and when speed was called for they were found badly wanting.

Wexford's victory was purely one of teamwork and combination, allied to conditions. They hammered the first nail in Tipperary's coffin by completely isolating the dangerous half-forward line of Jimmy Doyle, Liam Devaney and Donie Nealon. Robbed of their powerhouse, the Premier county attack was devoid of thrust or daring.

In the second-half, Ned Wheeler and Jim Morrissey cut loose in midfield, and the flow of play turned into a deluge as Wexford turned on the pressure in no uncertain fashion.

To add further to Tipperary's difficulties, Wexford's full-back line of John Mitchell, Nick O'Donnell and Tom Neville exerted a stranglehold on the last line of their attack, thus stifling any hopes of a recovery.

The Wexford attack, collectively and individually, spreadeagled the opposing defence with back-breaking sallies. Flashing the ball from wing to wing with clever artistry, they humbled the pride of Tipperary and left in their wake many tarnished reputations.

Wexford had many heroes on the day. Pat Nolan in goal kept his net intact as he repulsed Tipperary advances. Nick O'Donnell, hero of many previous victories, was a giant in defence, flanked by John Mitchell and Tom Neville who performed like veterans.

Sheet anchor of the side was undoubtedly the half-back line of Jim English, Billy Rackard and John Nolan. The real hero of this majestic team was John Nolan, tasting his first major championship game. He was faced with the unenviable task of marking Jimmy Doyle. Shaking off early uncertainty, Nolan got down to his task and held the Thurles man scoreless from play, a feat not accomplished by any other defender during the championship campaign.

Once again the opportunism of Padge Kehoe proved a match-winner. Seamus Quaid, until he was forced to retire, hurled with great gusto, Jimmy O'Brien, ' Hopper' McGrath and Tim Flood bamboozled the Tipp. defence with cheeky solo runs, while full-forward Jack Harding was the astute leader, distributing the ball cleverly, while creating several openings that led to scores. On the day Tipperary were simply outclassed.

Wexford: Pat Nolan; John Mitchell, Nick O'Donnell (capt.), Tom Neville; Jim English, Billy Rackard, John Nolan; Ned Wheeler, Jim Morrissey (0-1); Jimmy O'Brien (0-2), Padge Kehoe (1-5, 12 frees), Seamus Quaid; Oliver McGrath (1-2), Jack Harding (0-1), Tim Flood (0-4). SUBS: Seán Power for Quaid, Mick Morrissey for Power, also Eddie Kelly, Seán English, Mick Bennett.