Being in the right place at the right time meant so much
Having looked at some of the more disappointing days last week, I have decided to flip the coin this week and look at some of my happier days on the field of play.
Given the theme, I know many of you might say that this week's article won't take up too much paper space but, upon delving into the archives of my brain, there were many good times when lady luck certainly chose to smile on teams representing the sunny south-east.
I remember getting a hand-out from Liam Griffin where one of the assertations was that 95% of success was being in the right place at the right time, and certainly this rung through for me on one of our most memorable years in 1996.
Granted the incredible physical, tactical and mental preparation put in that year created the opportunity, but you must be there to take your chance when it presents.
The winter of '95 was an unsettled time for me as a Wexford hurler, having passed the 30 mark and in many minds (including my own) having missed the boat regarding ultimate honours.
I disappeared from the panel for a short time before Christmas and did not make the cut for our opening game with Kilkenny.
I know that I should have been of a mind just to be happy to be involved but, having spent twelve years in the panel, my attitude wasn't where it should have been, with an expectancy almost to always be in the starting 15.
So, here is the thing: a couple of weeks before the championship I was fully intent on pulling out and most certainly would have but for the promptings and advice of some close advisors, including then county Secretary Mick Kinsella and my late brother-in-law, Niall Glynn.
I was not the easiest player to deal with at the time as I am sure Liam Griffin and his long-suffering selectors, Seamus Barron and Rory Kinsella, will acknowledge.
Being honest, had I walked it would not have shaken the hurling world but would certainly have put a much different complexion on how the year would have turned out for me personally.
Given all the circumstances, that 95% certainly rung true for me that year.
The Leinster final was one of the most enjoyable experiences ever in Croker, and the last five minutes was heaven. The only worry was keeping the fanatical Wexford hurling fans off the field long enough to finish the game.
As Garry Laffan hit the crossbar and I went to ground, a little luck went our way as the ball went into the net off my head. I suppose I was one of the few players that scored in Croker with a diving header.
All through that year we seemed to get the rub of the green and I suppose we were owed that (if you do not agree, read last week's article).
Two years previously I had marked Johnny Pilkington (one of the great hurlers and characters) for 35 minutes of another lost final and was having a drink with him after the game.
Having discussed the game at length he looked at me (smiling) and said, 'were you up at the game yourself Tom?'
A witty comment from the Offaly man, but guess who I made a beeline for when the final whistle went in that memorable '96 final?!
Enough has been said about the final of '96, but it was an incredible and very satisfying day, particularly for some of the older players after the many years of heartbreak.
Incidentally, I was watching an historic camogie game played in the early '70s recently between the Kehoe and Shannon sisters, refereed by the late Ciarán O'Neill who gave my wife, Sinéad, the Guinness ribbons off the cup that day, which hold pride of place at home.
The '97 Leinster final was some occasion, with Billy stealing the show, and I remember thinking after that game that things cannot get much better, being reigning All-Ireland champions and now lowering the old enemy's colours in the provincial final.
It was indeed an incredible era for Wexford hurling, remaining unbeaten for eight championship game in a row in the capital.
Another game that gave great satisfaction was back in 1982 when St. Peter's won the Leinster Colleges final after beating St. Kieran's and Kilkenny C.B.S. en route.
I will never forget the feeling of travelling home in the front of the car with the legendary Ned Power, and the cup securely in the boot. Colleges hurling that time was the most important thing in our lives, with boarding in the school adding to the bond between the team.
When we pulled up at the school, I remember saying, 'will you bring the cup in sir?,' and he smiled and said, 'this is your day lads, this is your cup'.
Testament to a humble and great man who did so much for hurling in Wexford. I was always disappointed we did not go the whole way that year for people like himself and Fr. Casey.
We had many great days with Buffers Alley but, if selecting on the national stage, obviously the club All-Ireland tops the lot, with Leinster clubs in '85 (captained by Seán Whelan) and '92 (Matty Foley) other stand-out occasions.
We were rank outsiders in '85, facing a mighty Kinnity team backboned by a wealth of Offaly players from the Liam MacCarthy win a few months earlier.
It was a complete performance from an Alley team that I have often felt were under-rated by the media, and we handed the Offaly men a twelve-point beating.
Before the game, one of our defenders was being briefed on Mark Corrigan (the outstanding Offaly forward).
And on asking how to handle the midlands speedster, he was advised that possibly a good box in the gob might test him early. Different and great times.
In '92 we again beat a star-studded St. Rynagh's in Croke Park after a Henry Butler masterclass, and again it underlined the resilience of the Alley at the time.
But '89 topped all as you sat in a packed dressing-room amongst family and friends as a little parish at the top of the pile. Memories that cannot be taken away.
So, a brief look and realisation that there were so many good times over the years and given a choice - win or lose - I would not swap the honour and thrill of being from Wexford.
Because for me the colours, the passion, the support in Slaneyside is incomparable. We will have great days again; of that I have no doubt.
Even though we were pipped by Tipperary last year, it was an incredibly proud occasion for everyone, and we look forward to marching into the capital in the future with a pride that only Wexford people can feel.
Please stay safe, and I'll chat with you again next week.