BEFORE THE dust settles on Wexford’s underwhelming Minor campaigns in both codes, Jack Hennessy deserves a special word of praise.
Nowadays we are constantly told that it’s simply not possible to be a dual player at this level, but the dedicated Oylegate-Glenbrien clubman proved otherwise.
Jack was the midfield partner of joint-captain Páidí Doyle from St. Anne’s for all three hurling championship games: the one-point win over Dublin in Parnell Park on March 26, the five-point loss to Kilkenny in Bellefield on April 9, and the quarter-final exit to Laois by 2-13 to 3-8 in Portlaoise on April 30.
His first outing for the footballers in Netwatch Cullen Park on March 19 saw him utilised at right corner-back to perform a man-marking job on Carlow’s dangerman in a 1-8 to 1-4 loss.
However, he returned to his more familiar midfield role alongside Cillian Cullen of Bannow-Ballymitty for their next three matches: the heavy championship defeat to Wicklow in St. Patrick’s Park on April 2, and the subsequent Seamus Heaney Cup clashes with Laois and Meath in Portlaoise on May 19 and 25 respectively.
That’s a total of seven games in the space of 68 days, and Jack came through that busy schedule with flying colours, one of Wexford’s leading performers in both codes.
My understanding is that he informed both sets of Minor mentors of his desire to represent the two teams from the outset of their preparations.
Therefore, they knew the terms of engagement from the off, and it’s to Jack’s great credit that he put in the work required in order to be selected in such a key position in both hurling and football.
Hopefully the example he has set might encourage other talented young players, as well as proving to them that it is still possible to be a dual player in the Minor ranks.
We have only won eight Leinster hurling titles at this level, even though the grade was first introduced in 1928, and traditionally there was always a strong dual involvement with our teams.
Three members of our first successful hurling side in 1963 played Minor championship football in the same year: the Sarsfields/Na Fianna pair of Willie Bierney and Willie Carley, along with Freddie Swords of Gorey Wolfe Tones/Young Emmets.
In addition, another Sarsfields/Na Fianna player, Nicky Rossiter, featured with the footballers in their loss to Meath and was a substitute with the hurlers. Two more of the hurling starters – Mick Kinsella (Gorey Wolfe Tones/Young Emmets) and the recently-deceased Seamus Barron (Rathnure) – were unused substitutes with the footballers.
Moving to 1966, our second Leinster-winning Minor hurling team included dual players Liam Bent (Faythe Harriers/Sarsfields), Pat Byrne (Enniscorthy Boys’ Club/Emmets), John Quigley (Rathnure), Tom Royce (Oulart-The Ballagh) and Jay Ryan (Duffry Rovers).
In 1967, Byrne featured in both codes again, along with his provincial-winning hurling colleagues Jim Roice (Faythe Harriers/Sarsfields), Aidan Kavanagh (Kilanerin), Eddie ‘Heffo’ Walsh (Faythe Harriers/Sarsfields), Larry Byrne (Kilmore/Rathangan), and Pat ‘Kenny’ Walsh (Faythe Harriers/St. Joseph’s).
In 1968, the three-in-a-row winning Leinster Minor hurlers (later to win the All-Ireland), included Liam Bennett (Faythe Harriers/Sarsfields), Jamesie Murphy (Faythe Harriers/St. Joseph’s), Pat ‘Kenny’ Walsh, Larry Doyle (Enniscorthy St. Aidan’s/Emmets), Larry Byrne, Martin Quigley (Rathnure), Aidan Kerrigan (St. Patrick’s), and Matt Wickham (St. Mary’s, Rosslare).
In 1969, for the last of our three Leinster Minor football crowns, Aidan Kerrigan, Phil Kennedy (St. James’/Horeswood), Brendan Murphy (St. Joseph’s/Faythe Harriers), Matt Wickham, Joe Kavanagh (Bunclody), Martin Quigley, Dessie O’Brien (St. Fintan’s), Tom ‘Gawny’ Walsh (St. Joseph’s/Faythe Harriers) and Larry Doyle (Emmets/Enniscorthy St. Aidan’s) had all played with the hurlers in a two-point loss to Dublin.
The successful hurling team of 1970 included dual players Brendan Murphy, Willie Dunphy (Geraldine O’Hanrahans), Pat McGuinness (Faythe Harriers/St. Joseph’s), Denny Grannell (Faythe Harriers/St. Joseph’s) and Eddie Breen (Horeswood).
Fast forward to the next hurling success in 1980, when Billy Keeling (Faythe Harriers/Sarsfields), Eamon Cleary (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown), Martin Fitzhenry (Duffry Rovers), Edno Murphy (Clongeen) and Ger Cody (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown) lined out in both codes.
In 1985, the dual players in a hurling-winning year were Paul Nolan (Rapparees-Starlights), Jack Redmond (Rapparees-Starlights), Jay Codd (Duffry Rovers), Brian Moran (Kilmore), Billy ‘Hutchy’ Dwyer (Rapparees-Starlights), Eamonn Sinnott (Buffers Alley), Ger Cushe (Naomh Éanna) and James Quirke (St. Martin’s).
Three years ago marked the first time that a winning Minor hurling team didn’t include a dual player on the squad, although Ciarán Regan (HWH-Bunclody) was a member of the extended panel.
Many of us will be hoping that the good example set in recent months by Jack Hennessy will result in a revival of the dual player, and for that alone he deserves our gratitude – well done, young man.