WINNING A county championship of any description is something to savour, all the more so when they don’t come around too often.
And that certainly holds true for Faythe Harriers, given that it took 20 years for the achievement of the 1981 Senior hurling team that we featured last week to be matched.
At the outset of the 2001 campaign, they were hoping for their luck to charge, after an uncanny sequence of results in the four previous championships – all run on a straight knockout basis.
They were beaten at the semi-final stage by the eventual champions in 1997 (Oulart-The Ballagh), 1998 (Rathnure) and 1999 (St. Martin’s), while their first round conquerors in 2000, St. Anne’s, also went on to take the title.
Sixteen teams participated in a 2001 championship boasting a new format, with a ‘back door’ available for first round losers.
And three of the eight initial encounters resulted in draws – including the Harriers game, with an unlikely saviour emerging when they met Cloughbawn in O’Kennedy Park, New Ross on May 4.
Veteran Kevin ‘Kerdoc’ Murphy had represented Wexford as a defender at all levels, but he was introduced in attack at the end of the third quarter and grabbed a priceless equalising goal in the last minute.
Cloughbawn netminder Noel Carton got his stick to a probing ball from Liam Goff just under his crossbar, but Murphy read the break and was on hand to make no mistake and secure the 3-4 to 1-10 draw.
The Harriers were without Nicky Lambert and Barry Goff owing to injury, and they took a long time to settle and trailed by 0-6 to 0-2 at the interval.
Barry Redmond’s goal from a crossfield delivery by county Minor Liam Goff was the catalyst for an improved second-half showing, and it was all to play for when the same player – a prominent referee nowadays – netted once again with an assured finish.
Cloughbawn took their point chances to move three clear, with the Harriers unable to avail of three goal openings in contrast, but Kevin Murphy bailed them out near the end.
Scorers: Barry Redmond 2-0, Kevin Murphy 1-0, Rory Mallon 0-2 frees, Niall Sheil and John Harrington 0-1 each.
It was back to the same venue for the replay eight days later, with Nicky Lambert returning at full-back for the Harriers as they cruised to victory by 4-15 to 2-8. In contrast, Cloughbawn shipped a heavy blow when Larry Murphy was forced off with an injury at the end of the first quarter.
A 17th-minute Barry Redmond goal from a Gavin Buggy pass gave the Wexford town men a lead that was never subsequently lost, and it was 1-8 to 1-4 in their favour at half-time.
Redmond was in a rich vein of scoring form at the time, and his second green flag ended the game as a contest as the Harriers moved 2-13 to 2-5 clear by the three-quarters stage.
Liam Goff and substitute Seamus ‘Potsy’ Walsh added two more goals as their side advanced to the section of the championship reserved for the eight first round winners.
Scorers: Barry Redmond 2-3, Liam Goff 1-1, David O’Connor 0-4, Seamus Walsh 1-0, Niall Sheil and Gavin Buggy 0-2 each, Rory Mallon 0-2 frees, Larry O’Gorman 0-1.
One of the big faults of the old championship system then came into play because – in a year when Wexford contested an All-Ireland Senior hurling semi-final replay with Tipperary, and the Under-21s made it to the All-Ireland final against Limerick – the Harriers didn’t play again until September 2.
Bellefield hosted their meeting with Oylegate-Glenbrien, who had also utilised a replay to defeat Fethard in round one, and two factors were chiefly responsible for a 3-11 to 2-9 win in a game that saw both sides reduced to 14 men after 22 minutes.
Indeed, were it not for the classy half-back display by Larry O’Gorman, and the utter dependability of Ian ‘Archie’ Scallan between the posts, the Harriers might have been in trouble.
Oylegate-Glenbrien rocked them with an early goal, but Barry Goff responded from a David O’Connor cross to establish a half-time lead of 1-5 to 1-3.
The second period opened on a bright note when a Larry O’Gorman line ball was kicked to the net by Gavin Buggy, and the latter also struck for their third goal before Scallan did his stuff to keep persistent opponents at bay.
Scorers: Gavin Buggy 2-3 (0-3 frees), Barry Goff 1-2, Rory Mallon 0-3, John Harrington, Barry Redmond and Liam Goff 0-1 each.
The quarter-final against Oulart-The Ballagh in Wexford Park on October 14 was a low-scoring, ill-tempered affair, with Martin Storey forcing a replay with a last-minute point.
That produced a final score of 1-7 (Harriers) to 0-10, with Seamus Walsh reacting quickest after a high ball by Barry Redmond came back off the upright to grab the game’s only goal in the opening half.
It was 1-5 to 0-8 at half-time, and the inaccuracy was a blight on the game thereafter as wides flowed at both ends and a mere four points were added – two apiece – before the finish.
Scorers: Seamus Walsh 1-0, Niall Sheil 0-3, Barry Goff 0-2, Gavin Buggy 0-2 frees.
The replay at the same venue six days later was more like it from the Harriers’ point of view, with a key three-minute spell at the start of the second-half leading to a 1-14 to 1-9 success.
County Minor Rory Jacob scored a quickfire 1-1 for Oulart-The Ballagh, but there was a telling response as Mick Mackey netted a vital Harriers goal and Barry Redmond added a point. Barry Goff (three), Redmond and Liam Goff added further points as the Harriers booked their semi-final spot for the fourth time in five years.
It was an exciting game, and superior to that drawn tie in almost every facet, with Nicky Lambert giving an exhibition of full-back play for the victors.
Scorers: Gavin Buggy 0-5 (3 frees, 1 line ball), Barry Goff 0-4 (1 free), Mick Mackey 1-1, Barry Redmond 0-3, Liam Goff 0-1.
The semi-final against Rathnure in Wexford Park on November 4 is best remembered for the Mikey Sheehy-like goal by Darren Caulfield – making his comeback from injury – in the 42nd minute that left the Harriers with an unassailable lead.
A poorly-struck Rathnure free was gathered by the centre-forward more than 50 yards out and, with Jim Morrissey scurrying back to man the posts in vain, he was beaten by Caulfield’s first-time strike.
That made it 2-11 to 0-6, and it ended 2-14 to 1-9, after Mick Mackey had goaled for the second game running in the 24th minute to help establish a healthy 1-11 to 0-5 half-time lead.
Scorers: Gavin Buggy 0-6 (3 frees, 1 ’65), Mick Mackey 1-1, Barry Goff 0-4, Darren Caulfield 1-0, Barry Redmond 0-2, Larry O’Gorman 0-1.
There was a very quick lead-in time to the final in Wexford Park on the following Sunday, November 11, but it was a game that captured the imagination and interest of neutrals and partisans alike.
The venue had only re-opened six months earlier following three-plus years of development work, and it played host to a novel pairing as the Harriers faced a Rapparees side seeking their first title since 1978.
It was the first final featuring teams from two of the four county towns since Geraldine O’Hanrahans beat Shamrocks in a replay in 1966, and the Enniscorthy men had experienced relatively recent heartbreak after losing at the same stage to Cloughbawn in 1993, and Rathnure in 1996 and 1998 respectively.
In contrast, the Harriers hadn’t featured in a final since 1991 when they were beaten by Buffers Alley – a repeat of the outcomes from 1984 (in a replay) and ’85 that marked the last hurrah for many of their 1981 heroes.
Only ‘Archie’ Scallan, John Harrington, Larry O’Gorman, Niall Denton, Joe Kearns and Kevin Murphy had experience from playing in 1991, but the rest of their colleagues rose to the occasion in a low-scoring game watched by a crowd in excess of 10,000.
The Rapps were left to rue a failure to register a score from play for 47 minutes, whereas the Harriers had a real gem in corner-forward Barry Redmond who shot four beauties from play.
Inter-county newcomer Barry Goff chipped in with three vital scores, and his team kept their noses in front at all times after leading by 0-7 to 0-4 at the break.
They were made sweat on the restart when Declan Ruth (’65) and Ollie Connors (free) narrowed the gap to the minimum, but a very strong defence held firm. Larry O’Gorman was outstanding at right half-back and won the man of the match award, while Emmet Keeling, the county Minor captain, showed a maturity beyond his tender years on the left flank in the 0-13 to 0-9 success.
It was left to the giant-hearted John Harrington to accept the Dr. R.J. Bowe Cup from Sheamus Howlin, Co. Chairman, and sadly these two GAA stalwarts are no longer with us as we reflect on that special day in Wexford Park more than 20 years ago.
John was represented at the recent function in Wexford Golf Club to mark the achievements of the 1981 and 2001 teams by his father, Dan, and daughter, Emma.
Faythe Harriers: Ian ‘Archie’ Scallan; Jason Giltrap, Nicky Lambert, Colin Keeling; Larry O’Gorman, Philip Doyle, Emmet Keeling; John Harrington (capt.), Rory Mallon; Niall Sheil (0-1), Darren Caulfield (0-1), Gavin Buggy (0-4, 3 frees, 1 ’65); Barry Redmond (0-4), Barry Goff (0-3), Mick Mackey. Subs. – Niall Denton for Mackey, Joe Kearns for Sheil, Kevin Murphy for Caulfield, also Peter Walsh, Seamus ‘Potsy’ Walsh, David O’Connor, Jim Berry, David Mooney, Martin O’Connor, Shane Howard, Anthony Walsh, Alan Lynch, Brendan Mulligan, Liam Goff.
Rapparees: Brian Ivers; Jim Holden, Declan Ivers, Liam Boland; John Barron, Declan Ruth (0-1 ’65), Shay Deegan; Adrian Fenlon, Tom Wall; Ollie Connors (0-4 frees), Garret Kavanagh (capt.), Ryan Quigley; Tomás Mahon (0-2), Ronan Furlong, Eamonn Furlong (0-1). Subs. – Tony Boland (0-1) for R. Furlong, Brian Kehoe for Connors, also James Morrissey, Maurice Donohoe, Kevin Waldron, Mark Gahan, Anthony Russell, Graham Doyle, Damien Barron, Pa Murphy, Colm Matthews.
Referee: Brian White (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown).
The late finish to the domestic campaign undoubtedly hurt the Harriers in their bid to at least match the feat of their 1981 counterparts, who went on to contest the Leinster final.
There was a novel trip on the following Saturday, to Knockbridge in Louth where the hosts were managed by Aidan Kerrigan (sadly since deceased), an All-Ireland Minor hurling medal with his native Wexford in 1968.
And after some understandable early lethargy, the Harriers settled down and eased to victory by 4-12 to 0-5.
Scorers: Mick Mackey 1-2, Gavin Buggy 1-2 frees, Barry Goff and Niall Denton 1-1 each, Niall Sheil and Barry Redmond 0-3 each.
Semi-final opponents Castletown from Laois had a fine record against Wexford opponents, having dumped Oulart-The Ballagh in a replay in 1997, and St. Martin’s two years later.
And they completed the treble in Nowlan Park on November 25 on a 1-10 to 1-5 scoreline, with pint-sized 16-year-old substitute James Hoban scoring 1-1 in the space of two minutes off the towering Nicky Lambert in a real David versus Goliath contest.
Jason Giltrap, Larry O’Gorman and Rory Mallon gave their all for the losers on a very sticky surface, but the writing was on the wall before a late consolation goal from Mick Mackey.
Scorers: Mick Mackey 1-0, Gavin Buggy and Barry Goff 0-2 each, Niall Sheil 0-1.
The winning Harriers teams of 1981 and 2001 boasted numerous direct links. For starters, Tony ‘Sack’ Walsh and Seamus O’Connor, two stalwart defenders for that first triumph, were manager and selector respectively 20 years later, assisted by Justin Browne from the 1991 side.
Seamus, along with George (R.I.P.), Marty and Myles from 1981, were uncles of David O’Connor.
Two father and son combinations were involved, namely Ned and Gavin Buggy, and Joe and Emmet Keeling.
Colin Keeling, the youngest in his large family, was following in the footsteps of Joe, Billy and Nicky who were all medal winners in 1981. Paddy and Larry O’Gorman were brothers, and so too were Nicky ‘Murdoch’ and Kevin ‘Kerdoc’ Murphy.
Their father, Kevin Snr., received a special presentation at the function to mark his outstanding service to the club, which now spans more than 70 years.
He received a bronze statue and a voucher, while Lee Chin presented him with a signed jersey that the Wexford captain had worn in a previous game. This memento will occupy pride of place in the William Street home of one of the greatest Gaels that the town of Wexford has ever produced.
The club also took advantage of the occasion to get a photograph taken of their four All Star award winners, namely Willie Murphy (1976), Ned Buggy (1979), Larry O’Gorman (1996) and Lee Chin (2019). They are the only club in Wexford to have four different individuals honoured in this prestigious scheme that has operated since 1971.
One final reflection on 2001, and it highlights that timing is, indeed, everything. Kilkenny native Mick Mackey only joined the Harriers in August of that year, a few weeks before the Oylegate-Glenbrien game.
And yet, just three months later, he was the proud owner of a county Senior hurling medal, a precious item that had eluded so many outstanding servants in the 20-year gap between the club’s fourth and fifth titles.
Will the current crop be good enough to write their own history?
They’ll set about that task when they face Glynn-Barntown in the first-ever Senior hurling championship game to be played in Tagoat on Tuesday next.