As a young hurler, many of my greatest memories were the battles we had with Ferns and particularly the numerous trips with my late father to play on the then hilly pitch situated on the road to the metropolis of Tombrack.
Having survived the on-field battles with Myles Breen and ‘Choppers’ Dunbar amongst others, I was often glad to see the welcoming sign for The Harrow as this was the signal that I had yet again lived to fight another day.
As I walked out of the Park on Sunday, I met so many faces from that era who have lived the Ferns hurling journey and finally realised that dreams can come true.
There is no friendship like a GAA friendship and, despite all the on-field battles and arguments, I can genuinely say that I was delighted for all the people (both past and present) who have dedicated their lives to their club’s cause.
I felt an enormous sympathy also for a gallant St. Martin’s outfit who, despite all their setbacks, ensured that Sunday, August 14, was a wonderful tribute to Wexford hurling.
In short, the occasion had everything – well refereed, not a dirty stroke, and thrills and excitement up to the last seconds in a game that could have gone either way.
The final whistle ensured it was Ferns’ day and who could begrudge it to them? The emotion and joy after the game is something only hurling can bring to a parish in this hurling-mad county.
The season is almost over, with only Davidstown, Glynn-Barntown and Na Fianna Clonard left with a few scores to settle next weekend.
I will miss hurling for the rest of this year and particularly the craic in the press box. Billy Byrne arrived in his Man From Del Monte hat and a particularly colourful shirt, which was only rivalled by the sparkling outfit worn by Derek Kent (had to be seen to be believed).
I will miss Liam Spratt’s declarations that Declan Ruth is playing full-back for the Rapps and the surprising news that Billy Byrne is taking the frees for Oulart this year. All I can say is, thank God for Gerry Forde.
We will miss the great care of Bríd and Marion (who nearly jumped out of the stand Saturday evening when Cathal scored another goal), and Pat Murphy and Gavin catering for all needs.
On the downside, Peter Mernagh and Ed Rowsome’s love for buns (or should I say greed) is another memory but, just to add balance, well done to the boys who along with Finbarr, Lar and Laura have done a wonderful job in bringing our games into the sitting rooms of a very appreciative audience.
Well done to Horeswood, Clongeen and Oulart on their great victories and, to the vanquished: have a quick look at Ferns’ fairytale and believe that your day will come.
As I looked down at Jonny Dwyer swinging over the last sideline, I could not help but think how proud his late father Tony would have been. I hurled alongside ‘The Rake’ for four years and he had the incredible record of never being beaten in knockout championship with the Alley.
I remember rooming with him in Dundalk en route to Cushendall for an All-Ireland semi one year. And at 7 a.m., having talked hurling all night, I announced to Tony that I would have to go asleep, or I would be asleep for the day.
‘The Rake’ was an incredibly proud Ferns man and loved the art of the sideline cut, and I cannot imagine the pride he would have felt on Sunday as his son stroked over the winner as if he were using a pitching wedge.
Well done to the elder statesmen Benny, Tommy, Bitzy, James Tonks, John Breen and Peter Nolan who have worked through thick and thin to see this day.
For me, Jonny Dwyer was man of the match and apologies here to Paul Morris who will have to settle for my player of the year.
The turning point was the most amazing Patrick Breen goal which reversed a Martin’s period of supremacy of about ten minutes.
During that spell the fluency, confidence and ball control level of ‘Bear’s young charges was incredible, and it needed something major to get Pat Bennett’s men back into the game.
Moses with the aid of the man above parted the red sea, but Patrick with a little help from Corey and Jonny parted the maroon sea and finished spectacularly in a game-defining moment.
Had the result gone the other way, Kyle (again) and Conor Firman would have been strong candidates for the player of the game.
And they, along with some brilliant performances from Joe Barrett, David Codd, Dylan Byrne and Daithí when introduced, ensured that nothing could be taken for granted up to the dying seconds.
My aptitude for tipping has come under heavy scrutiny this year and, just to say, I am ending the year on a high note.
I tipped correctly on Senior, Intermediate, Junior ‘A’ and, believe it or not, I called the Junior a draw which makes it four out of four. If you don’t believe me, ask Alan Corcoran as the incredible forecasts were aired last Friday. I must be psychic.
I can’t wait for next year when Oulart will add some spice to the proceedings, but I’m not sure how I will occupy myself for the next seven or eight months.
Maybe I will head up to Ferns for a few days, as there might be something happening up there.
Thanks to everyone for the wonderful entertainment, and thanks for reading. Up Wexford.