Every clash of the ash; every heavy challenge and every gracefully taken goal of the 1968 All Ireland Senior Hurling Final were recounted at County Hall recently as the GAA joined Wexford Borough and Municipal District Council in honouring the heroic Wexford team that overcame Tipperary on that fateful day in Dublin 50 years ago.
In many ways, 1968 was the absolute Zenith of Wexford hurling. Not only did the Dan Quigley lift the Liam McCarthy on behalf of the Senior team, but the purple and gold prevailed at Intermediate and Minor levels as well, along with the Wexford ladies defeating Cork in the All-Ireland Camogie final to boot. In many ways, 1968 was the very pinnacle for anyone who held a hurl and sliotar in county Wexford and these heady days were well and truly recalled at Carricklawn as those responsible for such remarkable feats on the hurling field were honoured.
While 50 years may have passed, names such as Tony Doran, Paul Lynch, Jack Berry and Ned Colfer are still spoken with reverence around the model county and wonderful tributes were paid to each and every member of the Senior Hurling Panel by Mayor Tony Dempsey, GAA President John Horan and Chairman of Wexford GAA Derek Kent.
'It was a huge honour for me to host a civic reception for these lads,' the Mayor said. 'It was a really great night and it was a great opportunity for the players to get back together again. Only two of the panel have passed away - greats Jack Berry and Paul Lynch - and their widows were there on their behalf and were delighted to meet with their former team mates.'
'These civic receptions are a rare enough occurrence and because they are rare, it adds to their value significantly,' he continued. 'These guys really deserve it though, the reason being that they provided by bridge between the great team of the '50s and the future of hurling in Wexford. We dominated hurling in the '50s and these guys really kept the flame burning brightly.'
GAA president John Horan spoke of fond childhood memories in Wexford and how great it was to see so many of the '68 team there on the night, describing them as 'absolute legends'. Mr Horan was presented with a special memento to mark his visit by Mayor Dempsey before each member of the '68 team was presented with a replica jersey from those halcyon days 50 years ago. Each of them also signed a shirt which is to be framed and put on display in Wexford shortly. A video produced by Ed Rowsome of the highlights of the '68 season provided a great opportunity for some of the team members to relive their glory days.
While there was a fantastic atmosphere on the evening, some were left feeling slightly aggrieved that they weren't afforded the opportunity to pay their respects to the great Wexford heroes. At a meeting of Enniscorthy Municipal District Council, chairman Willie Kavanagh said that he was 'very disappointed' that no representative from Enniscorthy, or indeed Gorey or New Ross, was invited to the ceremony.
'I take it Wexford Municipal District organised it,' he said. 'But it's very disappointing not to be represented. The whole county should've been invited to it.'
County Council chairman Keith Doyle, despite not making the guest list himself, said that he 'wouldn't have brought this issue up' and that he didn't want arguments between the Wexford and Enniscorthy districts.
Wexford Mayor Tony Dempsey confirmed that it was a Wexford Borough and Municipal District Council event and not a Wexford County Council one and said that it was his honour as Mayor to host.
He said he was unaware if there were any plans for the team to be honoured at a county level and that it was a decision taken by the Borough Council to mark the occasion with their own event.