01 Dec 2021

Strawberry-pickers went for a five-timer almost a century ago

Recent-week talk of failed five-timers has centred on Kilkenny, Kerry and that well-known hurler, Garth Brooks. But no mention of Wexford’s footballers.

Recent-week talk of failed five-timers has centred on Kilkenny, Kerry and that well-known hurler, Garth Brooks. But no mention of Wexford’s footballers.

The Cats were on to a nap hand when they went out to play Tipperary in the 2010 All-Ireland hurling final, but came up eight points shy of Liam Sheedy’s side. And mentioned nearly as often as the many finals they won is the one Kerry lost to Offaly in 1982, Seamus Darby’s late goal for the Faithful depriving the Kingdom of a place in the history books.

As for Garth not making it on the the sanctified sod at the end of this month, there are many who, if they are fair, will turn their accusing finger away from the GAA after hearing what Pauric Duffy – and Peter Aiken - had to say last week.

It’s almost a hundred years since a team, comprised mostly of players from the Blues And Whites club, gave Wexford a first All-Ireland senior football title. That was in 1915, and by then the strawberry-pickers had their third successive Leinster in the bag. The provincial title would come to the sunny south-east three more times in-a-row, each of them the prelude to a win on the biggest stage of all.

In attempting to win the All-Ireland for the fifth time in succession, in 1919, Wexford failed to make it out of Leinster, the provincial title going to Kildare, who would go on to win the All-Ireland for the first time.

Wexford’s All-Ireland win in the historic year of 1916 had them pitted against Monaghan in the semi-final. Easter Sunday had come and gone when the match took place, not in Croke Park but in Carrickmacross. Sportingly, the title-holders had agreed to travel northwards and won by 0-9 to 1-1. Their final, with Mayo – oh, no, it was happening even then – was played in December, attracting a crowd of just 3,000.

There was nearly a five-timer in the Louth Senior Championship. Winners each year from 1961 to 1964, Newtown Blues were odds-on when they went out to play O’Rahillys in an all-Drogheda ‘65 final. Brothers faced brothers at the Gaelic Grounds, Liam and Podge Leech lining out for the sky-blues, with Mickey and Joey included for the O’Rahilly’s.

O’Rahillys planned well, lining erstwhile forward, one of the county’s best, Mick ‘Muckle’ McKeown, at No 6, in direct opposition to Jim ‘Blackie’ Judge. The move was a winner,. ‘Muckle’ had the proverbial stormer, and his side won by 1-9 to 0-5.

Defeat that day not only deprived Blues of an unprecedented five-in-a-row, but a seven-timer. They came out the following year to beat an emerging Cooley Kickhams side in the final and repeated the feat in 1967.

Underage football is not where you’d expect to find dominance, but here in this county there have been minor teams who’ve lorded it, as some of the great reports of the past used say of players who did well.

Ardee Minors, under the guidance of the legendary Nicky Roe, won four successive county titles, between 1964 and ‘67, their reign coming after O’Rahillys had ended.

Winners of the Fr Larry Murray Cup each year from 1959 to 1961, O’Rahillys, taking instructions from ‘Muckle’ McKeown’s father, Mick, were on to a four-timer when they played Dundalk Gaels in the ‘62 final at The Grove. A game, not remembered for the qualify of its football, or, indeed, for the performance of the winners’ centre-half, ended with the blue-and-whites in front, 1-6 to 1-5.

Your writer was that No 6, and had a stinker. Any chance of it being confined to only those who were at the game was removed when the locals, this one included, came out later in the week.

Anyway, had O’Rahillys won that day they’d be remembered as the only club to win the MFC five years running, because the following year they beat Baile Philip, comprised of Dunleer and Philipstown’s best, in the final.

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