Hurling in the parish can be traced back before 1798 rebellion. Local lore and verse demonstrates the area as a ‘hive of GAA activity. Hundreds of people have played for Blackwater GAA club (check out the list here) down through the years. This is a brief history of some of those people and the events that have made Blackwater the club it is today. Sadly, there’s undoubtedly characters missed and stories forgotten in the passage of time. But their contribution, and the contribution of each new generation, is recognised in the continued success of Blackwater St. Brigids GAA Club – and the fulfilment of our founders’ ambition to serve all the children and young people of our community.
Hurling in the locality pre dates 1798, George Sparks, a local protestant landlord leader of the Blackwater men in the 1798 rebellion was known for hunting and also playing ball (hurling). In 1843 Ballyvalloo (part of the Blackwater area) defeated Castlebridge in a game while in 1844, the local paper described a ‘great hurling match’ between Ballyvalloo and Castle Ellis in Corliean (Barntown), which the Ballyvalloo men also won. Further games are described in 1863.
However, hurling lived on despite its haphazard organisation. It came as no surprise that with the advent of the Gaelic Athletic Association in 1884, Blackwater was one of the first clubs to be established in County Wexford.
Ballyvaldon GFC were affiliated with Wexford GAA in December 1886 as a gaelic football team, playing Monageer in a practice of that year but it was the Blackwater hurlers who established the area as a powerhouse of hurling around that era, affiliating in 1887. Their first match was also a football game, defeating Oulart of June that year but they soon put their focus into hurling. This was no more evident than in the first organised tournament in Wexford on the 27th January 1889. At Crosstown, they defeated neighbours Oulart to win the 1888 Wexford County tournament. Later that year (15th September 1889) they once again accounted for Oulart in the County Tournament Final at Ferns (1889 Tournament). They defeated their neighbours Ballyvaldon, Oulart and Castlebridge en-route to the final. The Blackwater men had the unusual aspect of often playing in their bare feet while they never wore jerseys, just wearing their own white shirts and a cap which was sometimes black and amber.
Unfortunately due to the fact the Wexford Co. .board weren’t affiliated to the central council, the club could not compete in the Al Ireland. However through the excursions of P.P Sutton, In 1891 Blackwater were invited to play the 1887 All Ireland Champions – Thurles Sarsfields at Clonturk Park, Dublin with the match being abandoned before the end with Blackwater leading.
Denis Whelan in 1939 discussing Thurles game from 1891″
I GOT UP AT 4 IN THE MORNING TO TRAIN FOR THE MATCH AND LOOKED ACROSS THE FIELDS IN BALLINAGORE AND CROSSHUE TO SEE THE MURPHY’S ALREADY RUNNING AROUND THE FIELDS.
All Ireland journeys
In 1892, with the local club hurling scene non existent, Crossabeg were invited to participate for All Ireland Honours and were allowed pick players from surrounding clubs. Four Blackwater players were chosen, all brothers, James, Matt, Tom and John. Unfortunately they were beaten by a Kerry side in a disputed score with the Wexford men scored a legitimate point but the referee stated that he blew the whistle before he score and the team were beaten in extra time.
Unfortunately the local hurling tournaments were non existent for the next few years however three Blackwater players were invited to play in a Leinster Hurling team which were to play a Munster selection in Stamford Bridge, London (Chelsea home pitch). They were Lar Shiel, Mathew Murphy and Ned Murphy, Munster won out the day.
Blackwater (Ballyvaldon) captured the County Senior title again in 1900 and on this occasion (after Crosstown gave Blackwater a walkover in the final), they grabbed the opportunity to represent their County. Blackwater won Leinster and reached the All Ireland Final losing to a Horse & Jockey selection from Tipperary in a delayed final in 1901.
Injury problems beset the Blackwater men and with the injury of a third player; they did not have a substitute to finish the match. The final score was Tipperary 3-12 to Blackwater’s 1-4. An estimated crowd of 4,000 were in attendance. Blackwater wore black and amber jerseys for the game. An interesting aspect of the game was that a banquet was held after the game for the team with father of the GAA, Michael Cusack in attendance.
In 1903, a Leinster title was annexed again against Offaly and this time we made it to the 1901 All Ireland Home Final. The 1901 All-Ireland campaign was ran over three years, 1901, 1902 and 1903. As a gesture to the exiled hurlers, London received a bye to the official All-Ireland final where they played the winners of the ‘home’ final, this was to be contested by the winners of Leinster, Ulster, Munster and Connacht championship. On the 14th June 1903 in the ‘Home’ Final, these brave men were defeated by Redmonds of Cork on a scoreline of 2-08 to 0-6 in Carrick-an-Suir. Blackwater had to play the second half with only 16 men as one of their players was sent off. Redmonds went on to lose the final to London, who captured the All-Ireland Hurling title for their first and only time.
For the next thirty years, the hurlers of Blackwater were in the doldrums as far as winning county championships were concerned. Political instability of the ‘teens and twenties and the economic depression of the thirties did little to boast the development of gaelic pastimes.
However, the games were carried on and the thirties were to see Blackwater rise almost Phoenix-like to become a hurling force in Wexford once more when in 1936 they emerged as County Junior Hurling Champions.
Back to winning ways
In 1936 “the sons of twice Leinster’s best men” defeated Killinck in Wexford Park to capture the long overdue County Junior Hurling championship.
Twenty one years and one generation later (1957) Blackwater were once again County Junior Hurling Champions. The final, played on 4th May 1958 at Bellefield, saw Blackwater defeat St. Brennan’s Davidstown 5-3 to 0-5.
The sixties was a barren spell for the club even though they were defeated by St. Martin’s in 1963 County Junior Hurling final. It wasn’t until 1975 that the golden days returned. Once again Blackwater annexed the Junior Hurling Championship by defeating St. Patrick’s Ballyoughter at Bellefield.
First football title
1981 was the year when Blackwater won its first adult county title in football, secured by accounting for Kilrush in Wexford Park. The team had lost out two years earlier in the county final but made no mistake this time out. .
A place called home
After a number of years playing in various fields around the area, a committee was set up chaired by George Kehoe (RIP) to purchase lands for a pitch after a site was identified in 1884. The club ran a mayor contest alongside selling some of the land and three years later we finally purchased the lands above the village in Inch with a playing field and dressing rooms.
The twenty-first century began a new era and in 2001 Blackwater brought home the first Junior Hurling Title of the new century and then in 2008 returned to the senior ranks defeating Rathnure after a replay. With this title, the footballers followed suit in 2009 winning a Junior title while in 2021 we won our first Junior B hurling title with Ger Corrigan as manager.Our facilities have also upgraded with a second pitch, walking track and now a indoor area. Exciting times ahead
Listen to oral history from past club members recalling time in the club of days gone past.
All things Blackwater from his early days with the club.
He talks about his early days hurling and also purchasing the current pitch.
Ger talks about his own days hurling and also about older times of hurling.