Hurling memories

P.J. Whelan

Taken from an Interview in Echo Feb 1989, PJ gives a brief history of what it was like hurling with the club in the 50’s.

P.J gave 40 years of his life to the playing of hurling and promotion of the GAA, It was an embarrassment over the years going from one land owner to the other, looking for a field to train in, that is not to say that people in Blackwater were not prepared to help us. But in the ordinary course of agricultural work, fields were utilised in different ways. For years the Corrigan’s facilitated the club, as did others but the time had come for Blackwater to follow the example of other progressive GAA clubs.

PJ told me how Denny O’Brien and himself had talked endlessly about the possibility of the club acquiring their own premises and in 1980, they decided to do something about it. They approached a number of key people in the parish and having received enthusiastic support, St.Bridgets Park was opened four years later.

Ninety percent of the cost was raised locally and I am very proud of that park, of the club and the people of the parish.

Yet the mans lengthy career was begun in Oulart The Ballagh. He was only 14 years old of the age in 1947 when arising from the suggestion of Gerry Murphy, he assisted Oulart in a schoolboys game against Kilmuckridge. That was the occasion of a field day in Kilmuckridge when Blackwater played Gorey Wolf Tones in Junior hurling.

There was no age limit in Blackwater in those years. He recalls vividly traveling to Kilmuckridge that day with all the players (and most of the supporters) in the back of Rich Ormondes truck. That was the mode of transport for all Blackwater teams up to 1951. .It was the fifties before any degree of organisation was introduced.

Blackwater of course was always a hurling area but there was no organised effort of hurling on behalf of the youth and hurling was a pastime for young after they left their teens. PJ was different and he went in search of hurling at a early age.Following the effort of Kilmuckridge in 1947, he was called into action with Oulart juveniles in the following years championship. He and Dan Gallagher rode to Ballycanew to assist against Gorey .That day there were a number of Oylegate men in Oulart colours also included Ned Hanlon, Simon Lambert, Pat Roche, Tom Murphy and Mick Bennett. Oulart won the district title but went out in the county semi finals against O’hanrahans. There was year also with Ardcolm (Castlebridge) in Juvenile followed by two years in the minor grade. In the Wexford District final of 52, Ardcolm lost by just two points to Faythe Harrriers. .

Around that time a number of people in Blackwater began to look around them and take stock of thee local talent. These included Garda Sera Fulham, Cyril Sutton, Gerry Murphy, Tom Walsh and Mick Mangan. .Pjs younger brother Larry also starting to take an interest in the games. He later played in goal for the club. Their father John did everything to encourage their playing. John helped Slaney Harriers win the Senior Hurling in 1903, repeating that success with Red Rapparees in 1914.

He was working on a protestant farm and he did not want them to know he was involved with the GAA, which was a hotbed of Republican activity. John played all his games under the name John Johnners. He was involved in the 1916 Rising in Enniscorthy and was interned in England.

In 1951 PJ played with Blackwater for the first time. He was the 17 years of age. That year the club got to the county final to be beaten by Buffers Alley. But Blackwater due to emigration was in decline. Two lean years followed by the club failing to find a team in 1954 though it was obvious that very good young lads were fast maturing, Blackwater club was reformed in 1955 and the show went on the road they swept to success in the Wexford District, losing to Adamstown in the county semi final. Pat Furlong, Cyril Sutton, Johnny Murphy, Pat ‘Baker’ Murphy and Jim Nolan were old hands of that side with James and Sean Ormonde, Jimmy Mannion, Mogue Leary and Martin Byrne the rising young stars. .

Jimmy Mannions father who was sergeant in the village, was team trainer. It was practically the same team, that surged to success two years later, That was an outstanding team but emigration again cost us dearly and eight that team had gone before was lined out in Intermediate grade in 1958..