Rathnure St. Annes GAA Club
At a meeting in Rathnure in the year 1931 Rathnure St. Annes G.A.A. Club was founded.
Founder members on that night were Pat Byrne, Killanne, James o'Leary Grange, Pat Doyle Rathnure, Thomas Murphy Gurrawn, Nick Mernagh Rathnure, Denis Brennan Larkfield and Master o'Rielly, Rathnure. Also on the night the meeting was attended by two 14 year old boys Mikey Redmond and Ned Caulfield.
The first Chairman of the club was Mr. Hugh o'Rielly, the first Secretary Pat Byrne and the first Treasurer was Pat Doyle.
In its first year in existence, Rathnure fielded in junior hurling. however success in terms of championship medals was slow, but more important players were given the opportunity to play their native game, a game which was eventually to florish in the parish of Rathnure. From the outset great interest was aroused in the club, and it gradually grew in strength both from a players and a supporters point of view.
A Slow beginning...
The first Rathnure team to field was in junior hurling in 1932 against Oylegate. That history making team was-- Tom Coakley(captain),Mick Doyle, Jimmy o'Connor, Paddy Mooney, Jim Wallace, Jim Blackburn, Paddy Nugeny, Peter Cullen, Sean Redmond, Mikey Furlong, Christy Rowe, Nicky Blackburn, Ted o'Connor, Paddy Cowman and Ger o'Leary. subs.- Jack McGrath and Johnny o'Leary.
In 1933 Rathnure fielded their first Minor hurling team which saw their championship come to a sudden ending. The team was disqualified from the championship, but there is little information regarding this decision which saw a very unusual beginning for the club in under-age competition. the actual line out on that not-to-historic occasion was--Jack o'Connor (captain), Jack McGrath, Jimmy o'Connor, Jim Wallace, Paddy Quigley, John Doyle, Jim blackburn, Ted o connor, Sean redmond, Paddy cowman, Paddy Houlahan, Martin Doyle, Michael Redmond, Jim Corrigan, Tommy Furlong. subs.- Nicky Flynn, Jack Caulfield, Mick o'Connor, Paddy o'Connor, John Hennessy, Paddy Dorrigan.
After just seven years in existence Rathnure finally succeeded in making that magical breakthrough to a County Final. This was in the junior grade and with many young hurlers in the team it augered well for the future of the club. In this final Rathnure were opposed by St. Fintans, the south Wexford club with a tremendous hurling reputation, a club which had many fine achievements to its credit up to then. This match was decribed as the hurling spectacle of the year and signalled the arrival of Rathnure as a hurling force in the model county. The final score was St. Fintans 4-5 Rathnure 5-0.
The Rathnure team were as follows--Jack McGrath, Jim Wallace, Mike Mooney, Tom Quigley, Jim Blackburn, Sean Redmond, Ted o'Connor, John Hendrick, Larry Harrington, Pat o'Connor, Nickey Rackard, Michael Redmond, Paddy Houlihan, Paddy o'Leary, Matty Blackburn, Jim Buckley and Pat o'Leary. For the second successive year, Rathnure were represented in the county junior hurling final. This time however, it was a winning one and proved a historic breakthrough for the club. A member of that history making team was Nicky Rackard, a man who was to lead both club and county to historic victories in the ensuing years.
In the final Rathnure defeated Sean Finns (Horeswood) by 6-1 to 1-2. The winners were never seriously challenged and proved the superior team in every aspect of the game, with Nicky Rackard coming off with two splendid goals to his credit. This history making team were --Jack McGrath, Tom Quigley, Mike Mooney, Jim Morrissey, Pat o'Connor, Sean Redmond, Ted o'Connor, Jim Dorrigan, Michael Redmond, (0-1) Paddy Quigley, Nicky Rackard (2-0) Dan Taylor(2-0) William "Spud" Murphy (1-0) Paddy Houlihan (1-0) Jack o'Connor, Jim Blackburn Hugh o'Neill, Tom Higgins and David Reck.
Senior at last...
1941 was Rathnure's first year in senior hurling ranks and it is notable that the club has fielded in the Wexford Senior Hurling Championship every other year to date, a feat not equalled by any other club in the county and very few in Ireland.
The name of Rathnure has been synomomous with Wexford hurling since the late Forties. They have provided a continuous stream of hurlers for all grades of county hurling teams as well as selectors and county board officers. There are great facilities in Rathnure for the players with two pitches and a Memorial centre to the great Nicky Rackard. Also in the centre is a room dedicated to the late Syl Barron, which contains photographs and memorabilia of the club throughout the years. It is coincidental that this centre is adjacent to another building commemorating John Kelly "the boy from Killanne" (as the ballad goes).
A Senior title...
In 1948 Rathnure St. Annes won their first of 16 Wexford Senior Hurling Championships in the beginning of 1948 the club suffered a severe loss with the death of Denny Brennan who was then Chairman.
We played Cloughbawn in the first round and won. We were then set to meet o' Hanrahans in the semi final at Wexford Park in September of that year. On the Friday before that game it was learned that Bobby Rackard had gone down sick and would be unable to play. Attempts were made from all quarters to get the game postponed but in the end we had to go ahead and play on the Sunday without our Leinster star player and we won the match and qualified for yet another County Final. In November we met St. Aidans in the Final and although we were more hopeful than confident going out, we beat them by twelve points.
There were celebrations lasting for a full week after that County Final. Since then Rathnure St. Annes have won the Wexford Senior County Hurling Championship in the following years
1948, 1950, 1955, 1961, 1967, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1986, 1987, 1990, 1996.
A record year...
1971 proved to be the most successful year for Rathnure St. Annes, the club won no fewer than eight County Hurling Titles that year. Two of these ( under 21 and junior ) were 1970 championships which had been delayed. Championships won:
Senior hurling, Under-21 hurling 1970 and 1971, Juvenile hurling, Under-14 hurling, Rackard League hurling, Under-12 hurling, Special Junior hurling (1970).
that record achievement has never been equalled in the county to date.
An elusive title...
Over the years Rathnure have won many championships in every grade from U-12 to Senior and at this stage we are the most successful club in Wexford and one of the most successful clubs in Ireland. During this time Rathnure have played many great games but none more so than the Leinster Final of 1977 which was played on the 5th of March 1978.
Our Senior hurlers played Kilkenny kingpins Johnstown in the Leinster Final and beat them by 0-16 to 1-10. For some strange reason referee ,Gerry Kirwan, saw fit to send off two of our players (Aidan Somers and Pat Flynn), a decison which none of the reporters in the national press agreed with when reporting on the game. Newspaper headings like "Superb Triumph for Rathnure" or "Rathnure's Gallant Thirteen", seemed to say it all, but Rathnure people and Wexford people in that 12,000 attendance in Dr. Cullen Park, Carlow, showed their appreciation by prolonged applause as Captain Dan Quigley and his men did a lap of honour with the Leinster Cup after the game.
Michael Fortune, Irish Press, wrote
"Thirteen Rathnure men pulled off one of the bravest and most sensational victories I have ever seen in this astonishing Leinster Senior Hurling Championship Final in Carlow yesterday. With unbelievable fighting spirit they overcame the greatest depts of adversity to score one of the most memorable victories seen in years."
Rathnure got to the All-Ireland Final that year but were beaten by St. Finbars of Cork on a wet and windy day. Since the club championship inauguration Rathnure have won 5 Leinster Championships 1972, 1974, 1977, 1986, 1987. Martin Quigley has the distinction of winning the five Leinster Medals. Unfortunately All-Ireland sucess has eluded us so far and we have been beaten in 4 All-Ireland Club Finals.
A tribute to the best...
Over the years there have been many people who contributed greatly behind the scenes to the sucess of Rathnure St. Annes G.A.A. Club, but there has been two people who have influenced the club more than any others, Syl Barron and Nicky Rackard. Nicky Rackard as a young man went to school in St. Kierans College in Kilkenny and it was there that he learned to play the game. When he returned to Rathnure he brought the style of the Kilkenny men with him. Rathnure were always keenly impressed by the hurling brillance of the Nore siders, and in choosing the colours for their club they were influenced perhaps unconsiously by that County.
Initially St. Anne's struggled in the wilderness of Enniscorthy District Junior hurling without much success. They struggled on gamely and the "break" they sought for so many years came to the club late in the '30s in the presence of a dynamic young midfielder named Nicky Rackard, who learned his hurling in St. Kierans College, Kilkenny.
Young Rackard was fired with ambition, and his enthusiasm spread throughout the parish. The man who was later to win distinction as one of the greatest full-forwards hurling has known was already winning distinction on the hurling fields. First with St. Kieran's and later in Dublin competitons while he was studying there, his physique and hurling power were already being compared with that of the legendary Mick Mackey.
Rackard was soon playing championship hurling and football with his native Rathnure and with Wexford, and success for both was to follow. It was a long, hard struggle for him to realise both ambitions, but his leadership both on and off the field, plus undying determination, saw his dreams come true.
In Nickey's footsteps followed three of his brothers - Bobbie (one of the most loved of hurlers and a great defender), Billy (a centre-back without peer since 1955), and Jimmy (a goal-keeper of more than average ability). the arguments as to whether Bobbie or Billy was the better centre-back will never end, but both helped put Rathnure and Wexford at the very top in hurling.
Syl Barron gave a lifetime of loyalty to Rathnure G.A.A. Club:
Syl Barron was known throughout the length and breadth of the Country, and this is not only for his work within the Rathnure Club, but also for his involvement at County level and for his trojan work within the G.A.A..
The late Syl lived and worked in the parish all his life, and acted as Chairman and Secretary of the Club on numerous occasions. During his spells in office he was associated with all the great triumphs in the club , also acting as team mentor, and he saw his work bring championships in all grades.
He directed all his efforts towards putting Rathnure on the map throughout the Country, and this he succeeded in doing in the All-Ireland Club Championship, though this title eluded the Club. But it is for the tremendous efforts which Rathnure put into endeavouring to become the first Wexford Club to win the title, only to be pipped at the final hurdle on numerous occasions.
Even when things were not going successfully in the club, Syl soldiered on and kept the club together. For his perseverance alone, Syl will be remembered. His association with the Rathnure Club will never be forgotten. his contribution to Wexford County teams was immense, but as an official he will never be replaced.