You always remember your first game. I was a nervous nine year old. I was lining out at half forward on a Cloughbawn under twelve hurling team in a game that was to contain two future All Ireland medal winners, one of whom would go on to win an All Star award. Bunclody were our opponents and hosts that day. There was only one pitch back then and the overlooking hills in the distance would have been naked of the windmills which populate them today.
Memories of the match itself are sketchy. I do recall I somehow managed to scramble two goals, a feat I should clarify I never repeated in a quarter of a century of club hurling thereafter.
One of our mentors back then was the legendary Tim Flood. While I would have been ignorant, all those years ago, to the exact brilliance of what he had achieved, I would still have had an awareness that I was in the presence of someone special.
Some twenty years previous to that game Tim would have retired from Senior inter county hurling a haul of 3 All Ireland medals, among the several other accolades in his possession. In 1996 his son Sean increased the number of Celtic crosses in the Flood household by one further which, to my knowledge makes them the only Wexford Father/Son Senior All Ireland winners, though we all hope that this particular unique club can be extended by someone like Jack Guiney in the near future.
Sadly, just hours before the 2014 Wexford hurlers embarked on what was to be an epic battle with Clare in Ennis, we laid Tim to his final rest in the parish in which he loved and had spent all his life.
Tim was a remarkable coach, blessed with hurling intelligence. He was always calm. He never shouted on the line. There were others to do that. When he spoke it was soft and slow and always relevant. You listened to his advice. You absorbed it. I don’t think I ever heard him criticise a player.
In training we always played matches. The only drills we knew of were the one’s that contained the strawberries we picked to fund the purchase of our new football boots. In those days we had the same colour choice that was afforded by Henry Ford to the buyers of his first Model T motor cars.
Tim’s success on the hurling field is well documented, not least in his memoirs MY BEST SHOT which was magnificently ghost written by his son in law Andy Doyle. Those who were fortunate enough to witness his playing days speak of his prowess on mazy solo runs, his eye for the posts and his trademark sidestep. One can only imagine as Tim approached the gates of heaven, what St Peter would have been thinking as the Cloughbawn man jinked silkily past him as he had done to countless defenders before.
Tim once remarked that to be great hurler you had to be capable of doing an hours hurling in just 5 minutes. Think of Rackard and Ring. Think of Barry-Murphy. Think of Shefflin and Carey. Think of Tim Flood. And all in a time when science hadn’t yet lent itself to the advancement of the game. Indeed as mourners made their way to his wake to speak their final farewells, they were greeted by the actual hurl used by Tim in the 1956 All Ireland final, nestling above the doorway to the room where he lay. What was striking about this caman was it’s shape, baring more resemblance to a hockey stick than a modern day hurley. You would have to wonder how some of the modern day free taking specialists like Anthony Nash would fare with far less of a surface to strike from.
Tim was a special player in a special team in a very special era for Wexford hurling.
Memories of that day in Bunclody have long since faded. Time moves on. But Legends and legacies never really leave us.