By Dan Walsh
The hurling world in Wexford and across the country and family and friends in New York have been shocked by the sad passing of Wexford’s legendary goalkeeper on the magnificent and famous teams of the 1950’s, Art Foley, which occurred this morning in his adopted city of New York. He was just weeks away from his 91st birthday.
Michael Arthur ‘Art’ Foley was born on December 14th 1928 in Enniscorthy and quickly entered the inter-county hurling scene when he joined the Wexford minor team at the age of 17, and joined the senior panel during the 1946-’47 league campaign. In an extraordinary hurling career, Art Foley won seven senior hurling championship titles with St. Aidan’s, Enniscorthy, and he kept goal for Wexford in the victorious All-Ireland finals of 1955 and 1956. A National Hurling League title in 1955-’56 and a Railway Cup medal in 1957 was also among his achievements. He won Leinster championship glory in 1954.’55 and ’56. In total, Art Foley made 91 appearances, 27 of them in championship games. In 1958, Foley was on tour with the Wexford team in New York when he decided to retire and set up home in ‘the Big Apple’ where he remained for the rest of his life, although, he made many visits to his native Enniscorthy to renew ties with family and friends.
In his biography, ‘My Life and Times’ (Blackwater Press, pub. 1996), Michael O’Hehir recalled that “Art Foley’s save has gone into the folklore of hurling and there have been many versions of what Ringey said when he chased in after his unsuccessful shot. Most of these became tall tales and grew in exaggeration as time went by.”
Foley became the stuff of Gaelic Games legend following a remarkable incident in the 1956 All-Ireland final in which Wexford defeated Cork. With seconds remaining in the final and Wexford holding onto a two-point lead, the ball broke to Christy Ring he headed straight for goal with the Wexford back line in pursuit. When he got to the 21-yard line he let off a shot that was set to rattle the back of the net, but the shot was somehow blocked by Foley and then cleared by him too. Ring remarked in an interview many years later; “When I got through I thought I had it, but Foley had other ideas, and fair play to him he made a great save.” After the sliotar had been cleared Ring raced in and grabbed Foley by the hair and said “You little black bastard you’ve beaten us”. Foley replied “It’s about so and so time someone did” before both men shook hands and Ring congratulated him on his save.
Arrangements for Michael Arthur Foley ‘Art Foley’ are as follows: Arthur White Funeral Home, 234 Broadway, Bethpage, New York, USA, on Tuesday, October 29th, 2 pm to 4 pm and 7 pm to 9 pm.
Deepest sympathy to his wife and extended family. R.I.P.