Quigley's shot from heaven is worth a year without hurling 1 month ago

Quigley's shot from heaven is worth a year without hurling

It's taken a shut-up shop and some first-time hurling to bring us here.

But what a beautiful place to be.

Wexford hurling, colourful memories and fearless beginnings. As the 2000s gradually slipped into black and amber nightmares for the born again, you'd almost forget there was a time when this expressive cult saw nothing worth thinking twice about.

Fresh and unscarred. Enchanted and living large.

Eoin Quigley had been warned by his clubmate George O'Connor, who told him that it wasn't until his seventeenth year on the grid, and after a lifetime of heartbreak and hurt, that victory actually arrived in the purple and gold.

A hard-toil, a rare blizzard. Though the culture is strong in the south east, Wexford doesn't have a tradition like a Tipp, a Cork or a Kilkenny say, and that makes success that bit harder to come by.

But the young boys were on a buzz. Quigley and co. went up like kites in the wind.

Two Leinster under-21s boded well and by the time Mick Jacob had Brian Cody on his knees on semi-final day 2004, Wexford hurling was threatening an upheaval; a Leinster rising in the works.

For a young Eoin Quigley, that was a very significant afternoon. Not only was it a seismic triumph over the game's aristocrats, it was also his very first senior start for his county.

Running start. Ground made.

The good times kept on coming. Wexford went onto account for Offaly in the final and though Cork taught them a lesson at the business-end, a lesson is there to be learned.

Meanwhile, it's a beautiful game when instinct is allowed take over and come 2005, Eoin Quigley was hurling to the tune of his wrists. 20 minutes into the Leinster final and Tommy Walsh is hooked (shock) and Declan Ruth tidies up untidily. Quigley is there; all sky high confidence and a neat touch.

15 years on and he remembers the following play vividly. Can't believe it's 15 years but a moment like this is timeless, beyond medals and titles, more-like immortality.

"I always say that it's instinctive what happens in hurling," he tells SportsJOE.

"Confidence comes into it too. Confidence was rolling on through from the win in 2004. We had beaten them in an under-21 championship as well, so we didn't really have a fear of Kilkenny at that time and we had blitzed them in the first 20 minutes.

"If you look at that score and the build-up to that score, it's a split second decision that I've made. Dessie Mythen gets a great hook on Tommy Walsh, Declan Ruth pulls and it bounces straight to me and one touch, over my shoulder strike.

"You're aware of where you are on the pitch, but it's an instinctive thing, and that's what hurling is all about."

The perfect touch. The sliotar sits up like a golf-ball on a tee-box.

"When you get a touch up at that level, straight into my mind was to connect as hard as I could..."

"I would be fond of first time hurling and would get a bit of slagging for that, whether it's letting fly on the ground or first touch and hit! Sometimes to the detriment of those inside."

Those inside were drooling here.

"But that one connected perfectly..."

Unfortunately, and Quigley is at pains to stress this, Wexford didn't grasp the opportunity to put Kilkenny away; a Kilkenny side who would go onto unparalleled levels of success, as Wexford struggled to break through. But defeat doesn't diminish the genius and this moment will live on.

"It was a fantastic start, maybe too good," he says, looking back at his 10 year Wexford career now.

"Aw, it's crazy that it was 2004 when we won Leinster, it seems only a couple of years ago. But I suppose every sporting careers goes by quickly when you're out playing"

Quigley lived his to the full. Not only a widely admired and respected stalwart of the purple and gold, he has also won club championships in both his home county, and in Cork. But perhaps the most interesting sub-plot of a storied sporting career is that he spent two years with Bohemians FC in Dublin, having impressed Roddy Collins and Pete Mahon,when winning an All-Ireland with a Wexford Youth under-18 team in the late '90s.

Hurling lured him home two years later but this is a life no regrets.

In 2011, he made the move Leeside due to work commitments, and there he remains, along with wife and kids, to this day.

Sarsfields GAA club became his second home and in 2012, he helped them to a county title. After the 2017 season, he hung up the hurl but is revelling in the coaching role he has taken on with the club since.

"You never know what's going to come your way regarding the coaching but at the moment I'm really enjoying it.

Back once again. Sure why not.

"I couldn't count the amount of times I've got notifications on Twitter or social media about that score, but look it, it's a great memory to have, a great match to play in. If you're going to score, score like that and there's no better place to do it than Croke Park against Kilkenny," he laughs.

"It's definitely a memory I'd hold with great fondness from hurling!"

It's a memory that has youngsters swinging over shoulders from Wexford to Tipperary, a memory that has warmed the bellies of hurling purists for many a year, a memory that will live on forever.