This Sunday, Wexford county champions Oulart-The Ballagh take on their Dublin counterparts, Kilmacud Crokes in the first round of the Leinster Club Championship in Parnell Park. Having dominated in Wexford for so long, it’s time that Oulart took the extra step, writes Kieran Cuddihy.
There is no doubting the dominance of Oulart-The Ballagh in Wexford in recent years. They have won four senior championships in a row and have failed to progress from Wexford only twice since 2004. The team of Keith Rossiter and Darren Stamp and Rory Jacob have exerted almost total control in the county for eight years.
Yet in that time they have not managed to secure a single Leinster championship. Since 2004, there have been five different Leinster club champions. Kilkenny have provided three while two have come from Offaly. Despite fielding a team littered with intercounty talent, Oulart have not made an impact.
Arguably last year was their biggest disappointment. Haven fallen short the previous two years, Oulart defeated Kilkenny champions James Stephens in the provincial semi final. They became the first Wexford side to defeat Kilkenny representatives in Leinster since Rathnure got the better of Gowran in 1996 (something of a vintage year in Wexford hurling). This was to be the peak of the season however. In the Leinster final, they were defeated by Coolderry of Offaly by four points.
This Sunday, they travel to Parnell Park with a sense of unfinished business and a point to prove. Standing in their way will be Kilmacud Crokes. Crowned Dublin champions for the first time in 27 years last weekend, the south county side will go into the match as underdogs but with players like Niall Corcoran, Ryan O’Dwyer and Ross Carroll leading their charge, an upset for the bookies shouldn’t be ruled out. For those concerned with the interest of Wexford hurling, it’s vital that that doesn’t happen.
If Wexford hurling is to reassert itself on the intercounty scene, their representatives at club level need to translate local dominance into provincial success. The roll of honour in the club championship in recent years is reflective of Kilkenny’s stranglehold on our national game in Leinster. Since Oulart won that local championship in 2004, O’Loughlin Gaels have two titles, James Stephens have two and Henry Shefflin’s Ballyhale Shamrocks have three.
This year, Oulart need to add their name to that honours list or they risk being remembered outside the model county as perennial also-rans.