Flaherty recalls famous ‘Centenary’ win

To celebrate its Centenary in 1984, the GAA decided to hold special competitions in senior football and hurling which were called The Centenary Cup. It was an open draw knock-out competition to be played with the first team out of the hat at home and it attracted huge interest. It was played between the league and the championship competitions in the spring of 1984. When Roscommon hurlers were drawn against Wexford there wasn’t much heed passed on the game nationally as an easy win for Wexford was widely predicted in all the previews. Roscommon, under the guidance of Oran man Michael Kelly, had a very strong team at the time, however a win over a traditional hurling county like Wexford was viewed as being not being a realistic outcome. But in a result that shocked the sporting fraternity throughout the country, and which made the front and pack pages in the newspapers the following day, Roscommon beat the Slayneysiders by a point on an incredible evening in Athleague. Anthony Flaherty played corner-forward on that famous occasion for Roscommon hurlers and this week he recalls the day that Roscommon hurlers made national headlines. 1984 Centenary Cup Roscommon …………………………………………………………….. 3-5 Wexford ……………………………………………………………………. 2-7 In 1984 Wexford came to Roscommon as the second best team in Leinster and although they were not the Leinster champions they had in their ranks some of the best players in the game, men who had tasted Leinster Championship success in the late 70’s.   Roscommon were a Division 2 league side, but in their ranks they had some of the best players to play for Roscommon in recent memory. Men like Jackie and Seamus Kilroy, Frank Carthy, Paddy Dolan, PJ Lynch, Anthony Flaherty, Seamus Mullen and many more were relishing the challenge of playing one of the game’s big names on their home turf in Athleague. Those of us there that day will never forget what we saw.   Roscommon exploded into life from the throw-in, and with 25 seconds gone on the clock, Jackie Kilroy palmed the ball to the Wexford net and the home side were on their way. Wexford were wasteful in front of goal but they gradually got into the game with points from Martin Quigley, John Jordan and Arthur O’Connor.  Roscommon were getting through too. PJ Lynch was having the game of his life at centre half-back and he inspired those around him on the day. Points from Anthony Flaherty, Winston Depinna and Frank Carty kept the scoreboard ticking over for Roscommon.    With five minutes to go to half-time, Arthur O’Connor got through for a Wexford goal but if the crowd present thought that it was the beginning of the end for Roscommon, they were mistaken.   Three minutes from the break, Jackie Kilroy fielded brilliantly and rounded the Wexford goalkeeper to score another fine Roscommon goal and the home side thus led by three points at half-time. Roscommon 2-4 Wexford 1-4.   It was nip-and-tuck in the second half and with ten minutes to go Wexford went ahead when Tommy Harrington scored a long-range point. Then with seven  minutes left on the clock, Roscommon got the decisive goal. Paddy Dolan took a pass from PJ Lynch and he crashed the ball to the Wexford net. The Roscommon crowd were now beginning to believe that this shock of all shocks was possible. Jordan pointed shortly afterwards for the Wexford men but Roscommon held out for a famous win.   I remember when referee Seamus Brennan blew the final whistle that day. For about two or three seconds, there was dead silence as players, supporters and officials tried to take in what they had just seen. Then there were scenes of unbridled joy as the loyal Roscommon hurling followers raced on to the field to acclaim their heroes.    Roscommon footballers were always in the limelight when it came to the GAA but this was a day for Roscommon hurling to write its name in lights. It was a massive win for Roscommon by any yardstick and as the result was relayed back to RTE and beyond, the implications began to reverberate in the GAA world and far beyond.   Anthony Flaherty played corner-forward that day and he recalls the win with great fondness. ‘It was the best win that I enjoyed during my time with Roscommon. We had many great hurlers on that team and I remember that we were very confident that we would do well in the dressing room before the game. Mickey Kelly had us ready and we were really looking forward to the game’ he said.   ‘I suppose it would be a bit of an exaggeration to say that we expected to win the game but we knew that we would do well that day’ he said.   ‘I remember there were stories going around afterwards that the Wexford players were out drinking until 4.30 am in the morning in the Abbey Hotel the night before the game but I don’t believe that story, nor never did. They had to come up with some excuse and it does not take away from what was a brilliant win’ he said.    ‘I’m not saying it because I was on that team but that was a brilliant Roscommon hurling team, probably the best we have had in recent years. We played Cork in the next round, also in Athleague, and only lost by a few points. Seanie O’Leary got in for a goal about ten minutes before the end and we were in it up until then. They were great days and I will never forget that great win against Wexford’ he concluded. Roscommon: F Harkins; S Mullen, S Farrell, H Crowley; M Keane, PJ Lynch, F Carty (0-1); T Fallon, W Depinna (0-1); P Flynn, S Kilroy, M Brennan (0-1); P Dolan (1-1), J Kilroy (2-0), A Flaherty (0-1). Subs: M Lennon for Keane, G Naughton for Fallon. Wexford: J Nolan; D Morris, M O’Connor, P Kenny; J Furlong, E Cleary, M Jacob; A O’Connor (1-1), B Beirne; J O’Connor (0-1), J McDonald, J Jordan (0-3); S Kinsella, M Quigley (0-1), T Harrington (1-1). Subs: M Handrick, D Murphy. Referee: S Brennan (Galway).