Nicky Rackard’s impact remembered in TG4 show

Wexford legend was key member of the teams that won All-Irelands in hurling’s Golden Age

The great Wexford hurling star Nickey Rackard

When the first series of Scéalta na gCorn aired in 2022, presenter Gráinne McElwain suggested that the stories of GAA trophies and their eponyms might not be finished, given the abundance of material in the balance of an estimated 2,000 trophies.

“Well, what we’re hoping is that it will be a recurring series – or at least have the makings of a couple more series,” she told The Irish Times.

That second series has duly arrived and reaches a halfway point on Wednesday evening with a programme based in Wexford.

In a week the county contests the All-Ireland hurling quarter-final there is an evocative reference to the legendary past, as the story begins with a shot of the statue of hurling star Nicky Rackard.

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It is the work of Mark Richards, an English artist who has also sculpted Kildare’s last All-Ireland winning captain, Bill Gannon. Eleven years ago, he completed the Nicky Rackard statue, which is in the Selskar area of Wexford town.

It is a superb representation of the great Wexford hurler, the ball in his left hand with the stick held high in his right, as if readying himself to shoot a point over the mouth of the Slaney or detonate a shot at goal.

Liam Griffin, who managed the county to All-Ireland success in 1996, was on former GAA president – and recently re-elected MEP – Seán Kelly’s hurling development committee, which reorganised the championship into tiers, a successful innovation that has allowed many counties to celebrate All-Ireland hurling success in Croke Park.

One of the tiers is named after Rackard; the others after Ring, Mackey, Lory Meagher and Joe McDonagh, in itself a Hall of Fame.

Griffin is proud to have played a role in further celebrating one of Wexford’s most famous sons and a key member of the teams that won All-Irelands in hurling’s Golden Age, the 1950s.

“If Nicky Rackard hadn’t been Nicky Rackard, I’m not sure if Wexford would have won an All-Ireland final at all,” he tells McElwain. They planted a flag on the mountain. Above all, he was a great sportsman – never had his name taken and never sent off.”

In the 1950s, Rackard helped to establish leagues for primary schools in the county and donated a trophy for the hurling competition.

There are others commemorated from within the county: Breda Curran, described as “the mother” of women’s football in the county; Walter Hanrahan, an influential administrator in the early GAA after whom the Leinster minor hurling trophy is named; Rapparees-Starlights club activist Marie Lynch, and Séamus Keevans, who is remembered in the senior county football trophy.

It is a great concept, inspired by Humphrey Kelleher’s book Family Silver, and when applied on such a wide canvas, provides snapshots of lives lived within the GAA and gratefully memorialised into the association’s future.

– Scéalta na gCorn continues on Wednesday evenings at 8.30. Remaining episodes will feature Down, Tyrone and Cavan. The first three episodes of the series dealt with Tipperary, Kerry and Wexford and are available on the TG4 Player.

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times