David Redmond and Oulart-The Ballagh set for final push

Wexford champions relieved to finally win Leinster and reach All-Ireland semi-final

He'd been called a coward, a bottler, a loser and possibly even worse. Not directly to his face, although David Redmond would often hear those names in his head. Only now he couldn't care less what anyone says.

Not after his club, Oulart-The Ballagh, recently completed one of the greatest crusades in GAA history. After six Leinster club hurling final defeats – including four of the most recent five – the Wexford champions finally triumphed at the seventh attempt. In ways it made the wait all the more worthwhile.

By beating Dublin champions Cuala, last November, Oulart also set up tomorrow's All-Ireland semi-final at Semple Stadium. Munster and Limerick champions Na Piarsaigh stand in their way, although when Redmond talks about shackles being taken off and a fresh stubbornness about his team he clearly means it .

“It was nice to be walking around, over the Christmas break, with a smile on our faces, after achieving something,” says Redmond who earlier this week picked up the AIB provincial club hurler award, for his midfield role in steering Oulart to that first Leinster title.


“It was certainly a big difference from previous Christmases, where you’d be shying away from people. Now at least we’re walking around and you’re a little more chilled about it. It’s only one title, as I was telling everybody, but at least that’s in the bank now. It’s saved, done and dusted.

A bottler

“But I don’t think you could look past the fact that we did get to finals and we did lose them consecutively. It was probably easy for people to find a situation there. To be honest you’d hear it constantly. I’d be working every day and you’d tell somebody you’re from Oulart The Ballagh and they’d say, ‘oh right, ye were beaten by this team or that team’ in a Leinster final.’ So you’d be reminded of it, definitely.

“And to be called a bottler, I don’t think anyone, in any job or anything, wants to be called a bottler. You’re basically calling someone a coward. If you’ve got a team there, and there’s young lads in there, you don’t want to be seen as soft or a coward. So that’s a big thing that drove us on. It was there and there was a lot of emotional stress from those Leinster finals and that’s probably the thing that was holding us back.

“It was a different approach this year with our whole set-up and we enjoyed it. Before we even got to a county final we were enjoying ourselves for once, there was a good spirit in the camp. I certainly enjoyed hurling for the first time in a long time.”

Redmond, who also turned 29 earlier this week, credits the arrival of Frank Flannery as Oulart manager for helping to turn their fortunes around. Flannery also worked with the Waterford county team last year, and has since taken up a selector's role in his native Cork (under new manager Kieran Kingston).

“Sure he’s the main reason, that’s it,” says Redmond “Without him I don’t think we would have won it. And I think we needed someone from outside Wexford, 100 per cent. He’s been a breath of fresh air. He made changes that nobody else would have made.

“Every player out there, every player in the panel, thinks they have a chance of playing. Every player feels they can impact the team and we’re probably showing our emotions more, expressing ourselves a lot more. In training and in games he’d be asking us to do something different, to express ourselves. We were probably too regimental before.”

Own destiny

Redmond also talks about the Oulart players taking more control of their own destiny: they could listen to the names they were being called in their heads, but ultimately only they could silence them.

“It was starting to get into us a little but, into our heads a little bit, and it doesn’t help when you’re constantly reminded around the area and around the county too. Although this year it was funny because people were wanting us, praying for us, to win so, we wouldn’t have to go through it again.. I mean we had people from rival clubs, saying ‘Oh God, I hope you win it this year, for your own sake’, and I think all that helped us get over the line.

“The easiest thing would be to walk away. That’s one thing we felt after winning the Leinster final this year. . . knowing we stuck out the hardship and finally won. It’s a massive weight off the shoulders . . .

“We have a better team now, a better balanced team than we ever did. And I think a kind of a stubbornness about us too.”

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics