Sport in 1918: Joy and despair for Wexford

GAA action continued, while sport came to a standstill in the rest of Europe

BY Raf Diallo 08:00 Friday 29 December 2017, 8:00 29 Dec 2017

©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

We're living through quite a tumultuous period as 2018 dawns, but one hundred years ago Europe marked the twilight of the continent's darkest period up to then.

World War I and the horrors of the trenches were ending and Germany was faced with reparations that would provide a backdrop for the seeds of an even horrifying conflict to come. 

For much of the previous four years of warfare, sport was one of many activities that came to a standstill.

All except for Ireland, where Gaelic football and hurling were still played at the highest level.

That summer and early Autumn, saw Mayo, Wexford, Tipperary and Cavan emerge top of the pile in their respective football provincial deciders.

And like previous years, the All Ireland series would take place at the end of the year, although the 1918 final in fact took place in February 1919 rather than a two month previously in December.

Ultimately, it was Wexford and Tipperary who would make it all the way to that decider. And ultimately, it was one of the all time great sides that would prevail as Wexford completed a famous four-in-a-row. They didn't have it all their own way in that fourth final as the Irish Independent match report on the day pointed out in their headline: G.A.A. FOOTBALL FINAL. THE CHAMPIONS SCRAPE HOME. TIPPERARY’S GALLANT STRUGGLE. 

In front of 10,000 supporters, Wexford won out by a single point in a 0-5 to 0-4 final in a match the Indo felt was overly littered with fouls, stating that, "the only drawback, perhaps, was the large number of frees awarded to either team".

That match report also picks out some interesting backstory, like the fact that the unlucky Tipp team appeared to benefit from a spot of training in Dungarvan.

Meanwhile, it really could have been a year of domination for Wexford if the hurlers won their final a few weeks previous to the football final. 

They did make it all the way to the Croke Park decider, having won Leinster honours along the way. But Munster champions Limerick proved too much and won by a 9-5 to 1-3. Yes, you read that right! 9-5!

The Irish Independent report from the day suggests a similar sized crowd to the football one to follow. And boy were they treated to a goal-fest, although as the reporter saw it, the match itself was "disappointing, and proved the most uninteresting witnessed for many years", given the scale of domination from Limerick during the contest.

In the meantime, across the Irish Sea in England, the FA Cup was yet to return and the first final since the World War I-enforced stoppage would not come until 1920. 

North of the border however, there was action in Scotland as there had been the previous year, with Rangers beating 1916-17 champions Celtic to the league title by a single point.

Like the FA Cup, Wimbledon's tennis championships would not return, although the comeback would come a year earlier than its footballing brethren. Similarly the Five Nations rugby would be absent until 2020 given that most of its participants had been directly engaged in the war effort.

But there was sporting action on the other side of the Atlantic where the Major League Baseball season culminated with a Boston Red Sox triumph over the Chicago Cubs.  

The Red Sox fans of the time would not have realised how significant that fifth World Series was at the time...they'd have to wait 86 years until 2004 to win it again!


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