12 November 1993
Wexfords remarkable sporting ambassador
His father is a Kilkenny man and his mother comes from the Mount Sion part of Waterford, yet Ned Buggy is one of the greatest hurler the model county has ever produced. The first Wexford man in his family, Ned hurled with great distinction for both club (Faythe Harriers) and county in the sixties, seventies and eighties. During his career the versatile ash wielder won just about every medal doing the rounds. And, incredibly, since giving up the hurling Ned has carved out a new sporting career for himself in the handball courts and, at the age of 45, he is currently one of the top Junior Handballers in the country.
Ned Buggy has lived in Wexford town all his life. And with Kilkenny and Waterford blood coursing through his veins it was only natural that he should take to the hurling field, and excel! His brother, Martin, actually played on the county team before him. "My mothers nephew, Tom Gallagher, won an All-Ireland Minor medal with Waterford in 1948, the year I was born. And, funnily enough, the first honour I won the Wexford was an All-Ireland Minor in 1966", he explains. Ned first started to play for the Wexford Senior team at the age of eighteen. He went as a spectator for a National League game against Clare and the team was stuck for a few subs. He togged out and ended up making his Senior intercounty debut against Clare in New Ross.
A Juvenile with Faythe Harriers at the age of thirteen. Buggy went on to win just about every possible club honour within the Model county. He picked up Junior, Minor, Under 21, Juvenile and Senior county Championship medals but "The Wexford Kingpins" never managed to transfer their dominance into Leinster Club success. Ned won a Senior Championship medal in 1981 and was beaten in finals for his last two years with the club in 84 and 85. he hurled for the club for a total of 25 years, from 1960 to 85. Ned was a Wexford Minor in 1965 and 1966, winning the All-Ireland Minor title in 66 when the Model county overcame Cork in the replayed final on a scoreline of 4-1 to 1-8 after an incredible draw which finished with both sides locked on a score of 6-7 apiece. The Faythe Harriers clubman then played Under 21 for three years, losing a couple of All-Ireland to Cork in 69 and 70. Leinster Senior titles were secured in both 1976 and 77 and 1977 remains the last time Wexford won a Senior provincial title. "I never dreamed back in 77 that itd take us so long to win another one", he admits. That same year Wexford made it all the way to the All-Ireland decider, only to be outdone on a scoreline of 1-17 to 3-8 by their chief scourges Cork. In all, Ned was on three Wexford sides which lost out to Cork in All-Ireland Senior finals! That was in 1970, 1976 and 19777. Buggy was also on the last Wexford side to win a Senior National Hurling title of any description when they annexed the National League in 73. The Faythe Harriers man was given one of the greatest honours in the game when he received an All-Star in 1979.
Ned certainly played in a lot of big games in his time, so what is the most memorable one of them all? "Probably the 1969 National League final. I came on as a sub after four minutes when Dan Quigley got a few broken fingers. Coming off the bench to hurl, I put in a pretty solid performance in what was my first Senior final appearance for Wexford. Big questions were asked off me that day. My performance convinced me that I was able to cope with the big day", he points out. With Faythe Harriers Ned usually hurled in either the centre back or left wing back berth. With the county team he was frequently played in the forward line. "I preferred to play left half back. I was never a natural forward", he says.
Ned Buggy certainly couldnt be tagged a glory-hunter. He wasnt in the game for the honours, the accolades, the fame, or anything like that. Playing was the main thing, and representing ones county was the greatest honour of them all. "When a fella started hurling you set yourself a few goals. My one burning ambition was to play for Wexford. When I first started knocking about with a hurl my long term aim was to represent the county. My heroes were the likes of Ned Wheeler, Hopper McGrath and Seamus Quaid and I wanted to try to emulate those guys" he explains. Ned certainly realised his ambitions and during the course of his accomplished career he had the honour of playing against some true hurling artists. So many, in fact, that he finds the task of picking out his most difficult opponent to be an impossible one. "Its very hard to mention one fella. Everybody was difficult really, particularly the Kilkenny team of the mid-seventies. They were all brilliant players, none of them were soft, no-one was more difficult to play against than anyone else. In my book that Kilkenny team was the best I ever played against. They were something else".
1993 was something of a disappointing year for Wexford - a year, many could argue, in which luck simply wasnt on their side. They could so easily have won something but, at the end of the day, finished empty handed. A great Winter and Spring campaign culminated in the Yellow Bellies appearing in the National League decider. They took Cork to a second replay before finally succumbing. It wasnt long before Wexford were in the Leinster final and, in the game of the Championship, they were helpless to prevent their opponents Kilkenny from returning from the jaws of defeat to snatch a draw, before the unfortunate Slaneysiders once again lost out in another replay. A disappointing year for Wexford on the whole? "Well it was and it wasnt", says Buggy. "I think the only thing that got them where they were this year was their sheer courage. They may have been short a bit of craft but you couldnt really fault them. They showed plenty of heart and determination and that makes up for a lot. It was just that little bit of craft on the day that probably found them out".
With the Championship season now well and truly a distant memory, the National League is underway. Wexford have made a somewhat indifferent start - a 2-14 to 1-10 defeat against All-Ireland finalists Galway followed by the narrowest of victories over Waterford. "Its a good start", offers their former star. "If they get to the knock out stage theyll be doing well". He agrees that another good run in the League this year could be detrimental to Wexfords 94 Championship aspirations. "Their third game against Cork didnt do them any good. It seemed to take a bit of the edge off them. I wouldnt like to see them in the final again next year - the semi-final or quarter final would do nicely", he says. Is Ned confident that Wexford can capture that elusive Leinster title next year? "I wouldnt like to say theyll get it next year because they have to find some new faces. But nows the time to search and give those fellas games. They should be using the League as a breeding ground", he points out.
Alongside Aidan Fogarty and Noel Skehan, Ned was a selector on the Leinster team which beat Ulster in the Railway Cup hurling final on Sunday last. Despite all the talk in the media he feels that the Railway Cup is still very much a worthwhile and prestigious competition -to those involved anyway! "As far as Im concerned the players are all interested in playing Railway Cup. Everybodys arguing but the players like to represent their province and they like to win. Even when I was a player we were dead keen to represent our province. We take it seriously - and I wouldnt have bothered wasting my time as a selector if we werent interested in winning it", he explains.
Buggy is something of a shark on the handball court these days. When he said goodbye to his hurling career he wasnt prepared to call a halt to his involvement in G.A.A. sports, so handball was the obvious choice. His brother Seamus, who won a World title in 1970 and also three All-Ireland Senior doubles titles, was always very involved in handball and Ned used to frequently go to his games to lend his support. Ned decided to take the game up and since winning a Novice All-Ireland in 83 his aim has always been to win a Junior All-Ireland title, and last year it was a case of mission accomplished! Ned collected two national Junior doubles title, rounding off a great year which also saw him winning Leinster singles and doubles titles on the 40 x 20 court along with the corresponding titles on the 60 x 30 arena. Its harder for fellas like myself who are advancing in years, so in that respect last year gave me extra satisfaction", he beams. At one stage Ned won five consecutive Senior county titles in the big alley. In all he has collected a total of sixteen Senior county titles. So, as you can probably gather, he takes his handball pretty seriously, he doesnt just play for the sake of it! Buggy tells us that he has in fact won twelve All-Ireland titles since he started. Certainly no mean feat! One of the secrets of his success is his super-fitness. He keeps his body in prime condition through regular bouts of circuit training.
Proprietor of Ned Buggy Sports. In Sports in Wexford town for the past twelve year, Ned is married to Kathleen and has three children -Edwina, Yvonne and Gavin. Nineteen year old Gavin is following in his fathers footsteps by playing both handball and hurling. He won an All-Ireland Under 16 60 x 30 doubles title a few years ago. "Hes got the handball title. Lets hope he can follow it up with a hurling one!", says his proud father. Who knows, that just might happen. If Gavin takes after his father in the hurling skill stakes he should have no difficulty making the county team. And Wexford are certainly long overdue an All-Ireland Championship. A little bit of luck could make all the difference for the Slaneysiders.
Written by the Hogan Stand Magazine
12th Nov 1993