In GAA, back-to-back All-Irelands are hard to win. Three All-Ireland senior titles is a great achievement. A run of four in-a-row is a scarce as hens’ teeth and we will have to wait until September to see if the elusive five in-a-row can be done for the first time.
Only five teams have ever won four senior titles in-a-row. Kilkenny achieved that feat last year. Their achievement is put into perspective when you realise that they had only won one other three in-a-row and that was back in 1911,12 and 13. Indeed, they went from 1932-1933 until 1974-1975 without even winning two in-a-row.
There has only been one other hurling four in-a-row and that was achieved by Cork from 1941 to 1944. In that run, Cork defeated Dublin three times and Antrim once. They won football but lost out in hurling in 1945 and then came back in 1946 for another hurling title.
Jack Lynch figured on both their hurling and football teams, making him the only man to ever win six senior medals in-a-row.
The great Kerry team of the 1970s and ’80s won four in-a-row between 1978 and 1981 and you could say that they came within two minutes of being the first five in-a-row team. Fifty years earlier, a Kerry team that featured players such as Joe Barrett, John Joe Sheehy and Con Brosnan won four in-a-row between 1929 and 1932.
The only other four in-a-row was won by Wexford between 1915 and 1918. Again, that might have been more because they had lost the finals in 1913 and 1914 to Kerry and only lost in 1914 in a replay.
Wexford were a football force from the start of the GAA, winning their first All-Ireland senior title in 1893. Into their great era, they were trained by Jem Roche, a world-class heavyweight boxer, who fought Tommy Burns for the world title in 1908. They won the Leinster title for six years in-a-row between 1913 and 1918. That feat was not matched until the great Dublin team did so between 1974 and 1979.
Their great run started with a win over their conquerors of the previous two years on a scoreline of 2-4 to 2-1. Mayo fell victims in 1916 and in their only ever appearance in a senior football final, Clare came up against the greatest team of that era. Wexford won by 0-9 to 0-5. Reports say that the scoreline did not reflect the battle between the two fiercely committed teams.
The four-in-a-row was achieved when they defeated Tipperary by 0-5 to 0-4. Their reign ended a few months later, when Dublin beat them in the Leinster final. That signalled the end of Wexford’s dominance of Leinster football. They won two further provincial titles in 1925 and 1945.
Wexford, the first county to win four All-Ireland senior titles in-a-row, won their fourth title when they defeated Tipperary. That 1918 final was played in Croke Park on February 16, 1919, 91 years ago this week.