For those of us lucky enough to hurl for Fermanagh with the great Joe McGoldrick from Irvinestown it was a privilege, a pleasure and he always left you with a smile.

For he was an ash artist. As graceful a striker of the sliotar as you would see anywhere, and he has always tasted life through the teeth with an endless supply of one-liners. 

And he was indeed a proud man as he joined up with his old comrades from Fermanagh’s All-Ireland Junior hurlers who took the county’s only adult hurling title on a sweltering Sunday in Ruislip in June 1994 when they beat a very strong London side by 3-13 to 2-11 with 'Goldie' hitting 0-07 out of eight frees.

This team also won the Ulster JHC for the first time and Division Four of the NHL and they were unbeaten that year managed by Seamie Donegan, Fabian Burns with Michael McGurn doing the fitness.

That legendary team was captained by the great Sean Duffy and at the recent Lory Meagher Cup game between Fermanagh and Lancashire they were rightly honoured by Fermanagh County Board on the 30th anniversary.

That victory was even sweeter as Fermanagh knew all the anthems of the dispossessed by heart.

They were beaten in an All-Ireland JHC final in 1977, a Division Three National League final in 1983, Ulster finals in 1986, 87, 90, 91 and 92. So this win was really special

The team were introduced to the crowd amid emotional scenes at half-time in the hurling match and in the middle of all was Joe playing verbal volleyball with their full-back Donal McShea, affectionately known as 'Crazy Horse' as the legends were feted in the Westville Hotel.

But before he went off to party, Joe, who won his first All-Ireland medal with this writer in Division Four of Feile na nGael in an eclectic St. Michael’s College side that was captained by Gerry McCaffrey from Enniskillen, when we were both hardy U14s, spoke most passionately and eloquently to The Impartial Reporter.

When asked what it meant to him, he said: “It was a magical year, and after 30 years we are still like young children thinking about it.

“It will be great to see all the lads here today, but I remember hurling for 20 years from 1974 but 1994 was different.

“We had a fellow called Mickey McGurn who had us really fit and I was 34 and he also instilled a great belief in us as did manager Seamie Donegan and coach Fabian Burns.

“We all trained, and we beat Tyrone in Brewster Park in the first round and beat Armagh who were our bogey team in Armagh and then we beat Cavan in the final and you never knew who they would have had playing for them in those days.

“But we were just like young pups mad for action and we hammered them.”

Two weeks later it was Ruislip and Joe had a bit of inside information.

“I had hurled for Brian Boru’s from 1986-1990 in London along with Terence 'Sambo' McNaughton and 'Skinner' McAllister and Joe Campbell from Cushendall.

“It was a real adventure flying on a plane over to London and we thought we were Man Utd.

“We flew over on the Saturday and landed in the hotel.

“We went to the field in Ruislip, and it was immaculate.

“I was full forward and I knew it was going to be tough and Joe Campbell came into the dressing room before the match and he said London had stacked the team with senior players.

“I knew the lads they had, and they were all Kilkenny, Cork, Limerick, Tipperary and Galway. Their centre-back had played for Limerick seniors in the NHL so that was what we were up against.

“When the first ball came into me at full forward, my boy lifted me clean off the ground with a belt of the hurl and I remember it so well for three months afterwards because he got his hurls from the great Kilkenny ex-goalie Ollie Walsh and Ollie Walsh’s number was on my leg for three months.

“He got booked and I tapped over the free, but they got a few points then they got a goal, and I am saying God please don’t let this happen to us yet again.

“But thankfully we settled and the heat was fierce and the crowd was against us and every time I was hitting a free they were saying it was going wide and I would drive her over and wave at them…I was just obsessed.”

McGoldrick said Fermanagh were just not going to be beaten that day no matter what happened.

“They led by 1-08 to 0-09 and Sean Duffy had a stick and you would think it was put through a mangle there was that many lumps taken out of it that you would think a dinosaur had ate it.

“And then my marker took me out of it again and if he had to catch me right he would have broken my leg and they were down to 14 men.

“Then I landed a 65 in the square and their keeper batted the ball out and Jimmy Donovan made chips out of it and it hit the net like a freight train.

“That was the turning point and the whole team lifted its game and Aidy McPhllips got another goal and Shane O’Donnell got the last goal and he got a bad thump too and his man got the line towards the end too.

“Those lads and the twins Jason and Paul McManus were only 19 at the time and they came of age that day and the half-back line of Rory O’Donnell, Kevin McKeogh and Seamus Breslin really drove us on that day.

“Donal McShea, we called him 'Crazy Horse' and he was fairly giving it to this other hardy London boy and Seamus McCusker told the London lad to keep well away from Donal as he was fit for anything and your man took his advice,” he quipped.

“We had limited ball and they got an ould goal at the end but we won well.

“And we had good support from Fermanagh people in London and I remember when the final whistle went Tom 'Dooley' Reihill ripped the whole trousers off himself climbing over the barbed wire.

“For us, as a group of hurlers coming from Fermanagh it was wonderful.”

He added: “I have cried three times in my life.

“I cried when my father died and when my mother died and I cried when we won that All-Ireland.

“The full-back who came on as a sub on me hugged me afterwards and told me that he had All-Ireland medals and he invited us down to his pub in Brixton.

“I scored seven out of eight frees but for three months before that I got 30 sliotars and I was down in Irvinestown pitch, and I was hitting them from all angles and I would not come off that field until I hit them all over.

“I would have missed nothing that day and having played in Ruislip already I knew the opposition and the pitch.”

Some of his former hurling colleagues in London hugged him.

“There was a bit of a do for us and we were in dreamland.

“We left everything out on the field that day and I just walked into the showers with jersey, togs and boots on and I was just done.”

The Fermanagh players nearly missed the plane but they managed to get back to the Enniskillen Gaels where they had a night of nights.

“To this day I am still sitting proud as a hurling man.”

Joe was honoured by the Ulster GAA Writers that year.

“There was some crowd at it and anywhere you went afterwards you were recognized as a hurling man and that was a real big deal.

“I had a drink with wee Davy Fitzgerald and Anthony Daly of Clare and they talked hurling to me and I knew big Brendan Lynskey of Galway from hurling in London and he used to hold two bottles of Heineken in his one hand and I drunk in his and the late Tony Keady’s pub in Galway called “The Galway Shawl”.

When asked how he felt about seeing all of his old comrades again, he said: “It is very emotional, and we are going to the Westville for a wee function.

“We have a great Fermanagh team at present and the future is bright.

“But Fabian Burns and Seamie Donegan were really special to our team and I remember the London goalie saying to me 'McGoldrick if you come I here I will cut the head off you'.

“I was taking a 21 and I was thinking of hitting him between the eyes but I just tapped it over the bar.”

And then he spotted some of his old comrades.

“Look at the smiles on their faces. It will never be forgotten.”

And neither will 'Goldie'.

The Fermanagh squad and management were: Stephen Hanna, John McCusker, Sean Duffy, Seamus McCusker, Jimmy Donovan, Ciaran Dunne, Beny Smyth, Donal McShea, Rory O'Donnell, Kevin McKeogh, Seamus Breslin, Brian Johnston, Paulinus Leonard, Paul Jackman, Shane O'Donnell, Jason McManus, Paul McManus, Cyril Dunne RIP Paul Cogan, Aidy McPhillips, Ollie McShea, Martin Baker, Finian Baker, Joe McGoldrick, Seamie Donegan, Fabian Burns and Michael McGurn.