In the 1956 All Ireland Hurling final Wexford goalkeeper Art Foley pulled off what many have called the greatest save in the history of the sport. His team, the defending champions, were leading by two points at Croke Park with just three minutes to play, when Cork’s Christy Ring, in search of his 9th All Ireland medal, bore down on the goalkeeper and fired a shot that seemed destined to put Cork on the road to glory.
Foley had other ideas and Wexford went on to win 2-14 to 2-8 and in the process atoned for the loss against Cork in the 1954 final. Ring, generally considered the greatest hurler of all time, featured prominently in the Cork lineup for six more seasons but never got to another All-Ireland final.
The year after that memorable day in Croke Park, Art Foley traveled to New York with Wexford and decided to stay. More than a half-century on, he spoke to the Echo by phone from the home he shares in Mastic, L.I., with his wife Ann.
Irish Echo: Why did you decide to stay in New York?
Art Foley: Well I was 27, and I had a wife and three kids [of an eventual six] and the prospects in Ireland weren’t too good.
IE: What did you work at?
AF: I did anything and everything. Eventually I went to work for TWA. I stayed there for 34 years as a crew chief.
IE: Was the 1956 All Ireland your greatest sporting moment?
AF: To tell you the truth the greatest game I ever played in was the League final that same year. We came back from 16 points behind in the second half and beat Tipperary 5-9 to 2-14. Not to make little of the ’56 All Ireland.
IE: What was your biggest disappointment in the game?
AF: We lost the All Ireland final to Cork in 1954. We should have had that game won, but we didn’t, so we paid the piper and lost by three points.
IE: Have gone home to Ireland much over the years?
AF: Yes, the last time was in 2005, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ’55 win over Galway.
IE: Do you still have family in Ireland?
AF: Yes, I have two sisters in Ireland and two brothers over in England.
IE: Do you keep up with the games in Ireland?
AF: I do. I get the papers every week, the Echo and the Voice, and I keep in touch with people from home. I don’t get to see the matches though. No one shows them out here, and at my age I don’t travel much.
IE: Was Christy Ring the greatest
you ever played against?
AF: Oh, he was. He was the most dangerous man on the pitch with a hurl in his hands. It was unbelievable the things he could do.
IE: Did you hurl in New York?
AF: A bit. I played with Cork for a while, won a junior with Wexford in 1968 or ’69. But not much, I was too busy working.
IE: Can you talk a bit about your famous save?
AF: Oh, sure. I remember it distinctly; I can still see it clearly.
There was a long clearance from Cork and Christy won the ball. He took off on a long solo run, cutting across the field. He came straight down the middle and stopped at the 21. Why he didn’t keep going, I didn’t know. I’m still surprised. Well, he shot and I blocked it straight up in the air. This where they always get it wrong. They always say I caught it and cleared it, straight to Nicky [Rackard] and he scored the goal. But I blocked it out and Pat Barry [Cork] doubled on it, and it hit the outside of the net. I pucked it out to Jim English and he passed it to Tom Ryan, and he got it to Nicky and Nicky got the goal, and we went on to win.