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Noel Skehan: Long Custodian Career Wearing The Black & Amber
The Bennettsbridge and Kilkenny goalkeeper of renown, garnered a famous three All Ireland senior hurling medals and still awaited claiming his first Celtic Cross as Kilkenny’s No.1 custodian when the year 1972 dawned. Noel Skehan stepped into the legendary boots of his cousin and Ireland’s No.1 goalkeeper, Ollie Walsh. Few gaels would have envisaged at that time, that Skehan would finish his hurling career with the unique and unequaled distinction of, Ireland’s only hurler to hold nine All Ireland senior hurling medals at that time.
The style of many great hurling goalies has a hallmark all of its own and they became celebrated for that singular characteristic. Noel Skehan was a special type of goalie, a player who stood on his line with a heavy chunk of wide ash, almost as wide as the oar of a boat. Only the really fortuitous creepy crawlers found the net from a deflection, or wild off the cuff fortunate strike.
He brought the traditional goalies stick to a new dimension and many club goalies followed Noel’s example, believing they too would benefit by using the extra heavy chunk of ash. He had perfected his own ash hurleys and the components so essential to form a distinctive goalies hurley and few goalies could emulate the greatness of the famous Bennettsbridge man. His raking deliveries turned defence into instant attack and he savoured the opportunity to move out of his square and accept the responsibility of freetaking in his own half of the field.
His bustling confidence also enabled him to command respect from his colleagues and many of his opponents were content to take their points, when goals were probably on, as they knew any goals won from Skehan would be few and far between. Noel Skehan’s all time record was a benchmark that most players would not accept as a career challenge.
As goalkeeper and sub goalie - Noel Skehan contested 14 All Ireland Senior Hurling Finals from 1963 to 1983