Finishing line in sight after busy year
MICK HAGAN is at last in sight of the finishing line with his fixtures programme and can expect to bring down the curtain on a busy year inside the next two weeks.
The weekend brought joy to two more clubs. Annacurra, surely the unluckiest club in Wicklow in recent years, at last got some reward for their labours when Michael O’Brien lifted the Timmins Cup on the Fair Green in Shillelagh on Sunday.
It was hard luck on Coolkenno to lose in the manner they did but no one could begrudge Annacurra a change of fortunes.
The Derrysiders have lost at least five finals in recent years and for a proud club with a great tradition that hurt a lot. It was that hurt and that hunger that drove them on to victory on Sunday.
In their eleven matches in the league Annacurra lost only one, and that was away to Dunlavin.
And what about Fergal Og. A young club struggling to get a foothold in a corner of Bray where Gaelic games were struggling.
This was their first big win in hurling and while it may not have equalled a championship that fine Don O’Gorman Cup, a fitting memorial to a great hurler, is still a nice trophy to have on the sideboard.
Congratulations to Oliver O’Brien, a man who had battled long and hard to establish hurling in his area.
And surely this win can give hurling in the town of Bray another lift.
While I come from a club that was in at the start up of ladies’ football in Wicklow I have to admit that I don’t know as much about the game as I should.
So I was surprised, and very pleased, to learn that Wicklow had seven girls, no less, on the Underdogs team to play London at the London Irish rugby grounds on Saturday
According to my source Amy Byrne and Monica Lynch from An Tochar; Julie Fitzmaurice, Blessington, Laura Ahearn and Coilin Deeney, Eire Og and Aoife Heffernan and Catherine Corbett fron Bray Emmets will be doing their bit to keep Wicklow on the map at national level. The game will be shown live on TG4 on Saturday evening. Good luck girls.
With the return of Mick O’Dwyer to start another bid to lift our county teams to a new level, and the close of the championship season this may be as good a time as any to take a hard look at the standard of club football in the county.
Our Senior championship ran smoothly this year, we had a number of good and very competitive matches and an excellent county final
However our county champions Kiltegan fell at the first hurdle in Leinster and we must face up to the fact that it is now five years since we had our last win in the Club Championship.
The Intermediate grade was also very competitive, as it always is with again some top class matches but again when the champions Carnew stepped outside the county the end result was not what we might have hoped for.
Alright we can make excuses for both Kiltegan and Carnew. Both are dual clubs and have to pick their football and hurling teams from the same panel of players.
Both had to return to a hurling championship at a time when they should have being building up for Leinster football action. That is just one of the hazards the dual club must take on. However, that alone should not be allowed to cloud the fact that in recent years out performances in Leinster has fallen short of what we might have expected.
The Junior football scene is not too promising either. In fact this may be the first time ever when no Junior club won a championship in any grade. Newcastle were the only Junior club to reach a county final but they lost to a Kiltegan second string team in the A championship
In the Junior B section it was two more Senior clubs – An Tochar and Newtown that were left to fight it out for the honours.
Even in the C grade it was third string teams from Kiltegan and Rathnew that contested the final.
If this latter problem was to continue it could be very damaging to the Junior clubs and would call for drastic action.
In recent years the Junior clubs, or some of them, have concentrated on motions to convention to limit the number of players that can be regraded in any one year.
At best it is a questionable road to go. It is designed to weaken the strong club by not allowing them to restructure properly at the start of the year and has done nothing for the Junior club.
Why the restriction on regrading, and it only applies in football, is wrong is that it hits the weak as well as the strong. With all, or most championships now played on a league system most clubs find that, because of injuries or absentees they may have to use up a lot of players – say up to 24 or 25 in a season.
That could mean that a number of players will not get regular matches, or in extreme cases no match at all the following year. That is one reason why we lose players to other codes.
Clubs, all clubs, simply must be allowed to restructure their playing numbers at the start of the year.
In Kildare a few years ago they had a system where the second string team in the Senior club played a separate Senior B Championship and that way they were not bothering their Junior neighbours at all
The Junior championship was for Junior clubs only and the second string team from the club played in the Junior B championship. The same principle applied in the Intermediate grade.
Do we need to bring in something like that in Wicklow?
The new Kilbride/Lacken Juvenile club staged their first presentation function in the South County Golf Club on Friday Night.
This was a ‘first’ in more ways than one and set standards for a Juvenile function that will be hard to match.
The club were celebrating their first year on the juvenile circuit, their first county title in the U-12 Football Championship. It was also a first such function by a Wicklow GAA Club in the posh surrounds of the South County while newly-elected Youth Officer Damien Byrne was making his first public appearance as a member of the top table.
The guests included GAA Ambassador Leighton Glynn who addressed the players and presented the championship medals; Pat Mitchell who made the key speech and presented a booklet with full colour pictures and a write up of all 28 championship matches played by the team; Damien Byrne presented a wall chart with a colour picture of the team plus the results of every match.
Eddie Leonard, County President Peter Keogh and former football great and Railway Cup player Peter Clarke and his wife Mary were also among the guests. The Lacken end of the club was represented bt Gerry O’Neill, Thomas Broe and Ken Balfe, while Paddy Byrne, Chairman of the Kilbride adult club was also in attendance.
Club Chairman Liam Creighton was the MC for the night and all arrangements were in the capable hands of the team manager Michael Renaghan
Another innovation on the night was that the names of the 22 boys were drawn from the cup for the presentation rather than starting with the captain and going by the team list.
The panel: Peter Fitzsimons, Alan Jones, Hughie Walsh, Peter Mullen, Simon Creighton, Darragh Ryan, Kieran Hayter, Richard Ward, Aaron Curran, Eric Murphy, Shane Byrne, Aaron Renaghan, Matthew Creighton, Gareth Hegarty, Fiachra Dillon, Zach Dennison, Ross Shone, Conor Ryan, Eoin Gallagher, Conor Ryan, Calum Ashmore, Eoghan Keogh, Mark Renaghan .
Darragh Ryan was voted the players ‘Player of the Year’ and received his trophy from Peter Clark.
The players made a special presentation to the manager Michael Renaghan, the driving force behind the team .
Geraldine Ryan was presented with a bouquet of flowers by Liam Creighton for her special work for the club during the year.
WEST JUVENILES - U-14 FL FINAL
St Nicholas 8-9, St. Kevin’s 2-3: St Nicholas brought off the first leg of a great double in the West League Finals when they beat St. Kevin’s in the U-14 football final at Blessington on Saturday.
This team had already won the County B Championship and were only narrowly beaten by a great Baltinglass team in the A Final. So really they were in a different class.
However, St. Kevin’s put up a brave battle for most of the way and kept plugging away to the end.
St. Nicholas: Dara Figgis; Joseph Deering, Louise Caplice, Emma Byrne; Alan O’Sullivan, Stephen Pierce, Bary Miley; Daniel Dawson (01), Paul Murtagh; Scott Phelan (0-2), Andrew Howerd (0-3), Conor Kelly; Timothy Metcalfe (2-0), Kevin Kealy (3-3), Eoin Kelly.
St. Kevin’s: Paul Foster; Conor Burke, Emmett Fennan, Ronan Bonfield; Paul Kelly, Cian Tyrrell, Ian Redmond, Jamie Miley, Seán Geoghegan; Thomas Kelly, Stephen Kearney, Mark Miley; Shane Kelly, Seán O’Keeffe, Lee Reid.
U-14 FL SEMI-FINAL
Stratford/Grangecon 2-10, Michael Dwyers 3-4: Stratford/Grangecon qualified to meet Aughrim Annacurra in the final of the South/West U-14 B Football league with a good win over Michael Dwyers in Blessington on Sunday.
Great point kicking by Alan Norton, Douglas Hanbidge and Seán Byrne kept Stratford/Grangecon in front through most of the first-half but Shane Lennon and Pádraig Byrne grabbed goals for ‘Dwyers to leave only two points between the sides at half-time – 0-9 to 2-1.
An early goal by Christopher Hanbidge gave the Slaneysiders a nice cushion but Dwyers kept coming back
A goal by Douglas Hanbidge with five minutes to go looked to have sealed the issue but Eoin Coogan hit back with a goal for Dwyers to insure this game went right down to the wire.
A number of girls taking part in this match are coming to the end of their time playing boys football. Lucy Cush and Miriam Sleator were prominent for Stratford while Anne Byrne starred in the ‘Dwyers half-back line.
Stratford/Grangecon: Brendan Kinsella, Adam Doyle, Cormac Egan, Matthew Hanbidge; Matthew Manley (0-1), PJ McGrath, Nathan Whittle; Christopher Hanbidge (1-0), Lucy Cush; Seán O’Neill, Douglas Hanbidge, Dylan Browne; Miriam Sleator, Alan Norton (0-4), Seán Byrne (0-2).
Michael Dwyers: Bill Kavanagh; Darragh Byrne, Darragh O’Keeffe, Luke Byrne; Aine Byrne, Liam Byrne, Conor Doyle; Eoin Fitzgerald (0-1), Nimai Blake; Eoin Coogan ( 1-2), James Byrne, Shane Lennon (1-1) Joe Byrne, Pádraig Byrne (1-0), Paul Murray.
South West fixtures still to come – Saturday – U-14 B final – Stratford/Grangecon v. Aughrim/Annacurra; Sunday – U-12 B Semi-final – Kilbride/Lacken v. Tinahely; the 13th/14th – U-14 B League – Michael Dwyers v. Aughrim/Annacurra.
Anyone (bar Jackie Napier) notice the man they interviewed on RTE after the Leinster club final on Sunday?.
He was Maurice Aylward, the manager of the victorious Ballyhale Shamrocks team who had just lifted the Leinster crown.
The reason that Jackie spotted him was because he remembered him playing for Wicklow in the Leinster JHC final of 1966. Wicklow were going for their third championship in a row that day but were beaten by Kildare.
To jog a few memories Jackie had given us that team - Donal Breen (Barndarrig), Jim Kearns (Avondale), Tommy Kelly (Rathnew), Billy Hillard (Carnew), Billy Murphy (Forestry), Oliver Cuddy (Forestry), Eugene McGuinness (Kilcoole), Liam Jordan (Avondale), Seán Doyle (Carnew), Billy Lee Avondale, Peter Dwyer (Forestry), Mick Halligan (Carnew), Nicky Scallan (Arklow Gers), Liam Collins, Carnew, Maurice Aylward (Forestry).
Larry Tallon came on a sub that day to join a number of other dual county players on that team.
Maurice Aylward is a brother of Liam Aylward MEP while his father was Bob Aylward, Chairman on Leinster Council.
Billy Murphy won a Senior All Ireland with Kilkenny three years later. Forestry College are long gone from the Wicklow scene while two other clubs represented on that team – Rathnew and Arklow Geraldines no longer play hurling.
On Friday night Andy O’Brien and the County Board host a dinner for the referees of the county in Laragh. A nice and well deserved gesture to a hard working group of officials who keep our games going week in week out in all weathers all year.
Jimmy Birchall, Chairman of the South/West Juvenile Board, presents the South/West Under-14 Cup to St. Nicholas captain Kevin Kealy.