A good week for Wicklow G.A.A.
A GOOD week all round on the G.A.A. front in Wicklow. The U-21 footballers got off to a winning start up in Longford and gave their supporters something to shout about.
Alright they kept the good wine to last. It was only in the final ten minutes of the game they produced anything like the football they are capable of. Being their first outing of the year and the long journey may have had something to do with the very slow start.
They are at home to Laois in their next match and have just two weeks to prepare for what is sure to be a much bigger test.
The O’Moore lads will be all out to get revenge for their shock defeat in Portlaoise a year ago.
The hurlers were pipped at the post in their first outing in the new season National Hurling League. Taking into account that a new management team were only weeks on the job and were sifting through a big panel of players this would also have to be regarded as a good enough display, particularly in Newbridge.
Give ‘Titch’ Phelan and his men a few more weeks to get the feel of the job and to get to know their players better and we can look to the future with some confidence.
Elsewhere the mix-up in the Seánie Furlong case was sorted out to everyone’s satisfaction at the weekend, the Kiltegan lad is free to play again and should be a big boost to Micko’s team when league action resumes. The result of the Antrim match stands and Wicklow hold on to that precious point.
In view of a report in the national media during the week, County Chairman Andy O’Brien went on air at the weekend to confirm that there was no problem with Seán Mulryan’s sponsorship of the Wicklow team and he availed of the opportunity to publically thank Seán and Ballymore Properties for their continued support.
So it would appear that everything in the Garden is smelling of roses again.
Micko has stepped up his training programme big time in a bid to make up for time lost because of the ban on training in November and December. During the recent blizzards finding suitable pitches added to the problems.
Baltinglass’ grounds was out of bounds because of building work on the new dressing rooms. Other pitches were either unplayable because of the snow or did not have good lighting systems.
The usual training and practice match between Seniors and U-21s took place in Newtown on Sunday morning where the new pitch was in perfect condition.
A big turn-out of players from both panels and a very worthwhile match.
Micko has added two more players to his panel, Darragh O’Sullivan from St. Patrick’s and Garreth Doyle from Newtown.
Damien Power and Rory Nolan were back in training and both looked to be in fine shape. Damien told us that he played a practice match with his club Rathnew on Saturday and had no ill effects..
He is targeting the match against KIlkenny on March 8 for a return to active service and is hoping to avoid a recurrence of the injury that dogged him through most of 2008.
Rory Nolan’s ankle injury has responded to treatment and he is flying again.
With the exception of a minor injury picked up by county U-21 player Donal Finch everyone came through a hard session unscathed at the end of the Sunday morning session.
A few of Phillip’s U-21 plyers who picked up minor injuries or were just sore from bumps and bruises did not play in the match but did do some light exercises.
Micko’s Seniors are training three night this week. On Monday night in Baltinglass, Wednesday, Knockananna and Friday Newtown.
No matches for any of our teams this coming weekend.
Next up for the footballers is away to Kilkenny on March 8; the Senior hurlers are a thome to Mayo on March 1 while on the same day the U21 footballers play Laois at a Wicklow venue in the quarter-final of the Leinster Championship.
Lets hope that common sense prevails and that both matches are played as a double-header at the same venue. That is the least the supporters deserve.
MANAGER/TRAINERS, OLD AND NEW
Last week we looked at some clubs that had a change of leadership in the boardroom for the coming year.
This week we take a look at the men that have taken on the now very demanding job of team Manager/Trainer in a number of clubs
Kiltegan - Starting with the county football champions. Gavin Wynne who had a dream start to his managerial career has resigned. As of now the club has found no-one to take his place. Generally the new man puts in the first year or two finding his feet and getting to know the ropes.
For Gavin it was instant success. He struck gold at his first try and every- one would say that Kiltegan were ‘made’ for the forseeable future
Gavin, who may be considering picking up the pieces of a promising playing career decided to follow the example of the Chairman Noel Farrell and get out after just one year - go while the going is good!.
Glenealy - Ironically the county hurling champions are also taking their time in rubber-stamping the job of Manager for 2009. Michael Neary has just brought back-to-back titles to the club and everyone expects that he will be staying on and leading the club in their bid for a three-in-a-row.
The last time Glenealy landed the three-in-a-row was 1957, ’58 and ’59.
Avondale has probably made the greatest catch of them all. They enlisted former county boss John Mitchell to manage their hurling team. If any man can bring the ‘Dales back to the top in Wicklow hurling it is Mitchell.
Eoin Doyle remains on as Manager/Trainer of the football team.
Annacurra are not for changing this year, and no wonder. Pat Molloy from Rathvilly who got them back to Senior ranks, if only in the league remains on.
Martin Fitzgerald, one of the longest serving club officers in the county was returned again as Chairman for the sixth year. All in all Martin has served the club in one position or another since 1979 - without a break..
Baltinglass have gone outside the club to find someone to get them back in the groove as they continue to chase the leaders Rathnew for the top spot in the table.
They went for Newbridge man Ray O’Sullivan to do the job. Ray is a very experienced trainer and could be just the man they need to whip their young team into shape.
Ironically Baltinglass clubman Hugh Kenny will be training O’Sullivan’s club Sarsfields this year.
Blessington also have a new team at the top. One of their own Paddy O’Connor is the manager while Phillip Cullen from Clonmore is the trainer. They replace the long-serving Peter Behan.
Phillip comes from a great Carlow G.A.A. family and has plenty of experience of Wicklow football. He had two spells with Donard/Glen and was the Kiltegan trainer when they reached the Senior football championship semi-final in 2007.
Bray Emmets have not quite finalised the details of a new man to replace Liam McGraynor as football manager for the coming year.
However, we can reveal the name of the new Senior hurling manager. It is their own clubman Pat Lee. While Pat played all or most of his adult hurling with Kilcoole he has always been a Bray man and trained four Minor hurling championship winning teams in the club.
While Pat did not manage to get a SHC medal himself he had a good innings with the county team and won Kehoe Cup medals in ’89 and ’91.
Ballymanus have roped in the experienced Dunlavin man Johnny Willis to train the team. Johnny replaces Tony Byrne from Ballinacor.
Billy Byrne remains on as team manager.
Johnny had a good spell with Kilbride before moving to Ashford for a few years. He is taking over a club that is in the process of team building but who has some very exciting players coming through. They have three players on the county U-21 team, which is more than most of the big clubs.
At Barndarrig, where James Crowley is back in the Chair for another year, they are again sticking with their own Ciarán O’Brien as football manager. A hurling manager will be appointed in the next week or two.
Donard/Glen have also gone for a new man, but only had to go down the road to Eadestown to get him. Nick O’Neill from Stratford, one of Wicklow’s best players has taken over the job and will find himself schooling a few of his own nephews.
Nicko was also one of Wicklow’s finest footballers and has plenty to offer to any team.
Dunlavin was another club to have to find a replacement for the long serving Alan Heatley. They went for Carlow man Seamus McCleane.
Enniskerry had a good year in 2008 and not surprisingly they are sticking with Ed Jameson as manager/trainer. The Rathnew veteran could get a championship out of the Sugarloaf men in this unpredictable Junior A grade.
Another veteran of many battles Tommy Reid remains on as Chairman.
Hollywood have called in one of the big guns in a bid to get back on the winning way.
Former Dublin All-Ireland winner Dave Foran is the man they have chosen for the job.
Dave is no stranger to Wicklow football, having trained the Senior county team with some success for a number of years.
The Thomas Davis clubman will only have a short journey to travel down the N81 to his new headquarters.
Laragh - Bryan Doyle brought about great improvements in the team in his first year and ended up by winning the Carter Cup. He has decided to stay on for another year.
Lacken - Changing times around the Lakeside district. Darren Behan replaces another Blessington clubman Glen Walsh as team manager in Lacken and will be assisted by Paul Clarke.
Valleymount - Peter Behan who just finished his term with Blessington returns to his roots to manage Valleymount and brings his long time partner Stephen Doyle with him.
He replaces Paul Allen, a great Wicklow footballer not so long ago.
In Kilbride Lorcan Clarke takes over from Fergal Donoghue, now the Chairman of the club, as team manager.
Tinahely, where Joe Hayden has stepped down have turned to Wexford man Michael Furlong. Michael is a very experienced manager/trainer. He was involved with several Wexford county teams, had a spell with Kiltegan where he trained both hurling and football teams and enjoyed some success. Last year he was with Coolkenno and while he helped the Carlow border club regain Senior League status he failed narrowly to get them an outright win in Division 2 of the SFL.
We will look at a few more of the new trainer/managers that will be operating in Wicklow next week.
CUMANN NA MBUNSCOL WEST
Tommy Brennan is due to kick off the first of his blitz competitions in the West on Wednesday, February 25.
It will be Boys Football and will be held at two venues
Venue 1 is Blessington where the officer in charge will be Pat Sheridan (086-1716659). Venue 2 - Stratford - Officer in charge Mary O’Keeffe (0876305574).
On Wednesday, March 11, it will be Girls Football from 11 o’clock to 1 o’clock.
Venue 1 - Dunlavin - for schools with 100 plus children. (Tommy Brennan (045-401495). Venue 2 - Stratford for schools with less than 100 students (Mary O’Keeffe)
Thursday, March 26 - Hurling from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Venue - Dunlavin - All Schools. (Michael Moran - 0868842181).
Please the emphasis on these events is participation, enjoyment and skill development.
Any school wishing to take part must contact the organsers at least two days prior to the event.
The numbers on each team will be decided on the day. Schools should feel free to bring as many children as they wish - all will be catered for.
WELL DONE REF
Not since the 1950s and 60s when Eamonn ‘Fitz’ Moules and Jimmy Hatton were in their prime did Wicklow have a referee making the national headlines, for the right reasons.
On Saturday Eddie Craul was in charge of the All-Ireland JFC final between Skellig from Kerry and the champions of Great Britain John Mitchells in Croke Park.
It was a well deserved honour for the Kilbride whistler. We send him out congratulations and hope that this will be the start of better times fow Wicklow referees in general.
Wicklow referee Eddie Craul beckons Skellig Rangers goalkeeper Michael Brennan to hurry up with his kick out in the dying moments of the AIB GAA All-Ireland Junior Club Football Championship Final at Croke Park.