WE MUST start this week by congratulating Mick O’Dwyer on getting yet another award.
This time it was a ' Lifetime Achievement' award from East Coast Radio which was presented at a function in the Glendalough Hotel on Saturday night. In fact while the top award went correctly to World Boxing Champion Katie Taylor, many of our prominent GAA players including Jonathan O'Neill and Leighton Glynn also picked up awards on the night.
In fact overall it was a great weekend for Wicklow and one man who definitely has a pep in his step at this point in time is Mick Hagan. Since he took office a short three months ago, both our flagship teams in hurling and football have gone unbeaten in hurling and football leagues. We also had a first Scór winner in Leinster in quite a few years when Carnew lifted the Novelty Act award down in Ballymore on Sunday evening and our Scór Chairman Tom Walsh was an extremely proud man when they received their Leinster trophy.
Nearer home the now very popular Tom Ryan Cup competitions were concluded at the Sports and Leisure Centre in Arklow on Saturday with Glenealy winning the Under12 Cup and Arklow Rock Parnells winning the Under-10 Cup. Michael Dwyers won both leagues but were on the losing side in both cup finals. Congratulations to everybody involved and in particular the organising committee from the St Patrick's GAA Club in Wicklow.
Another hugely exciting night in the Brockagh Centre Laragh as Cuman na mBunscol staged their annual Trath na gCeist and like everything else that body promotes, this goes from strength to strength. Rathcoyle just like Kilkenny were going for a ' five in a row' but like the ' Cats' this proved to be a bridge too far. Michael Broderick's Blessington team are the new brains of Wicklow after one of the most exciting finishes ever.
In fact they just pipped Baltinglass at the post and then in a shoot-out for the other placings, Kilcoole came in second with Rathcoyle in third place. The new quiz master was former county footballer Jonathan Daniels who did a brilliant job. Congratulations to everybody involved.
The Senior footballers are still unbeaten in the NFL but a draw was not what Micko was looking for on this occasion. However,
it does mean that we are just one of five teams still unbeaten in the League. The others are Dublin in Division 1, Donegal in Division 2 and Wicklow, Longford and Roscommon in what surely must be the most difficult of all divisions this year. Some disappointment at letting a victory that looked on the cards for so long slip in the closing minutes. However, the bottom line now is that we must beat Roscommon in our next home game as well as beating Kilkenny and Clare if we want to be sure of promotion.
For the second week in a row the Senior hurlers came back from the dead to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, this time the match was in front of their own supporters in Aughrim and certainly lifted the fair-sized home crowd and put them in great mood for the football that was to follow. Again the factor that stood out above all others was discipline when the chips were really down; no silly frees to present the opposition with easy scores and of even more importance, no easy chances missed, particularly frees, by the ever-reliable 'Bosco'. Nice to have reached the final of the division with one round of matches still to go.
Where are they now?
When Pat Mitchell rang to admit that out photo in last week's paper had him baffled I began to think that I was on a winner at last. After all anything that 'Mitch' doesn't know about football in Wicklow is not worth knowing. You will recall that we told you that the picture was a football team but not Senior. Well straight away we will say that this was a Shillelagh team that beat Carnew in the Junior Football Championship in 1951.
We got the picture while on a visit to London last week for the Wicklow/London match in the NHL. The man that gave me the picture was Coolkenno born Tom McAssey, President of the London Wicklow Association and with photographer Dave Barrett beside me at the time we were able to get a copy straight away. Tom's brother Jack McAssey is the first player on the right of the front row. The first man to come up with the right answer was Eamon Darcy from Crossbridge and the player that caught his eye was the first man in the back row Peter Lannigan, a man still hale and hearty and up to very recently doing his bit for the Shillelagh club. Eamon also named Mick Rossiter, Mick Johnson, Paddy Behan and Frank Byrne.
Tommy Murphy, that well known Shillelagh activist, was another to name the picture correctly - and why wouldn't he? Sure he is the nine-year-old boy in the back row. He helped to fill us in with background information.
Forget about the grade, there is a lot of history in that picture. That match against Carnew was most likely the South District Junior final. However, Mary Marah from Ashford, who also named the players correctly, claims that it was a first round match played at Coolboy and that would account for the absence of some key players. She also claims that four of the players in the picture are still alive - Pete Lannigan, Paddy Behan, Joe Whelan and she thinks Peter Finnegan, a Meath man who worked as a barman in Shillelagh at the time.
That team went on to beat Donard in the county semi-final - 0-4 to 0-2 - but were beaten in the final by a powerful Newtown team that was backboned by such well known players as Mick Crinnion, Matt Kelly, Dick Melia, Paddy Heffernan, Jimmy Gregory and Tommy Greene. The picture does not show the complete team.
For some reason three of the top players that year, midfielders Ned Lannigan, who they say often played in his stocking feet, his partner Paddy Keogh who's son Myles and grandson Robert play for Coolkenno and the best known man of them all Vincent Blake. That trio along with Christy Murphy, John Johnson and Tom Southern were on the St. Mary's team, Ballyconnell who made history by bringing the first Junior Football Championship to the area in 1945.
Others in the picture who have strong connections with present day teams include John Grey, his son Anthony played for club and county and trained the Shillelagh team up to this year; Joe Whelan, still hale and hearty and doing his bit for the Carnew club, his son Tony played for Carnew and Wicklow; Mick Rossiter, his sons Mick, Ned and Andy played hurling and football for Shillelagh while grandsons, Eamonn (county player), Brian, and Cathal still play for Coolkenno. Present day dual star with Carnew and Wicklow, Joe Murphy is a grandson of Christy Murphy.
The people in the picture are - back row (from left) - Boy, Tommy Murphy, the nineyear-old son of Christy who won a JFC with Tinahely in 1969 and went on to fill many roles on the County Board; Peter Lannigan, Billy (Skinner) Whelan, Peter Finnegan, Tom Southern, Charley McGuire, Mick Rossiter; Middle - Boy - Sean Doyle; John Grey, Christy Murphy, Frank Byrne, Mick Johnson; Front - Jack McAssey, Joe Whelan, Paddy Behan.
The Matt Byrne story is another one that just won't go away; thanks to this and other items copies of the 'Wicklow People' are now winging their way to far off places like Australia, San Francisco and other parts of the US.
Matt has two grand daughters still living in Wicklow. Mary Byrne, a great GAA follower, still resides in the old homestead on Chapel Hill in Baltinglass while Catherine (Tyndall) resides in Arklow. Catherine was very pleased with the stories about her grandfather and tells us that she has sent on copies to her son Mark in San Francisco and her daughter Ann in Melbourne. Ann is married to a Pierce from Tinahely who would be a cousin of the wife of the great Nickey Rackard.
So, thanks to Humphrey Kelleher, who is writing a book on 'GAA Cups and Trophies”, the O'Byrne Cup and the man it is named after is not going to be forgotten. Pat Lawless the hurler! The tribute we ran to Noel Staunton some weeks back caught the eye of no less a man than former county chairman Pat Lawless. We all knew Pat as a great mentor and a great footballer who won SF Championship with Ashford and also played for St. Patrick's and the county but up to this point in time we never realised that in his young days he was also a very promising hurler. Pat sent us the email below this week.
“I read in the Wicklow People your article on Noel Staunton R.I.P. that he played in the U-14 Hurling Final for Glenealy against St. Tegan’s (Kiltegan). I am looking at my medal that I won that day for Glenealy. I believe the game was high scoring and Glenealy scored 12 goals and 7 points, I would have scored 5 goals and 2 points and I am very proud to have won that medal with Glenealy. Perhaps you were at the game and could confirm the score”. This week's picture This week we are in generous mood and giving away all, or almost all, of the details in advance. This is a picture of an event that we featured a few weeks back. This photo was taken in Ashford in a day in 1976 when the Liam Cullen All Stars played the Jimmy Magee All Stars in a big fundraiser.
Liam Cullen had picked his team from the great Wicklow teams of the 1950's so you will have no trouble spotting players such as Railway Cup men Andy Phillips, Joe Fitzpatrick, Jim Rogers, Gerry O'Reilly and Joe and John Timmins. What we do want to know is the names of the other players in this picture, most of them quite well known to older readers. We will give you just one more clue, the man in the middle of the front row is Mike Murphy of RTE fame, who was the captain of the showbiz team on that day. Kevin O'Brien Kevin has done it again! This time the Independent has named him among their first fifteen of 'Unsung Heroes'. He was certainly in hot company with up to 60 players nominated for the full-forward line alone. Other Wicklow men to get a nomination were Andy Phillips, Hugh Kenny, three midfielders Pat O'Byrne, Mosie Coffey and Fergus Daly but Kevin was the only forward and the only one to get the nod from the selectors in the end. Our congratulations to Kevin.
Eamon Murray - on the double!
Another great Wicklow Gael that continues to make the headlines is Eamon Murray from Avoca but now living in Wicklow
Town. Last week Eamon was the surprise recipient of a Long Service Award at the Avoca Dinner Dance. A well deserved honour for a man who was player and mentor for 68 years and helped the club to win their one and only Senior hurling championship in 1953. However, it was on far foreign fields that Eamon was to collect the most of his silverware as a hurler and in fact it is in the City of London that the great man from Avoca is best remembered. Last week the Brothers Pierce Club in London honoured him with a Hall of Fame Award at a function in Kilburn. There to make the presentation was former President of the GAA, himself an All-Ireland winning hurler, Joe McDonagh of Galway. Congratulations Eamon.
Carnew have done it again! Down in Ballymore in Co. Westmeath on Sunday night Carnew were crowned champions of Leinster with their novely act and now go forward to the All-Ireland final.
As usual Etty Kilbride was the producer of this winning sketch called 'The Pet Shop' and the cast is John O'Sullivan, Thomas Darcy, John O'Hara, Michael Skelton, Michael Sinnott, Tom Culkin, Din Doran and James Doran.
The All-Ireland final will be held in the Gleneagle Hotel, Killarney on Saturday, April 9.
A big number of well known GAA men are hospitalised at the moment. Jack Boothman has made a good recovery and was due home this week but others are not so lucky.
Matt Finn: The day after Kiltegan had honoured him with their 'Hall of Fame' Award, Matt Finn was struck down with a sudden illness but thankfully he has made a great recovery.
Matt won Senior championships with Baltinglass and Junior and Intermediate medals with Kiltegan as well as having a good innings on Wicklow teams at U-21 and Senior level. He later became a highly-rated coach and trainer and helped a number of clubs to success.
Damien Byrne: For the fourth time in recent months Damien Byrne was struck down last week and is detained in St Vincent's Hospital.
Among other things Damien is Chairman of Bord na nOg; a well known referee who was in charge of last year's county Senior hurling final. He was also a dual player and trained teams in hurling and football.
Jim Bollard: Great Stratford-Grangecon club man Jim Bollard had an accident at his home last week and ended up in hospital. Jim won an All-Ireland medal on Pat Murphy's Juniors in 1969 and was part of every honour won by his club, either as a player or mentor.
Mattie Nolan: Mattie Nolan, vice president of the Kiltegan Club and a former player, is also hospitalised at present.
Niall Moore: Niall Moore, the President of the Stratford/Grangecon Club, is also in hospital after a setback last week. Another gentleman who has given a lifetime of service to the GAA.
We wish all of them a speedy recovery.
Can you name the players in this team?