AS WE kick the dust - or should that be the mud of January of our boots one thought comes to mind - can anyone remember as much action on the GAA front?
Harry's Senior footballers got in three matches in the O'Bryne Cup and two or three more practice matches; Casey's hurlers have played two matches in the Kehoe Cup and have at least another to come.
Busiest team by far were the U-21 footballers who will have played at least six competitive matches in the month. Both hurlers and footballers got decent support at all their matches, despite some dreadful weather but between travelling and catering the man feeling the pinch most surely by our new county treasurer Colm Finnegan.
That's all behind us now and the first weekend in February brings the first big clash of interests with the footballers and hurlers out on the same day.
The footballers should draw a big crowd for their clash with Fermanagh in Aughrim - and as always they will be badly needed.
The hurlers can hardly expect the same level of support in Navan but if we are to go by the crowds that turned out in atrocious conditions in Bray over the last two weekends their following is also growing.
Where are they now?
Thanks mainly to Andy Doyle we are able to tell you that the team in last week's paper was from Aughrim.
It was of course a hurling team and according to Andy hurling was going well in and around the 'Granite City' at that time.
He was very proud to tell me that the young fellow with the mop of long hair on the extreme right in the back row of the picture is none other than the new 'Hall of Fame' winner Liam O'Loughlin.
Liam had come home from St Peter's College fully versed in the finer points of the game and with Leinster and All-Ireland Colleges medals in his back pocket.
Hurling had been played in and around Aughrim for many years - in fact they had won a Junior hurling championship as far back as 1938 and added a few more after that. Nonetheless the addition of such a talented, skilled and popular young fellow gave the game at great boost.
According to Andy the men in the picture had just beaten Shillelagh in a South JHL final in 1973 and had a number of skilled hurlers on board.
There are four Keenan brothers in the picture, Tony Roche, he says was a good hurler, Vincent (the Cook) Byrne, better known as a referee; Liam's cousin Willie O'Loughlin and John Moules were other notables while Andy himself was the goalkeeper.
They got a further boost with the arrival of a Limerick man Timmy Howard and when one of their own, Joe Murphy returned from army duty they were ready to take on all comers.
They won another Junior championship in 1976 and in 1979 they brought home a first Intermediate Hurling Cup. In 1981 Liam O'Loughlin trained and coached a good Minor hurling team to win the club's one and only championship in that grade - beating the holders Kiltegan in the final.
Andy himself and his family had a long association with hurling and football in Aughrim and Annacurra. His brother Donacha was the Annacurra goalkeeper for many years but later became more famous on the national stage as one of Eamonn Moules's most trusted umpires. On my last visit to see 'Fitz', one of Ireland's best referees, he told me that the man he trusted most as an umpire was Donacha Doyle: 'We were in tight corners at times but he never once let me down,' he said.
The men in the picture
Back row l to r: Frankie Newsome; Donal Keenan, Dick Byrne, Denis Quigley, Tony Roche, Andy Doyle, Willie O'Loughlin, Andy Merrigan, Liam O'Loughlin.
Front: Michael O'Brien, Padraig Keenan, Vincent Byrne, Peadar O'Brien, Thomas Keenan, John Moules, Liam Keenan.
The new Championship plan
I must say I like the new football championship format, if for no other reason than it brings a fresh approach to the home competitions.
Long term it may not solve all our ills but already I am hearing of clubs looking forward to this open draw in Senior football with great expectations. That of course could change quite quickly - and for some unlucky club, probably will.
Supposing your club was unlucky enough to draw St Patrick's or Baltinglass in the first round and then came up against a team like say Rathnew in the second match how would you feel? Would you be looking back at a system that guaranteed your club three or four matches at worst?
However the biggest coup Mick Hagan pulled off was getting the clubs to agree to a system where down the line championships, Intermediate and Junior, could go ahead whether the Senior teams had played or not.
Let us face facts; fixtures is the item nearest and dearest to the hearts of every player and every club. If the County Board got nothing right but the fixtures programme then the year would be deemed a success.
Second fact - our flagship teams, hurling and football are drawn mostly from the Senior clubs; if they are making progress, in league or championship we must give them every chance to keep that progress going; don't mind the people that will quote the Kilkennys the Kerrys, the Corks or the Dubs. This is Wicklow - no matter how we think we are going on the home front we are judged from the outside on how we perform on the big stage.
So if Harry or Casey comes knocking, then we have got to respond. All right their requests must be reasonable but after all they are clubmen first and foremost and know what the club needs are.
Inter-county team management is a tough job anywhere, but more so in the weaker counties like Wicklow where tradition is that the club comes first. By planning a home programme that does not give the manager full access to all of his players we are tying his hands.
Third point - the home fixtures programme must be kept going all the time and must be well planned.
Footballers and hurlers are in the game for one thing and one thing only - matches.
So has the County Board a duty to provide X number of matches for every player?
Not necessarily; what the board must do is put the club in a position where it can provide the correct number of matches for its players. That can be done in a number of ways.
When I took my first lessons in fixturesmaking from a hard task master Jack Boothman one thing we always did when drawing up a programme for a new league or competition was leave one free Sunday in every month.
That way clubs who for one reason or another could not fulfil a fixture, always had an escape route - and believe it or not it worked.
The free Sunday was used to catch up on unplayed matches where necessary and the competitions always ran to schedule.
A club that was playing all their matches and did not need the free Sunday could use it for practice games.
And that brings me to another question - the league match versus the practice match.
The league match you have to play on a date, at a venue and time decided by the board, whether it suited you or not; the practice match you choose the opposition, the venue, date and time that suites your needs - so decide for your selves.
If you live in the west or southwest of the county there is another advantage in playing the practice match. We will take Baltinglass as a good example; they are 15 to 20 minutes away from a number of venues in Kildare or Carlow.
At the time I am writing about there was only one other Senior club in west Wicklow and that was Kilbride so the shortest journey they had to travel took over the half hour and from that up to the full hour.
The practice match outside the county had other advantages; at home you were playing against the same teams all the time - and under the same referees - so many good managers were inclined to ask themselves am I improving our standards in this way.
I was going to move on to the referring situation - then as opposed to now - but perhaps I have ruffled enough feathers already so I will leave that one for anoth- er time.
Mick Hagan met the hurling clubs of the county in Aughrim last evening (Tuesday) and hopefully came up with a good plan for that championship so we will come back to that one next week.
I expect that by now most of you will have got the Wicklow Yearbook and read it from cover to cover. Not so yours truly; I have only got as far as looking at the pictures, the match results and reading the headings of the many stories.
Last night I got as far as a rare hurling story on page 68.
It was about the day King Henry, (Shefflin) the present day lord and master of the game at national level after breaking all known records on the playing fields, played championship hurling against Wicklow in Aughrim in 1998.
It was in the semi-final of the Leinster Intermediate hurling championship and the story almost certainly came from the files of Jackie Napier.
I am not going to tell you the whole story because I want you to get your hands on a copy of that book and put it away to show to the grandchildren in 50 years time.
Kilkenny won as you may have guessed and Shefflin went on to play in every one of the next 13 All-Ireland SHC finals, winning a record nine medals. Geoffrey Bermingham was his marker that day and held him to just one point from play.
Goeffrey is still going strong and made his own bit of history when he won more caps for Ireland in hurling/shinty that any other Wicklow player.
Also playing for Wicklow that day was Don Hyland who went on to win Railway Cup medals beside Henry in 2002 and '03. One of the two pictures on the page shows the Leinster team of that time with both Shefflin and Hyland on board.
A piece of hurling history not to be missed.
Where were thee in 93?
Bonfires were blazing on the on the green in Dunlavin on August 1 that year and it wasn't because it was a bank holiday.
The girls had brought home their first Ladies Senior football championship. Ladies football was fairly new in the county at the time and this was the first Senior championship to come to the west.
They beat An Tochar in the final at Aughrim - 3-7 to 0-9 - with Denise Walsh, Patricia Flood and Alison Walsh scoring the goals.
Siobhan Lawlor got the player of the match award while other stars included Louise Allen, Lynn Heatley, Ann Harney, Vera Doyle, Cathriona Grace, Siobhan and Patricia Flood and Sharon Cleary. The An Tochar stars were Ann McGillycuddy, Rosie Brady, Ann Gaskins, Mary Gaskins, Mary Brady, Susan Gaskins, Jackie Kavanagh, Fiona White, Margaret Bolger and Pauline Murtagh. Dunlavin: Samantha Downes; Ann Harney, Vera Doyle, Nichola Walsh, Sandra Foley, Siobhan Lawlor, Lynn Heatley, Louise Allen, Cathriona Grace, Siobhan Flood, Sharon Cleary ; Patricia Flood, Jill Heatley, Denice Walsh, Alison Walsh. An Tochar: Bernie Byrne; Rosie Brady, Ann Gaskins, Margarett Gallagher, Jackie Kavanagh, Mary Gaskins, Vera Halligan, Susan Gaskins, Mary Brady, Fiona White, Ann McGillicuddy, B. Halligan, Pauline Murtagh, Margaret Bolger, E. Kavanagh
Fast forward to the last Sunday in August in Aughrim that same year where Kiltegan were winning their second Senior hurling championship with a 3-7 to 1-6 win over Glenealy.
Captain Christy O'Toole made his first stop with the O'Donohue Cup at Juniors in Rathdangan, across the road from where he was born.
Playing for Kiltegan were Tony Kelly; Tom Cremin, Tom Byrne, Mick Browne; Peter Byrne, Ciaran O'Keeffe, Mick 0'Toole; Christy O'Toole; Noel Goggins; Nigel Byrne, Sean Byrne, Michael Byrne; Raymond Byrne, Ned Cremin and John Keogh. Subs were Lorcan Byrne, Sean Gartland and and Michael Cullen.
Glenealy: Bernie Byrne; Ian O'Neill, Eamon Esmond, Ciaran Manley; Billy Byrne, Paul Byrne, John Phelan; Walter Manley, M.A. O'Neill; M.J. O'Neill, Tom Byrne, Mick McDonald, Trevor Doyle, Jonathan O'Neill, Mark Doyle.
The passing of Birdie Whyte last week caused wide spread sorrow in Glen of Imaal, Donard, her native Rathvilly and throughout west Wicklow.
Her son Liam was a prominent footballer with Donard-The Glen while all her grandsons played for Donard-The Glen and the lady members of her family were involved in camogie and ladies football.
Our sympathy to her son Liam, daughters Jennifer, Brid,Geraldine and Martenia and extended family.
Ar dheis go raibh a h-anam dilis.
Another band of hardy hurlers - if you know any or all of these men then contact Peter on 087 6907589 or email email@example.com.