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.

Hurl­ing his­tory

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

Hurl­ing heroes

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 pe­terkeogh­

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