"THE BEST COUNTY FINAL IN YEARS," was the general verdict after an excellent day at Aughrim on Sunday.
It was a battle from start to finish with never very much separating the sides and the verdict in doubt right up to the final seconds. However what it did lack was one or more outstanding personalities, someone who stood out from the crowd and dictated the pace of the game.
It was also probably short of a defining moment; the nearest we came to that was when John Flynn fielded that high ball in his own square and went to ground.
Baltinglass were leading by a single point at the time; the referee was perfectly positioned to see what was going on. Was Flynn being fouled or was he over holding the ball? It was a call the referee had to make and he did.
In such a tight corner that call was never going to go down well with whichever side came out on the losing end but that's the way it goes. John Keenan pointed for a free in, Matthew Byrne did the needful and the sides were level.
At that stage most neutrals in the ground would have been more than happy to finish with a draw and to get another chance to look at such a competitive match but it was not to be. Super sub Donie Fitzgerald was left unmarked for seconds, the ball broke kindly for him, he held his nerve and kicked over the winner.
Baltinglass supporters had two reasons for complaint. First, the free against Flynn was harsh in the extreme and secondly the referee did not play out the full two minutes of added time. But that's football, there has to be a winner and the referee's word, in general, is final.
St Pat's collected another title and our congratulations to Gail Dunne, his team and all his helpers on a job well done.
Congratulations also to Ashley O'Sullivan and the St Nicholas Minor footballers on putting Minor titles back to back. Good days ahead it would appear for both Dunlavin and Donard clubs.
Where are they now?
The picture in last week's paper was the Baltinglass team that made the big breakthrough in 1958 - beating the then all powerful St Pats team by 2-6 to 1-3 in the final.
While few of us realised at the time, this marked the arrival of a new super power in the west, if not in Wicklow as a whole.
Of course football was played in and around the ancient Slaneyside town from the very start of the Association and probably long before. A team called Maurice Davins played Barraderry Volunteers in the very first Wicklow Championship in 1887, and the club was one of the very few from west of the hills represented at the first convention in Wicklow in 1886. They won a JFC in 1912 and another in 1943 - an ordinary run of the mill club of the time.
So what happened to change them into the powerful unit we know today?
One major factor to play a part in the promotion of Gaelic games in the west, and probably to a somewhat lesser extent in the county, was the advent of the vocational schools.
The first vocational school was built in Baltinglass in the mid-nineteen thirties on the site of the old creamery. While the circumstances of the time meant that it was slow to get involved in sport, changes did come with time.
It was in the 1950's that the vocational school in Baltinglass became the nerve centre of Minor football in the area. It was the only vocational school in west Wicklow at the time and pupils were bussed in from as far away as Blessington and Dunlavin.
Some figured on the great Balto fourin-a-row, or if you like five in six years from '52 to '57 and that is also a possible reason why you will find Dunlavin names on our team of '58.
During the war years it was survival and not sport that was the priority.
Up to that time football power in the west was mainly in the small villages and communities. Blessington, then just a village, brought the first SFC to the West in 1915.
Granabeg (Valleymount) won the title in 1923 but the first real power in Senior football in the area was Rathdangan, a great team made up mostly of Byrnes and O'Toole's.
They won a JFC in 1924, reached the final in the Senior grade in 1928 and won the first Senior title in 1930. They dominated football in the west up to 1936 when they beat Donard in the first all west county final.
Donard took over at that stage and won their first SFC in 1937. Donard went on to become a mighty force in the county and at one stage their players were making up more than half of the county team.
Indeed they had three players on the Leinster Railway Cup team at a time when that competition was at the zenith of its power and popularity. They won the last of their six SFC's in 1957.
Baltinglass took over from there, the team we featured last week made the breakthrough in 1958 and since then they have been the dominant force in Wicklow football.
They won their first three-in-a-row in 1965, '66 and '67, put titles back to back on a few occasions before really striking gold in the late 1980's.
A record-making eight-in-a-row with a Leinster and All-Ireland club title thrown in for good measure saw them set standards that will prove difficult to match.
The men in the picture
Back l to r - Charlie Maguire, John Connell, Johnny Kenny, Ken Browne, Charlie Nolan, Bill Curry (RIP), John Rogers, Edmund Nolan. Front - George Deering, Packie Bookle, Hugh Kelly (RIP), Bill Burke, Tommy Leigh, Harry Fay (RIP), "Doc" Laverty (RIP).
Among the subs were Peter Timmins who replaced the injured Bill Burke; Pat Rogers (RIP), Bill Nolan, Oliver White and Len Connell.
The legendary Johnny Kenny
The most remarkable man at that time and up to this day had to be Johnny Kenny. He was captain of that time, in fact he was captain in Baltinglass from '55 to '67. He was also club secretary that year and held that post up to '69.
He was a great leader on or off the field and a born organiser. Even going back to his days in underage football when he was organising juvenile matches and later Minor matches and I can remember him going around on his bicycle on a Saturday night in the '40's ensuring that he had a Minor team to take the field the following day.
Johnny is still going strong and is an endless source of information for this and all other stories of its sort.
The other officers of the Baltinglass club of the time were: cChairman Godfrey Timmins and treasurer Sean O'Toole.
Where were you in '92?
The first thing to catch the eye in the 'Wicklow People' of 20 years ago was a picture of Kevin O'Brien holding the AllIreland B Cup aloft after Wicklow had beaten Antrim in the final.
Alright he was so anxious to get his hands on that cup that he pulled off one of the handles, but we forgive him for that.
He may not have been too pleased though when it was his brother Sean that beat him to win the ' Irish Independent' Sports Star of the Week the following Friday.
That was a great day in the history of a success starved county and arguably our biggest achievement ever on a football field.
Darren Behan scored the only goal of the match; Paul Allen and Conan Daye scored 0-2 each while it was big midfielder Fergus Daly that got the other point.
Just to refresh the memory that bit more the team lined out like this - John Walsh (Bray Emmets); Thomas Donoghue (Baltinglass), HughKenny (Baltinglass), Brendan Brady (AnTochar); Donal Lenihan (Aughrim), Billy Kenny (Baltinglass), Mich Murtagh (Dunlavin); Sean O'Brien (Baltinglass), Fergus Daly (Blessington); Paul Allen (Hollywood), Pat Baker (Avondale), Conan Daye (An Tochar); Terry Allen (Hollywood), Darren Behan (Blessington), Kevin O'Brien (Baltinglass).
Red Pat O'Byrne (Aughrim) missed this match because of injury.
Sally Cup Final
Playing for Kilcoole in the Sally Cup final that year were Joe Fortune, Sean Fortune, John Toner, Rory Gahan, Colm Hatton, Gerry Murray, Philip Gleeson, David Keddy, Shay Ryan, George Lee, Jimmy Sunderland, Charlie Keddy, Seamus Hatton, who was top scorer with 15, Jim Toner and Martin O'Connell. Pat Berkerry came on as sub and scored a goal and Kilcoole broke their hoodoo in hurling finals that day when they beat Glenealy by 2-9 to 0-7 and the lead off in the Wicklow People report said "99 years is a long time to wait for anything to happen.
That's the length of time they tell us that Kilcoole's hurlers have battled for reward in Senior hurling, losing out in eight county finals".
A nice picture of Jack Murray, Chairman of the Hurling Board, presenting the cup to Rory Gahan. Nice to see Gerry Murray still playing in the SHC.
Question - where is the Sally Cup now?
Another great man appearing in the picture pages that year was Tom Loftus. The son of Roscommon was chairman of Dublin County Board and Leinster Council before coming to live in Bray where he gave 20 years of service to the juvenile game in Wicklow.
On the occasion in question he was presenting the Schweppes Cup to Kilmacanogue captain after the men from the Sugarloaf, inspired by a great display by Christy Fox, had beaten neighbours Enniskerry in the final in Emmet Park.
That prompts another question - Where is the once very famous Schweppes Cup now?
Herbie Hill - Opel League
We spotted another two great veterans that are still playing football on the Blessington team that drew with Tinahely in the SFL. Damien Breen salvaged the point for Blessington with a late goal and Fergus Daly was one of their top point scorers - both were playing for the 'Blues' in the JAFC semi-final against Baltinglass last week.
Scorers for Kiltegan in a big win over St Patrick's in the same league on the same night were Damien Byrne 1-0; Ned Cremin 0-6; Christy O'Toole 0-3; Nigel and Michael Byrne 0-2 each; Sean Keogh 0-1. Scorers for St Pats were Sean Dunne, David (Bill) Bury and George Johnson.
South/West Board meeting
While district boards are all but extinct in the county at the moment the area west of the hills still clings on to the little power they still retain.
District Championships, which once played such an important role in the overall programme, are now extinct and even the leagues that at one time ran successfully, North, South, East and West such competitions, as far as we know, have ceased to exist.
However Pat Dunne and Jimmy Birchall are battling away in what is called, for want of a better title, the South West Board, and held a meeting in the clubhouse in Kiltegan last week.
The purpose of the meeting was to make the draw for the two competitions that still exist in the area, the Allen Cup and the Ray Daniels Cup.
Both are U-13 Leagues with the main purpose being to give U-14 teams a head start for the more serious competitions that will be starting in the New Year.
The meeting was well attended with almost all clubs from Aughrim/Annacurra to Kilbride represented. Encouraged by the turn out the board decided to add in a third division this year.
In Division 1 for the Dick Allen Memorial Cup are what is regarded as the six strongest teams - Baltinglass, Blessington, St Nicholas, Michael Dwyers, Carnew and Tinahely.
Ray Daniela Memorial Cup - Aughrim/Annacurra, St Kevins, Coolkenno, Kilbride/Lacken.
Division 3 for a new cup, as yet unnamed, are Baltinglass B, Blessington B, Tinahely B and others that may decide they can field a second team.
(If fielding a second team a club will be required to submit a list of their first 15 players).
Rules for all competitions - For all grades - single round league; all scores count as one point; all matches 25 minutes a half. Allen Cup - full pitch. The other two - reduced size pitch. All matches 15 a side but teams can play 13 a side by agreement.
The Leinster Roadshow featuring Europe's largest inflatable pitch was back in Wicklow this week.
Paul Garrigan brought the show to Kiltegan on Thursday where all the local school children were made welcome and had a great fine day to enjoy the event.
Helping out Paul with coaching and refereeing were Robert Doyle from Carnew and great young ladies footballer Sarah Jane Winters from Baltinglass.
They continued on to Donard on Friday where again the children from Donard, Donoughmore and the Glen were the guests.
The chief organizer, Sean Dempsey from Laois, told me that the show had spent the previous week in France where children playing Gaelic games in Europe were their guests. Watch out for the show when it comes your way.
O'Duffy Cup in Aughrim
Camogie in the Aughrim/Annacurra area got a great boost when members of the all conquering Wexford team arrived with the O'Duffy Cup.
Young teacher Ann Marie Connolly organised the visit to the Sacred Heart National School Aughrim on Friday.
The school were delighted to welcome some of the three-in-a-row camogie team and their Manager J.J. Doyle with the Cup to the School. Mentors from the two clubs, notably Catherine McAlister and Des Burton were present and both joined in welcoming and congratulating the manager and his girls.
Boys and girls from the school got pictures taken and autographs taken and a great evening was had by all. Congratulations Ann Marie.