WITH THE HURLERS: MY VENUE on Sunday was the Parnell Club in Coolock and the event was the Leinster Club Intermediate football championship.
The rebel inside me protested at the change of venue from the much more convenient Lorcan O'Toole Park in Crumlin.
However, thanks to Blessington's groundsman Mick Curran, I got there no trouble and boy was it worth the extra mileage. This was the modern day face of the GAA - magnificent grounds with all grade A facilities.
We started with a carvery lunch in the clubhouse and you could have anything from a cup of coffee to a sip of the hard stuff in the bar. This was the club named after Charles Stewart Parnell and it was surely an appropriate venue to host the men from Avondale.
While an under strength 'Dales' team had no chance of putting on a display to match the occasion it was still a moment in history that will linger in the memory.
Back home I am told that our three-ina-row champions Glenealy put on a good display against a fit and fast young Dublin team. However it was a great weekend for Glenealy with the Intermediate team pulling off the second half of the big double by winning the IHC on Saturday.
The men of Barndarrig
I chose my venues carefully - or perhaps luckily - at the weekend. The only thing I couldn't control was the weather.
On Saturday I was at the Avondale club grounds at Corballis for a battle royale between two of the oldest clubs in the county - Barndarrig and Baltinglass. The first President of Wicklow GAA was a Barndarrig man Andrew Hyland and I was wondering as I shivered in the east wind did he have to stand out on exposed sidelines in the month of November to earn a crust?
It was in the grounds of Avondale House that the footballers of Barndarrig first hit the football headlines.
That was in the famous six match tournament in 1886 when six Wicklow teams took on six teams from Wexford. Barndarrig's opponents that day were Piercestown.
That was exactly one year before the Maurice Davins from Baltinglass played Barraderry Volunteers in the first ever championship match in the West.
I had another special reason for attending this match at windswept Avondale. Not everyone recalls that this is the centenary of the first ever championship win by Baltinglass.
Yes it was in 1912 that the Slaneysiders won the JFC and I have been watching for an opportunity to make a meaningful connection between past and present. This year started off in a very promising manner for Baltinglass - three adult teams - all going well in league and championship.
The team I picked out at the start was Junior A because it was in that grade that the Slaneysiders made the breakthrough.
To make it better the team they beat 100 years ago was Newcastle and they were also in the same championship this year and if my luck was really in the pair could even meet in the final.
Blessington spoiled that chapter of the story at the semi-final stage so I switched horses to the SFC - a team that also had direct connections with 1912 through the Murphy brothers, Tommy and Kevin.
When they fell at the last hurdle I was still left with the Junior B side. This time luck was on my side. Alright they did not win but fortune dealt me the connection I most wanted.
Chris Timmins was one of the stars of the 1912 team and his grand nephew Peadar Timmins was the midfielder on the Slaneyside team on Saturday. So that's my story - members of the same family doing battle for football honours 100 years apart.
Peadar of course is son of Wicklow TD Billy Timmins.
The Mystery Man
A call from Billy Hamilton of Blessington to tell me that my mystery man of two weeks ago was Martin McDonald of Blessington. The next question then was 'who was Martin McDonald'?
On that point we got help from a number of people in the Blessington area including Jack Boothman, Eamonn Fitzsimons, Mick Curran and others but of more importance from the daughter of the man in question Ann Moran and her son John Paul Moran.
Martin McDonald came to our notice because he was among many other things a former secretary of the old West Wicklow Board of the GAA.
The McDonalds were a family of extensive farmers and business men steeped in sporting history.
They were involved in the GAA, horse racing and breeding and were also boxers of national standard. Joe appeared to hold the higher profile of the brothers. He was in business in Naas, was chairman and later President of the Kildare County Board of the GAA and trained the Kildare team to win two All-Ireland titles.
We even came across a most unusual one in Eoghan Corry's History of Kildare football. When Cavan were attempting to make the big breakthrough on the AllIreland scene they sent a request to the Kildare county board to allow Joe McDonald to travel north to train the Breffni men.
The McDonalds were also big in boxing with Joe winning at least two Irish titles. On one occasion two of the brothers Joe and Willie qualified to meet in the Irish final, a fight which never took place.
Martin remained at home on the farm in Blessington and became deeply involved in the Blessington GAA Club and the West District Board.
He has two daughters, still living in the area while his grandson John Paul Moran in now a player and mentor with the Blessington club and followed in the footsteps of his grandfather when he succeeded Michael Sargent as Chairman some years ago.
That is just a very brief sketch of a man and a family who very definitely left footprints in the sands of time.
Where are they now?
The team pictured in last week's paper was the men of Carnew who broke the mould back in 1965 and turned what up to then had been an almost total football area into the greatest stronghold of hurling in the county.
Along the way they shattered all existing records and set new standards that have proved difficult for others to match. At the height of their powers they were supplying more than half the players for every county team from juvenile to senior.
They played a big part in Wicklow's breakthrough at a number of levels in Leinster and All Ireland championships and leagues.
On the local front they lifted 19 Senior hurling titles in 47 years - a record in itself. In addition they have collected countless titles at all other levels.
The breakthrough came as no big surprise to close observers of the game in the county.
Like most successful clubs Carnew had signalled their intentions well in advance. They made the breakthrough in Minor hurling in the early '60s winning championships in 1962 and '63. However that win over Arklow Geraldines was far from easy. It took a late point by sub John Byrne to seal victory.
Just to underline how times have changed the scribes of the day reckoned that it was a match that the Geraldines just could have won. One notable figure on that breakthrough team was Jack Kilbride.
Not alone was he a great dual player but he later proved an equally good and successful manager/trainer and like many more of that team put in a lifetime of dedicated service to the game.
The arrival of Laois man Edmund Hyland to the town proved another great and lasting boost. Clare-born Sean O'Sullivan was also on that winning team. Sean later moved to Valleymount where he spent the rest of his life promoting Gaelic games at all levels.
He was chairman of the West Juvenile Board and of Bord na nÓg at county level. Other notable players on that team were the 'boy wonder' of the time Sean Doyle; one of the greatest natural hurlers of all time Billy Hillard; Sid Brennan, who went on to become an outstanding midfielder for both club and county and great defender Rory O'Shea.
The greatest year in the long and distinguished history of the club came in 1973 when they brought off the big double - Senior hurling and Senior football in the same year.
In the hurling final they beat surprise packets west Wicklow but in football it took them two hours to get the better of their great rivals Rathnew.
The arrival of Wexford-born priest Fr O'Regan in the parish and outstanding work by Jimmy Ryan and Paddy Sullivan laid the foundation for that breakthrough and while there have been many many more great men and women involved down the years, the names of that trio will always hold a special place in the history books.
The men in the picture
Back Row l to r - Mick Molloy (RIP) (Trainer); Sean Doyle, Noel Moynihan, Billy Hillard, Mick Fogarty, Sid Brennan, Rory O'Shea, Brendan Tully.
Front - Jack Kilbride, Frank Fleming, Jim Kearney, Peter Keogh, Peter Deegan, Gerard O'Connor (mascot), Sean O'Sullivan, Jim Byrne and Edmund Hyland.
The year of the veteran?
Could 2012 end up being called the year of the veteran of the GAA fields of the land? No disrespect for the up and coming young players in hurling, football, handball and the ladies games in all codes. Let us start with hurling at national level.
A great year for hurling at most levels and what triggered this off was the All Star selection.
It is a long time since we saw a better young hurler than Joe Canning explode on the national scene.
Then there was the sensation of the All Ireland final replay - Walter Walsh not to mention all the great young players in Clare, Tipp and Dublin. But when the dust settled their standing in his lone glory was King Henry - and no one could dispute his right to the throne.
Coming back to our own county the picture was much the same. Taking hurling first again thankfully we saw some very promising young players coming through from the underage ranks in most clubs and all will hopefully make the grade.
But look at the men that hogged the limelight. I will just pick out a few outstanding examples, starting with the man who lifted the O'Donoghue Cup this year Joey Driver. At 43 he must be the oldest player to captain a Senior championship winning team but he was there solely on merit.
Joey can't remember how long ago it is since he pulled on a Glenealy jersey for the first time but his mother Sheila says he first played for Wicklow as a 12year-old. The way Joey is playing there is still a few years of top class hurling left in him. His medal collection at this stage would also be worth looking into. The way that Joe junior is going at the moment there could also be another father/son combination waiting to hit the trail.
Of course Joey is not the only remarkable veteran on that Glenealy team but we will come back to 'Bosco', Michael Anthony and the others later. Paula Boland (camogie) Camogie also had a good year in Wicklow in 2012, at least if the many championship battles is anything to go by.
Knockananna and Glenealy had a battle royal for the senior title with a very young Knockananna team just shading it. Donard-The Glen, Avondale were others we noted picking up titles.
Kiltegan's win in the Intermediate grade is certainly worth noting in the context of this feature. Now there is one thing we all know - you never ask a lady her age so all we can do in this case is give you a few facts and figures but you may do the arithmetic yourself.
Kiltegan were battling for their lives in the final of the Intermediate championship in Glenmalure and were under heavy pressure from Avoca.
One lady was keeping them in it more than anyone else; she was winning the sprints for possession, picking off the difficult scores - a player to watch for the future you would say.
It was Paula Boland and when she first came to prominence it was on the Wicklow ladies football team that won the AllIreland title in 1990.
Ladies football was fairly new in Wicklow at the time and Paula was one of a few dual players around. She was taking on the best in Ireland at the time, and she proved this year that she can still do it.
More veterans next week.
Charlie Gaul, former Arklow Geraldines and Wicklow footballer, has asked us to trace Arklow men who won Wicklow Senior championship medals with other clubs outside of Arklow.
He knows of one, William (Billy) Browne who he says was on the Bray Emmets championship team in 1934. Any other Arklow men out there with Senior championship football medals?
Betty O'Keeffe RIP
Our sympathy to the extended O'Keeffe family from Knockananna on the death of Betty at the weekend. Betty is the third of her family (Byrnes, Knockanookra) to have passed away in the last year. She is survived by a large family and many friends. The removal took place to Knockananna Church on Tuesday evening with burial in the local cemetery after Requiem Mass today (Wednesday).
Pat O'Keeffe RIP
A second bereavement in Knockananna at the weekend; Pat O'Keeffe (not related to Betty) died suddenly on Sunday. Pat, who comes from Coolboy, was a former treasurer of the Michael Dwyers juvenile club.
May they rest in peace.