WHERE ARE THEY NOW? HARRY GOT the new season off to a good start when his experimental team played a draw with DCU in Greystones in the O'Byrne Cup. Harry, we are told, will be continuing with the experimenting tonight (Wednesday) when he takes on Carlow in Bray in the same competition.
There was a nice turn-out of supporters in Greystones on Sunday so we hope that trend will continue
Eamon Fitzsimons finally came to the rescue and named the Blessington team in our mystery picture. It was of course the team that brought the Miley Cup to the home of the donor for the one and only time in 1983.
It was not the first time for Blessington to win the Senior championship however. The 'Blues' were in fact the first team to bring the cup back across the mountains to the west in 1915. We don't know much about that team but we do know that they coughed up a chance of winning another title when they failed to turn up for the final of 1933, leaving Roundwood to take a walkover.
When the Lakeside town again produced a team good enough and dedicated enough to bridge that 68-year gap, most of them were from families synonymous with the G.A.A. in the area down the years. There was two or three Hennessy brothers, sons of Toddy who played for club and county for many years.
Bob Boothman's father, Jack, was of course the President of the Association and a man that did so much to put West Wicklow football on the map; the Shannons, the Quinns, the Finnegans, Sargents, Hanlon, O'Donoghue, O'Hagans - all names to be found in the pages of history.
Paddy Lennon was a nephew of a great man of the same name who played for Donard, Wicklow and Leinster. The captain, Pat O'Toole, was carving out his own place in the history books that day as he had already captained Dunlavin to victory in 1981. His father, Jimmy, also played for Dunlavin, Donard and Wicklow.
All in all a team of great young men dedicated to putting the town back on the map.
Chris O'Connor also sent a text to say it was a Blessington team but no more information - the old army saying applied: 'no names - no pack drill'.
May Nolan from Knocknadruce, Valleymount, also rang and was able to name most of that team.
The men in the picture were - back row (from left): Dermot Hennessy, Ciarán Shannon, Paddy Sargent, Shay Sargent, Paddy Lennon, Paddy Quinn, Ronan Hennessy, Pat Quinn. Front: Martin Shannon, Bob Boothman, Kevin Hanlon, Pat O'Toole, Patsy O'Donoghue, Tommie O'Hagan and John Finnegan.
Some equally well known names in the subs that day included Martin Shannon, Rasy O'Donnell (R.I.P.), Peter Daly (brother of the great Fergus), Tom Hennessy, Barry Finnegan, Andy Doran, Glen Walsh, Paddy Brophy and Martin Hennessy. They beat Baltinglass 1-10 to 1-6 in the final.
Question: On the Blessington team that beat Wicklow in the 1915 final, played in Laragh in July, 1916, was an E. Fitzsimons. Was he any relation to the man who supplied us with the names of the 1983 team?
When new County Chairman Martin Coleman invited the clubs of the county to an 'open forum' in the County Buildings on Monday night what he had in mind was to give the people that mattered most in the county the chance to discuss the state of the games as they saw them at the moment and to come up with suggestions for change, should change be needed.
Should the clubs decide that a new way forward is needed, then Martin is determined to have the clubs' representatives with him on that journey. The 'Corner' was put together before that meeting took place so we are not at this point in time in a position to tell you much about what happened at the meeting.
However, we can guess that one subject near and dear to the hearts of most club mentors is fixtures. And fixtures can hardly be discussed without the format of our major championships also getting an airing. In the past when there was concern about the state of the games in the county the problem was tackled by setting up a special committee, or even a commission, to look into the matter and to come back with suggestions to improve matters.
I doubt that that road is available to Martin, at least not in the short term. The new man driving the fixtures vehicle is Mick Hagan and if I know the St. Patrick's clubman he has already made a start on his programme for 2013, so if there is any major change in format it may have to be in the long term.
Anyway this may be an opportune time to look at some of the more recent changes in the championship format and how they have worked out. One thing that we have heard many times in the past and are hearing again now is that we have too many Senior football clubs in the county, and too few in Senior hurling. We will deal with the football end first.
Around the start of 1992 this was a hot subject and the 'Wicklow People' ran two separate articles on the subject. One was by well-known writer Jim Brophy, a man well equipped to speak on the subject. He won a Junior football championship with Baltinglass back in 1943, was Secretary of the Baltinglass club and later of Bray Emmets club and the North District Board. He was also a candidate for county Secretary at one stage but was beaten on a vote by George Nicholls. In addition he had been covering matches for the 'Wicklow People' for over 40 years at that stage so he certainly knew his subject inside out.
The article was headed 'Fewer but better senior teams must be the aim'. It reads: 'Of the 37 clubs in Wicklow there are at least 20 that will never win a Wicklow senior football championship, because their numbers are too small to produce enough footballers of senior calibre. The same applies to counties - there are many who are always going to find it difficult simply because they haven't the footballing population. There are also other areas in Wicklow where other games dominate and as a result the GAA population will be smaller than lesser towns and villages. So, the obvious thing to do is to have a lot less clubs of a much higher quality. Should we forget about place names and give them titles like the Dublin clubs or like the Michael Dwyers who nearly made the county final last year?
'I mentioned this in a previous article and I told I was talking through my hat. A lot of people believe that villages and towns in Wicklow won't come together to form senior teams. Maybe that's the thought of the man on the street, but I have absolutely no doubt that there would be enough people in most areas who would be quite willing to have a go.'
As you have probably guessed by now, Brophy was building up to plugging the 'Kerry system' as the cure for all of Wicklow's ills. We will bring you more of that article next week as well as Jim's suggestions for possible group teams in Wicklow.
The new referees' co-ordinator in Wicklow is Damien Byrne, Kiltegan, and like all of Martin's new men he is on the ball straight away. He intends to recruit new referees as quickly as possible and has set up a training course to get them off on the right foot.
He has sent out a letter asking clubs to put forward names of people who wish to take up refereeing within the county for the year ahead. There will be a course starting early February for beginners and we appeal to all clubs to discuss this within their own club and seek personnel for this course. He wants all names back in by Friday, January 25. They should be sent to County Office at Vale Road, Arklow.
WHERE WERE THEE IN 83?
The first copy of the Wicklow People on 7th January 30 years ago devoted a full page to setting the stage for the county G.A.A. Convention, due to be held in Roundwood on the Sunday. Pat Murphy had served four years as Chairman but rumours were rife that he was not going to stand again.
Chief reporter N.J. Lawlor wrote that Murphy was still undecided but after going through the list of nominees tipped yours truly to succeed him. He got that one right but of the list of seven nominees only three allowed their names to go forward. The other two were Andy O'Neill, long-serving Chairman of the South Board, and John Coogan, Chairman of the Blessington club.
To finish that one on a sad note, people nominated for positions at the Convention that are no longer with us include - the President, Hugh Byrne; Central Council rep., Billy Lawless; the aforementioned Andy O'Neill, one of the great characters of the time; Paddy Sullivan of Carnew; Pat Murphy, Tinahely; Tom Loftus, Bray Emmets, and the longserving Arklow man Pat Kinsella.
WHERE WERE THEE IN 63?
Now there is an interesting year for you and one that we expect to get a lot of mileage from.
For starters we can tell you that the championship winners in football that year were Baltinglass, Enniskerry, Valleymount and Annacurra. In hurling it was St. Kevin's, Bray Emmets and Carnew.
So if anyone from any of the seven clubs would like to get in touch we would very much like to hear your story of success and how it was achieved.
For starters we can tell you that Pat 'Rasher' Roche had a great game for Wicklow in the first round of the SFC in Croke Park in May of that year. The team that was well beaten by Louth lined out as follows: Andy Phillips; Joe Fitzpatrick, Pat Roche, Ollie Lawlor; Tommy Clarke, John Connell, Danny Byrne; Jim Coats, Mick Keddy; Willie Cuffe, Tom McGee, Peter Clarke; Andy Cullen, Bobby Nolan, Jimmy Hatton.
The Minor team, beaten by Louth that May day was: D. Doyle (Aughrim); J. Ward (Ashford), Seamus McDonald (Rathnew), J. Kirwan (Enniskerry); Donal Keenan (Aughrim), S. McGrath (Arklow), Brian Carthy (Ashford); Paddy Bolger (Valleymount), John Coogan (Blessington); Andrew Buchanan (Baltinglass), Seán Doyle (Carnew), Lar Norton (Baltinglass); Joe Chadwick (Enniskerry), P. Keogh (Carnew), D. McLoughlin (Bray Emmets).
Ailish Cuddihy R.I.P.: The death occurred last Wednesday of Ailish Cuddihy of Kilkenny, mother of our own Dr. Brendan Cuddihy. The Cuddihy family were steeped in the Gaelic tradition and particularly in hurling. Brendan's father, Kieran, was Medical Officer with the Kilkenny Senior hurling team from 1950 to 1983 when he was replaced by another son, Bill. Brendan is Medical Officer with the Wicklow County Board of the G.A.A. and does tremendous work for both hurling and football at club and county level. Our sympathy to Brendan and the extended Cuddihy family of Greystones and Kilkenny on their very sad loss.
Magdalen Coyle R.I.P.: I lost my own G.P. at the weekend with the death of Magdalen Coyle. Magdalen came from a Northern Ireland family with deep roots in the G.A.A. in Fermanagh and Antrim. However, she spent most of her working life in Baltinglass and loved the Slaneyside town. Our sympathy to her husband Malachy, sons, daughter and extended family.
Sally O'Byrne-Matheson R.I.P.: Kiltegan and the surrounding area was shocked to hear of the death of Sally O'Byrne Matheson at the weekend. Sally also came from a strong G.A.A. background. Her late husband, Fiach, was on the Rathdangan team that brought the first SFC medal to this area back in 1930. Her son, Andy, and nephews, Michael, Ben and John Lennon, were also deeply involved as players and mentors with the Kiltegan club. Her funeral took place on Sunday morning after Requiem Mass in Talbotstown Church to Tynaclash Cemetery. Our sympathy to her husband Rod, son, daughters and extended family.
Mick Baker R.I.P.: The last remaining link with the great Ballinacor tean of the 1940s and early '50s was severed with the death of Mick Baker at the week end. A native of Ballydavid in Kerry, Mick came as a young teacher to Wicklow in 1948, was straight away drafted into the Ballinacor and Wicklow teams and served both, first as a powerful midfielder and later at full-back.
He was laid to rest in Greenane Cemetary amongst many of the men he was proud to call team-mates. To his wife Martha, his sons Pat, Kevin, Michael and Brendan, daughters Joan and Martha and extended family we tender our sympathy. May they all rest in peace.