PHEW! What a start to the New Year! We have just reached the end of the first full week in January and I for one am starting to feel weak at the knees already.
Six inter-county matches, three in senior and three in U-21 football - and this is what we once called the 'closed season'. Heaven help us when the real action starts up.
Anyway the action has, overall been good; the weather has behaved and while all the results did not go our way, sure we can't have everything.
Did I read something about player burn out lately? What about us? Do we not count at all?
At this rate of going we will have been through what used to be our annual quota of GAA matches before St Patrick's Day!
Where are they now?
The team in last week's paper was the Baltinglass men of 1965 and what made them unique was the fact that they kicked off the first three-in-a-row in Senior football in the Slaneyside town.
In fact it was the first time that a club west of the hills had landed three titles in a row in Senior football, to this day Baltinglass are still one of only three clubs to bring home three or more Senior football title in a row.
The other two are Rathnew who did it a number of times and St Patrick's.
Annacurra are credited in most records with winning the first three titles ever decided in 1887, '88 and '89.
But when Jim Brophy was compiling the 1984 history of Wicklow GAA he found evidence that a club called Clara won a title in 1888 and since he was unable to disprove that, he settled for dividing the title of that year between Annacurra and Clara, in the belief that there could have been two finals played.
Baltinglass had just won their third title that year, which was enough to give then a special place in the West Wicklow record books. It had put them one ahead of Rathdangan who had won two titles in the 1930's but still left them trailing Donard who had won six titles. The only other Senior titles to cross the hills to the west were won by Blessington in 1915 and Granabeg (Valleymount) in 1923.
The Donard record of six did not last that much longer; Baltinglass equalled it in 1971 when they beat Carnew in the final and then went out on their own a year later when they beat another West team Dunlavin in the final.
Since then Baltinglass raised the bar even higher with an eight-in-a-row and are now in second place in the table behind Rathnew with 21 titles.
The men in the picture
Back row: Bill Nolan, Ken Browne, Bobby Nolan, John Rogers, Noel Scott, Charlie Connell, Andrew Buchannan, John Connell and Ned Nolan.
Front: Billy Wall, Pat Rogers, Lar Norton, Johnny, Tom Scott, Jim O'Keeffe, Tony Norton.
The second picture
The other picture in last week's issue recalls another unique moment in history.
The two men in deep concentration behind their desk at the Wicklow Convention of 1991 both served as Presidents of the Association.
In fact they were the only two Wicklow men to reach the summit in the Association they served so long and so well.
Hugh Byrne, the teacher from Rathcoyle, became the first Wicklow man to be elected President in 1961 after he had served as player or mentor at club, county and provincial level on his way to the top.
Jack Boothman followed in Hugh's footsteps, starting out with his native Blessington and progressing along almost the same path to the very top.
Both were able and very popular leaders and did much to lift the profile of Wicklow at national level. But how often did they sit behind the same table?
Not too often I would guess, so this may be a rare enough picture.
The case for the group team
by Jim Brophy Continuing with the case for the group team as made by Jim Brophy over 20 years ago we should forget about the traditional place names and go for some like Michael Dwyers, St Mary's, St Nicholas, perhaps Corbett Gaels instead: "Many years ago in South Kerry a district team from the area was formed and won their first county championship. It was an area where there were sharp divisions for many years, but five years earlier a group of men of vision had managed to bring them together to build a team and put all the divisions behind them and brought county honours to the area.
From that team Kerry got men like Jerome O'Shea, Mick O'Dwyer, Mick O'Connell, and many others who were to wear the Kerry jersey with distinction. Group teams have been dominating the Kerry SFC ever since".
That was over 20 years ago and Jim went on to suggest possible workable groups in Wicklow: "Take Arklow as an example, in the area we have ARP, Arklow Geraldines Ballymoney and Avoca.
The interest it would generate in Arklow to have a Senior football team of their own, while these lads could still be available to their clubs.
Take places like Valleymount, Hollywood and Donard - why shouldn't they have a Senior team. Let's hope someone other than Michael Dwyers will have the courage to have a go.
North Wicklow is one place where it is badly needed because we have now only one Senior team in the area."
We will move on from that because a number of clubs that Jim mentioned like Bray Emmets, Newtown, Greystones and Kilcoole have since being fielding Senior teams, so progress has been made without the group team. He finished with this comment: "A lot of people may say that this can't be done. I say it MUST be done if the GAA in the county is to survive".
That was the opinion of a man that was born and bred into the GAA and spent a lifetime following the game. What do you think?
Paul Garrigan is on the warpath early this year and wants to remind Juvenile mentors, in particular anyone over U-15 football teams that Development Squads are being put in place at present. The county U-15 football trials will take place on Saturday
February 19. These trials will take place in Laragh at 11am. Can all clubs please inform all players of these trials? Further trials will take place the following week for players who cannot make trials on Saturday.
Please note all players must be born in 1998 and this must be their final year playing at U-15 level. It is very important that all clubs send their best players as this is a new squad the county are preparing for 2013.
Please contact Paul at the number below if you have any queries in relation to
the trials or if players cannot attend. Paul Garrigan, Wicklow GDA - 0834366801
We got this question from a north Wicklow reader. Name the player who won three championship medals with his club in 2012?
Referees Training Course
New referees coordinator Damien Byrne is not letting the grass grow under his feet. He has refresher courses for existing refs and training for beginners coming up at follows -
Referees in service course: for all present referees will take place on Tuesday February 12 in the county grounds at 7.30pm sharp, it is important that all referees attend
Referees Beginners coarse for hurling and football will commence on February 19 and run for three nights: 19th, 26th February and March 5, all starting at 7.30pm sharp so please get your name into county office a.s.a.p. or contact Damien Byrne on 087 6792761
As was reported previously county management pledged during 2012 that they would support clubs wishing to take part in this historical approach towards communities remembering their families and friends that have left them over the years.
Nationwide the interest in this occasion is growing by the day and supporting this interest Wicklow GAA have a committee in place with County Development officer Andy O'Brien as chairman and newly elected Cultural Officer Ray Menton as secretary, a committee coming from clubs throughout the county, including Cllr. Tom Fortune
With the support of the CCC committee it is proposed to allow the June Bank Holiday weekend be fixtures free as far as possible, devoting the three days to marking the gathering at club and county level.
At club level the committee is suggesting to clubs to hold a La nag Club on the Bank Holiday Monday, a very successful day of activities they held in the past however on this occasion they may wish to invite clubs from England, Europe or further afield if they so wish.
It is hoped that again clubs would use this weekend to promote their clubs and their facilities, involving young and old.
At county level the fixtures committee is inviting clubs to participate in a weekend competition held over the Saturday and the finals on Sunday in the county grounds.
At this stage Andy O'Brien at a recent forum meeting invited clubs to participate in the Gathering weekend by them inviting a club from abroad if they wished, possibly some clubs may wish to invite both a Juvenile group along with a adult group to their parish.
Some clubs are considering renewing their relationships developed during Feile Competitions over the years, a competition which created great friendships.
So as we enter the year of the Gathering, the Wicklow GAA organising committee encourage clubs to take part, the format and extent is not the important thing rather community involvement with a thought for those that are away either by choice or necessity.
The committee acknowledges the work that some clubs have completed to date in relation to the Gathering '13, and wish clubs to contact them if they feel the committee can be of any help to them, as the occasion is celebrated at both club and county levels it is important that celebrations are completed within the agreed budget.
The general view within GAA circles is that the Garden County will remember their members and friends that are away and where possible invite some of them to be involved in their celebrations, whether the team that won a championship 20 years ago, or where possible all members are here in Ireland, that feile team that stayed in the local community years ago, a group from England, a video link from "a distance" to a club event, or a recorded message.
Where were thee in '93?
In the month of January that year they were celebrating in Blessington and had a sell-out crowd at their dinner dance in the Downshire House Hotel. Guest of honour was Wicklow 'Footballer of the Year' Kevin O'Brien.
There was a great picture of Kevin with Catherine Gorman, his own sister Ann and her partner Paddy Quinn.
While Blessington did not know it at the time they were standing on the threshold of what was, arguably, to be the greatest year in the Club's history. However that story will hold for another day.
For many years we have been told that you can't run an U-21 championship in Wicklow and we take that for granted.
Twenty years ago the U-21 football championship was going great guns in the month of February, the standard of football was good and the playing conditions prompted the scribe in the 'Wicklow People' to write: "Playing conditions were very good, just goes to show that fixtures can't be made by the calendar; you designate mid-winter as a closed season and the sun shines; Spring is here you say, it's time to start up and what happens - the rain, the frost and even the snow appears again".
Playing for Michael Dwyers in a big win over Tinahely were Sean Hughes, Stephen Carroll, Michael Boland, Alan Carthy; Pat Tracey, Denis Kinsella, Lorcan Byrne, Joe Clancy, John O'Toole, John Harmon, Paul Whelan, Eugene Canna, Michael Foley, Gerry Boland and Damien Byrne.
Stars on the Tinahely team that day included Nicky Murphy, Brian Moran, Peter Behan, Conor O'Dare, Ciaran Kenny, Anthony Murphy, Sean Kenny, James Mulhall and John Gahan.
Jane Byrne R.I.P.
The death of Jeanie Byrne at an advanced age in Baltinglass Hospital on Sunday removed one of the last links with the great Rathdangan team of the 1930's. Her husband John Byrne was a key player on that team.
'Long Johnny' as he was fondly known to all was one of the finest midfielders of the time and ruled the middle when Rathdangan brought home SFC titles to the little village in 1930 and '36. Jane was interred in Cranareen cemetery on Tuesday after requiem Mass in Killamoat church
We extend our sympathy to daughter Mary and extended family
May she rest in peace.