Little action on the inter-county front
Little action on the inter-county front other than a few friendly matches but some snippets of good news.
Top of that list is the return of Seanie Furlong to Harry's football fold. The Kiltegan sharp shooter was back training under Mick Murray this week and apparently has
put his plans to return to his first love, hurling, on hold.
Next came the news that Conor McGraynor would be returning to training this week and that as soon as his college commitments ends he will be giving Wicklow his full commitment at both U-21 and Senior level.
Conor was one of the scorers when DCU beat UCD in the Sigerson Cup during the week so he is clearly in good shape and ready to go when Harry gives him the nod. Tipperary man Brian Coen was also spotted at training during the week so the help that the team badly need could be on the way.
A full forward line of Seanie Furlong, Conor McGraynor and Brendan McCrea could look a winner on paper, the question is would they gel as a team - one never knows.
Another spot of good news at the weekend was the selection of James Stafford on the Leinster Inter-Provincial team - no player deserved it more.
He adds one more name to the long list of Wicklow players that have now worn the Leinster jersey with pride.
Stafford did not get on the starting 15 but he did come on as a substitute and got some game time and the best news of all is that the team won.
So all his fans can head for Croke Park next week and hope to see him play in the Inter-Provincial final.
With the Hurlers
Casey O'Brien's hurlers hold centre stage this weekend as they launch their campaign in the NHL.
The trip to Derry is certainly a tough one at the best of times and one that Wicklow never relished in the past although we did have some good results in the Oak Leaf County.
While the injury list is a fairly hefty one and at the moment still growing, Casey still has a strong panel and will certainly not be making the trip to Ulster just for the scenery.
His team was fairly much under strength when they took on London in a challenge on Sunday but hopes are high that key players like Ronan Keddy, Andy O'Brien, Jonathan O'Neill and Stephen Kelly may have recovered sufficiently to take their place on the team.
It would be a help if Casey and his men had a little support but then we have to be realistic and say that not too many could make the journey at the present time.
Ronnie Phillips and Damien Byrne continue to prepare the U-21 footballers for their debut in the championship.
Certainly this team can't complain about lack of matches. They have already played in two tournaments, winning a cup in Carlow and on Sunday last they had a challenge match against Limerick. While it must be said that the form of the team is somewhat erratic at present, they do have a fair bit of talent and the management team which also includes Pat Wogan and Donal O'Keeffe are quite hopeful that they can make an impression in the championship this year. They play the winners of the Laois v. Offaly match at an away venue on Wednesday, March 6.
Where are they now?
A good response to last week's picture which was the Dunlavin team that crashed the success barrier in the Senior football championship for the first time in 1977.
First in with the correct answer and some information was Anne Marie Nolan from Blessington. How, I asked myself, did a Blessington lady know so much about Dunlavin. I dug a little deeper and found that she was a member of a great sporting Dwyer family from Dunlavin.
Next in was Tony Allen and that came as no surprise. Tony had played football at all levels for the club, was chairman for a number of years and had three brothers in the picture.
Willie Hedderman from Tinahely had a go but while he could name a few in the picture, notably his New York friend Pat O'Toole and Jimmy Kirwan, he was not on the ball.
My old friend Tommy Glynn also had a go at sorting out a west Wicklow team in the following email: "Peter you are taking it easy on us again, the photo last week is good Dunlavin team, the one that won the 1977 championship. At a guess, they beat St. Pat's in the final. I won't name them all but I see the Daynes brothers, the Englishs, the Allens, Brendan Cunningham, Larry Miley, Bill Byrne, Eamonn Dunne, two of my old friends Willie Whelan and Tommy Foley and the great Pat O'Toole.
They don't make them like that anymore, how we could do with a Whelan, Cunningham, Foley or O'Toole at the moment.
Peter did you know a Glenealy lad. Michael Doyle rambled up around Dunlavin in the early 80s with a few hurls and a sliotar and showed them a few hurling skills.
They were quick learners and won the Jjunior hurling title in 1982 when they beat Newcastle. Michael was on the 1974 Ashford football team and Glenealy 1975 hurling team that won Senior championships".
Anyway this was a very special Dunlavin team that have cemented their place in history.
There is nothing that can ever equal a first and unless my memory is playing tricks on me that was the greatest night ever in what Jim Brophy once called the 'Town like a T'.
All traffic through the town was halted; if you were heading to or from the plains of Kildare you simply had to take a detour.
Few people did, even strangers decided to stop to see what all the fuss was about and then decided to stay for the fun. Dunlavin had battled long and hard to achieve their goal; Jimmy Whittle's book 'The Sons of St Nicholas' tells us that the first GAA club was formed in the town in 1890 with an ancestor of his own Joseph Whittle as the first captain and Thomas Roche as vice-captain.
Expectations were high even then but they were to suffer many setbacks and experienced many disappointments down the years. Like other areas in west and south Wicklow Dunlavin benefited hugely from the advent of second level education.
Most of the players that have figured on Dunlavin teams over the last 50 years were products of the Vocational School, now known as St Kevin's Post Primary College.
Football at county level as well as locally has been the real winner and owes a debt of gratitude to the teachers in St Kevin's and all other such schools around the county. Many great players like Kit Carroll and his brothers; the Deerings, the Fays, the Cunninghams, Whelans, Corrigans, Christies, Kellys, Brophys, Lawlors, Christy Archibold,
Jim Coates, Jimmy O'Toole, Mick Murphy, Jim and Ted Higgins, 'Doc' Laverty, the Carey brothers and teacher Kevin O'Rourke were just some of the men who laid the foundations for the players of the seventies to build on.
A few things worth noting about the men in the picture: first of all, as Tony Allen pointed out, four have gone to their eternal reward - Tommy and Dick Allen, Bill Byrne and the manager Gerry Moore.
Dick Allen was one of the most promising young players in the county and had played both football and hurling for Wicklow. He died tragically in a drowning accident in Australia while a teenager.
Tom Foley, a nephew of the great Kit Carroll, was a leader on and off the playing field. He played all grades of football for Wicklow, managed and trained teams in many clubs and counties and was chairman of the Dunlavin club for many years.
Willie Whelan was a colleague of Foley on the Wicklow team that won the All-Ireland JFC (home) final in 1969 and is still an active member of the club.
Jimmy Kirwan - another county player that has contributed even more as a teacher and promoter of the game in Carnew post primary school and at county level.
Brendan Cunningham's son Paul is a member of the current Wicklow Senior football team.
Pat O'Toole - probably the greatest of them all.
Made his own piece of history when he moved to live in Blessington and also captained them to win the Miley Cup.
It was a never-to-be-forgotten night in the border town. Jimmy Whittle, the long serving club secretary, wrote the story in his club history and I don't believe I have ever read anything like it.
Almost ninety years of hard slog, of toil and torment, of setback and disappointment had been put to bed, the glorious sun of victory was beaming brightly over Dunlavin.
One other unusual feature about Dunlavin at that time; the club was run almost exclusively by the players themselves.
Gerry Moore was about the only none playing member to hold any of the top officer jobs. Tom Foley was chairman and trainer; Liam Burke was the secretary, Billy Walsh and Pat Esmonde were joint treasurers while Foley, Gerry Moore and Willie Whelan were the selectors.
The men in the picture
Back Row - l to r - Gerry Moore (manager); Tommy Foley, Larry Miley, Jimmy Kirwan, Joe English, Brendan Cunningham; Pat Esmonde, Dick Allen, Tommy Allen, Ger Deegan, Bill Byrne.
Front - Charlie Daynes, Eamonn Dunne, Johnny Allen Sean Daynes, Pat O'Toole (capt), Willie Whelan, Tom Corrigan, Billy Walsh, Denis Birchall, Tommy English.
Footnote: Two players involved in that great victory are not in the picture - they are Pat Kelly and Pat Corrigan.
Just a few snippets we picked up from the programme of the that 1977 final.
Did you know that when East District beat Kilbride in the Senior football championship in 1977 the top scorer for Kilbride was Tony McLoughlin.
Tony is grandfather to the three McLoughlin brothers on the present Wicklow team and still one of Wicklow's greatest supporters.
That Esther Byrne from Moyne, Ballymanus had just claimed her place in history by becoming the first girl to win a championship medal in boys hurling with Kiltegan.
A few years ago Esther's niece Anna Byrne upstaged her aunt by becoming the last girl to play boys championship hurling at U-14 level in Wicklow when the powers that be brought in a rule banning girls from playing hurling above the age of 12.
That Sean Doherty was the only Wicklow man to captain an All-Ireland winning team and take the Sam Maguire Cup. That happened in 1974 when the late Kevin Heffernan chose the Glenealy man to lead the charge to put the Dubs back on the road to victory.
Calling the 'Rocks'
This email from an Arklow lady, clearly a hurling fan and supporter of the Arklow Rocks Club: "My name is Dymphna Keogh and I'm always reading your page on old photos from the past.
I'm emailing to ask you do you have any photos of the Arklow Rocks when they were playing in the early days. I have been told that my father Alan Byrne played with them and would like to see a photo of it".
Anyone down there around the Rock or Ballynattin able to come to our aid?
"I read your article dated February 6 in relation to the five brothers playing Senior championship on the same team.
The five Heffernan brothers represented Avondale on several and many occasions in Senior hurling championship for Avondale and also football.
This has happened on numerous occasions over the years and the same brothers are still playing away with Avondale. Their names are Trevor, Eugene, Ian, Niall and Clive. If you wish I can send you some photographs".
That was an email received from Ian Heffernan of Avondale. Of course he is dead right and I will certainly be delighted to take up his offer of photographs. Any other brothers out there that can equal, or beat, the Allens and the Heffernans?
Get Well Wishes
Two great ladies of the GAA have been ill recently but thankfully the news is that both are on the recovery list at the moment.
Ann may not have been known as a player in her day, anyway there was no ladies football at that time, but all her lifetime she has been a tower of strength to her husband Pat and family and has done a power of good work in the background - the sort that no one ever sees, that never makes the headlines but is hugely important at the same time.
Ann had a serious heart operation in St James's recently but thankfully is now on the road to recovery.
Kathleen did play camogie for Kiltegan but it was for her backup to husband Mervyn, son Gavin and her four daughters in their sporting activities that she has made a long and lasting impression.
The work she does behind the scenes is, as they say, nobody's business but she is always there when the GAA, the community or the club needs her.
Kathleen has also been very seriously ill but she too is now on the road to recovery.
We wish both ladies a speedy return to full health.