What a disaster the Armagh trip was
What can we say about our trip to Armagh on Sunday – A total disaster – and I believe you will find that word used elsewhere in this paper today.
Harry and his team were shattered and words of conciliation were of little help.
The disastrous six point turnover in Aughrim two weeks ago when we missed a penalty and conceded a freak goal was trumped on this occasion with the concession of two goals inside three minutes of the start.
What mortal sin did we commit to anger the gods of sport to this extent?
I must admit that I did not see the foul that brought the penalty but I am told it was jersey pulling off the ball, a harsh but correct decision by the referee.
It did not earn a card of any colour but it is the sort of foul that the black card, which will be in use next year is intended to stamp out.
We live and we learn, all we can do now is get on with the job and build for the future
A CLARION CALL
Action is required, not words
I received the following gmail from Gerald Tallon on Sunday night and perhaps it is about the best way to approach the problems that recent results on the football have exposed.
'I want to say a big thank you to the occupants of a silver coloured WW reg. car which passed me going south on the M1 in the vicinity of Dundalk on (this) Sunday evening. (They were within the speed limit because I was being passed by numerous cars!).
As so often in the last 60 years of supporting Wicklow, my mood could be described as being somewhat south of elated. My thanks for two things: firstly, the Wicklow flag was flying from the rear left window and, secondly, the colour reminded that the cloud over our Senior football has a silver lining.
Now I hope one or more young people were in that car and flying that flag because this showed the hope of youth.
I say to them: don't ever lose your hope. That boy who died in Kerry recently should be an example to all of us. But I say, also, those who have it in their power to do something, will do all in their power to justify your faith in the future of Wicklow football.
And now I would ask those who have this power to consider the following.
In my own experience everything that has been tried has failed. Do we blame the players? The clubs? The management? The County Board? All those activists who do their best, year in and year out? Most definitely not. The blame lies in flaws in structure of the process in which they work.
Why, then, do very similar processes and structures work in other counties? – because as I've said before in these columns: success breeds success. And their past successes carry them through the rough times. But in Wicklow we must create the pre-conditions for success. How?
Much has been done in the county and considerable paths to future success are already in place. Nevertheless, the system is, sadly, flawed. Nothing less than a thorough examination with remedies based upon the findings will suffice. All previous attempts have, sadly, failed. And this is through nobody's fault.
In previous submissions I have alluded to the particular difficulties that have dogged efforts in the past. My proposal, now, is that the County Board should seek suggestions from all involved whether as groups or individuals; none should be excluded. I would like to make one further suggestion at this point.
I would urge the County Board to ask the Provincial Council to appoint a number of highly experienced and completely independent and respected persons to collect, analyse and prepare a report based upon the material they have examined and present it to the County Board with their findings and recommendations attached.
All material submitted would have to contain the name and address of the persons or groups submitting the suggestions; if individuals wished to maintain their privacy that should not be a problem. However, all material submitted would have to be included in the final report; names could be blacked out if individuals so wished.
In the many questions that I have set out over the past two months or so, I have again and again indicated my view that only a root and branch inquiry could satisfy the needs of our chronic ailments. I hold the officers of the County Board in the highest regard. Their work is not to blame; rather, they have little chance of success if the basis of operations is flawed. They hold the key to future success of the county. And to justify the hopes of those young people in that car near Dundalk earlier this evening!'
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
A fine bunch of men and no doubt about it. That was one of the comments we got on the team that appeared in last week's paper. A line of six foot plus men at the back while the fellows in the front were never caught for size or strength either.
And they could play football, make no mistake about that. They were the men that came closest of all to getting us our first win in a Senior football championship match in Croke park and if they had pulled it off it would have been rated one of the greatest shocks ever in the great stadium.
They were in fact the Wicklow team that played a draw with Meath in Croke Park on the 14th of July 1991.
What made the result such a surprise was that Meath had just beaten the Dubs at the fourth attempt in a first round match that year and the men from the Royal County were expected to cruise through the rest of the Leinster Championship, beating Laois by 1-11 to 0-8 in the final
THE MEN IN THE PICTURE
Back row : Hugh Kenny, Pat Baker, Phillip Healy, David Gordan, John Walsh, Pat O'Byrne, Fergus Daly. Front: Paul Allen, Thomas Keogh, Terry Allen, Billy Kenny, Conan Daye, Ashley O'Sullivan, Mick Murtagh and Kevin O'Brien.
A look at the subs on that team is enough to convince me that there was no scarcity of big men around at the time. They included - Thomas English; Donal Lenihan, Paul Kenny, John Traynor, Padraig Dalton, Kiaran Finn and Pat Mahon. The selectors must have had great faith in goalie John Walsh because there was now substitute goalie listed on the programme.
That team deserve their place in history, along side of the men of 54 or the team deprived of a place in a leinster final by that great last minute save by John O'Leary from Pat O'Byrne.
WHEN WE WERE CHAMPIONS!
Did I hear someone recently say that Wicklow never won a Leinster Senior Football Championship? Well I came across a little story recently that contradicts that. Wicklow were in fact Leinster champions, not once but twice. Their problem appeared to be holding on to the title.
In the early days there was no provincial councils but there was a provincial championship which was run, like everything else at the time by the central council.
The system appeared to be to run off the Leinster championship, at least in the closing stages as a one-day blitz with both semi-finals and the final played at the same venue. 1889 Wicklow, represented by Bray Emmets beat Louth in the semi-final at Inchicore.
The other semi-final between Kilkenny and Laois was to follow but when neither side turned up it was assumed that both had withdraw, something that was not unheard of at the time.
Wicklow were declared champions and went home to celebrate. Four days later the central council held a meeting and re-admitted Laois and Louth- no mention of Kilkenny.
In the re-arranged semi-final Laois beat Wicklow by 0-9 to 0-4 and went on to beat Louth - again at Inchicore in the final.
The official result was Laois (Portlaoise) 0-3; Louth (Newtown Blues) 0-2. So Wicklow were Leinster champions that year for four days.
Eight years later Wicklow went one better – or to be more exact three days better when they were recognised champions of Leinster for a week.
The 1897 Leinster final between Wicklow and Dublin was fixed for Jones' Road on October 30th 1898 along with a Hurling match between Galway and Kilkenny.
The weather must have been something like what we experienced earlier this year; Torrential rain reduced the pitch to a quagmire, and though the hurling match went ahead the Dublin team, assuming that the football final would not be played lelt the park.
No mobile phones at that time but the Wicklow team, unaware that there was no opposition togged out and took the field.
The referee Mr L Stanley, Louth (not the Larry Stanley of Kildare fame) awarded the match – and the title to Wicklow.
They were champions for a week but then the central council over turned the referee's decision and refixed the final for November 13th. Wicklow at first refused to play but relented and the game finally went on at Jones' Road in December with Dublin winning by 1-9 to 0-3.
That still remains in the history books as Wicklow's one and only appearance in a Leanster final but few realise that they had been champions for a week that year.
For the fourth time this year Wicklow teams and supporters paid a visit to Derry at the weekend. This time it was to contest the national festival of U-14 football and our representives were the champions in boys football, Blessington and in girls football, St Patrick's of Wicklow and Tinahely also travelled as a second team in boys football.
Up to now the trips have been somewhat disappointing, that is with the exception of sampling the wonderful hospitality of the great people of the Oak Leaf County. The team that represented us at Congress had a motion that Wicklow Co Board wanted passed but we failed to deliver.
Our Senior hurlers paid two visits the banks of the Foyle but lost on both occasions.
However all was well and truelly forgotten this time and our wee boys and girls did their clubs and the county proud on the biggest weekend of their lives.
Our flagship team, Blessington, went through to the final of Division 3 at Celtic Park on Sunday.
While they lost by four points to Clonmel Commercials they did club and county proud.
The girls from St Patrick's won three matches but were beaten in the semi-final of Division 3c; Tinahely had a great run in Division 6 but they too were beaten in the semi-final. Was this our best ever Football Feile?
FEILE NA NGAEL
This coming weekend it is the turn of our hurlers, camogie players and handballers to take part in Feile na nGael down in Limerick.
Michael Dwyers represent the county in hurling while neighbours Knockananna carry the torch for camogie.
We wish both teams the best of luck.
PAT LAWLESS R.I.P.
Wicklow GAA lost one of its greatest servants with the death of Pat Lawless at the weekend.
Pat lost a short but hectic battle for life in St Vincent's Hospital on Saturday morning, surrounded by his devoted wife and family.
Pat started his playing career in juvenile football with Ashford and in hurling with Glenealy.
He wore the Blue and Gold of Wicklow in football and was a key player on the only team to bring the Wicklow Senior football championship to Ashford in 1974.
He was an officer and life long member and supporter of the Ashford Club. He served on the County Board as Vice Chairman and Chairman of the Activities before becoming County Chairman in 1995, '96 and '97.
During his years in office, either as Chairman of Activities or the County Board Pat was responsible for many innovations, including the Lazerline League which was sponsored by his own firm.
He was the first to organise a County Youth Seminar in the county in his first year in office.
Winning the O'Byrne Cup and gaining promotion from Division 4 were highlights of his second year in office.
Setting up the first development squads and seeing a great Minor team reach a Leinster final in 1997 gave Pat hope for the future in his last year in office and when his time come to step down he was proud to hand over a county in good condition, both in playing numbers and financially to his vice chairman Mick O'Hagan.
Even in retirement Pat's love of the GAA never waned and in more recent years he returned to serve as Chairman of the Hearings Committee and was secretary of the County Juvenile committee this year.
All Juvenile matches in the county were cancelled as a mark of respect while the management committee of the County Board formed a guard of honour at his removal on Monday.
To his Wife Trudy, son, daughters brothers and extended family we extend our sympathy
May he rest in peace.