Tuesday 16 January 2018

Smiles back on Wicklow supporters' faces

A good day in Dr Hyde on Sunday, at least that was the general verdict; nice to see the smile back on the faces of Wicklow supporters for a change.

We could have got a win but in the end Harry and everyone else were happy to settle for a divide of the spoils.

At least we have got the duck egg off the chart and that's more than Kerry have managed. Have we turned the corner? Far too early to say but now Harry does appear to have something to build on.

A few more weeks to get some of the injury problems cleared up and get late comers like Seanie Furlong, Jacko and a few others up to full fitness and the bid should be under way to hold on to our place in Division 3.

Over all it was no more than Wicklow deserved. When the sides met in Division 4 in Aughrim two years ago, both seeking promotion the boot was on the other foot and it was the man that Staff was marking, Kevin Higgins that booted home the winning goal in the dying minutes to mortally damage Wicklow's hopes of promotion.

Sunday's hero Jacko Dalton has more reason than most to remember that day in Aughrim. He had to leave the field injured for the first time in his life. That was very early on and his absence was sorely felt when the pressure was on in the closing stages.

Bring on Antrim

Another big challenge for Harry and his men on Sunday. Antrim are never easy to beat and all the indications are that they are going well this year; they are lying in fourth place in the table and well out of the relegation zone.

Here's hoping that the supporters that have deserted the team after two bad matches in Aughrim will return to cheer them on this time and give them the boost they need to get them over the line.

Divided Loyalties!

Casey O'Brien's hurlers are also going through a bad patch and they too will need a bit of support when they take on Kildare in Croke Park.

That match has an early start - I believe it is 12.15 and I do know one man that is pledging to take in both matches.

However that is only for the adventurous, the speedsters - or mad men and not to be recommended to the ordinary follower of the game.

Anyway good luck to both teams; a double would be nice but like last Sunday was may have to settle for less.

Where are they now?

The picture in last week's paper was of a Knockananna team of 26 years ago. They had made the big break through and had brought the first ever football championship to the little village on the Carlow border.

Straight away we will give you the names of the men in the picture as we have got them -

Back Row L to R - Denis Kinsella, Pat Byrne, Willie Whelan, Andy Flynn, Paul O'Neill, Michael Whelan, Jim O'Keeffe, Pat Roche, and Mick Behan.

Front Row - Peter Dunne, Michael Kelly, Ken Foley, Fergal Foley, John Coogan, Paul Kenna, Ger O'Neill, Raymond Lawrence, and Stephen Carroll.

First call in came from well known photographer Garry O'Neill, a man who had good reason to remember the day and the team. 'That was the team that won the Junior football championship in 1987; I believe that the picture was taken after they beat Arklow Geraldines in the semi-final. I had good reason to remember the day, I was playing for the Gers and was injured and had to go off'. Mark you Garry wasn't suggesting that that was the only reason why the Arklow men lost the match.

It had been a long, long road for Knockananna who had been there or there abouts from the very start of the association.

Even though they have a very small catchment area they still had some good teams down the years but fortune never appeared to smile on them.

In the 1950's they had what many sound judges regarded as the best team never to win a championship. There was seven Whelan brothers from Knockanoocra on that team at one time, some of them county material; There was Stephen Tomkins, as good a midfielder as ever pulled on a Wicklow Jersey, Tommy Kehoe who played for Wicklow and Carlow, Pat Tyrrell and Tom and Dick Whelan to mention just a few

They won leagues and cups but why they never won a championship will forever remain one of the mysteries of Wicklow football.

Something always appeared to go wrong on the big day. Mark you, the teams that beat them in the three finals were no ordinary Junior teams either. The first of the three finals was in 1955; they had beaten Dunlavin in the replay of the semi-final but lost narrowly to Ashford in the final. Tom Cooney, one of the great Wicklow forwards of the day scored the winning goal.

However I knew at least one Knockananna player that claimed they lost that match because of a very small break down in discipline.

A small schmossal broke out around midfield but Eamon Moules, the referee, took no notice and waved play on.

Some defenders got sucked in so the way was made easy for Cooney to strike the killer blow. Dick and Joe Melia were other big stars on that Ashford team.

They lost the final of 1956 to Dunlavin in a final played in atrocious weather conditions in Baltinglass - 0-3 to 0-0.

At one time the paper listed a half forward line of Kehoe, Tyrrell and Tomkins and while I always felt that in the case of Tomkins it was a miss print as Stephen always played midfield it was still too strong a line to come off the field without getting a single score.

On that Dunlavin team you had players like Harry Fay, 'Doc' Laverty, Jim Higgins and Mick Murphy, all wearers of the blue and gold of Wicklow at some stage.

It got even harder in 1958; while they slaughtered Rathnew in the semi-final - 5-5 to 0-2 - they came up against a very strong Kilbride team in the final.

That was probably the only time the four Clark brothers played to gather for the Liffey siders in a final - Peter later won a Railway Cup medal with Leinster. Jimmy Kelly was another coming county star to play that day.

The first thing to strike one had to be the standard of Junior football at the time.

It was left to the men of the '80's to make the big break through, but it took a lot of hard slog dedication and above all perseverance to get over that line. They started in centenary year 1984 with Matt Finn at the helm but they were beaten in the B final by Newtown by two points.

They reached the final again in '85 but lost to Coolboy. They made it three in a row in '86 when they lost the final to Ballinacor - was the ghost of the fifties coming back to haunt them?

This time they put up the 'No Surrender' sign and went at it with renewed vigour. That great warior Tom Whelan took over; they brought in Carlow man Vincent Harvey, a man who had taken so many Wicklow teams to the Promised Land.

They reached the final for the fourth year in succession and this time left no doubt in any one's mind with a 1-13 to 1-2 win over Kilcoole.

The Knockananna history book said 'scenes of joy and jubilation greeted the famous team on their return with the Cup and even mature men and women wept with delight. as they paraded through the village.

Defeats of the past were forgotten about; losses of decades were wiped off the slate'.

Just to prove that the vengeful Gods of miss-fortune had not gone away Knockananna were to lose the Junior A final to St Lawrence's, a new combination of Donard and The Glen the following year.

The club had learned the value of perseverance and redoubled their efforts in 1989.

The result was the greatest year in their history, winning the championship, the Swan Cup for a second time, the League Cup, Cunningham Cup, Carter Cup and Kiltegan Tournament.

To play in six Junior finals in a row may also stand as some sort of record.

Billy Proctor from Clonmore was able to name the team, the occasion and most of the players but he had Tomas Whelan from the back of the hill was in the front row and I think he was wrong. Tomas had been the Knockananna goalie for years but at that time had gone to work in London so instead of stopping shots he was stopping traffic.

Tom Joined the Metropolitan Police and to quote from a famous Percy French song 'he could hold up a whole street with one wave of his hand'. Tom did have one more stint with Knockananna but returned to London for a second time and continued playing football with Acton Gaels and I think may have won an Intermediate football championship with them in 1988. Later when the Metropolitan police formed their own GAA team he played for them.

The Referee

Our three inter-county referees continue to make steady progress in Leinster and even at national level. This week Anthony Nolan and Garrett Whelan will be doing two of the Leinster U-21 quarter-finals.

Garrett Whelan has got the big one between Dublin and Longford. If the midlanders don't stop the Dubs in this championship than no one else in Leinster will.

Anthony referees the Meath v Kildare match. John Keenan, who is doing both hurling and football, refereed the NHL game between Fingal and Louth last week.

The Sigerson saga

When two of Harry's men Robert Lambert and John McGrath won Sigerson cup medals we put the question to the readers, "had any Wicklow player won a Sigerson cup since Tommy Murphy of Baltinglass?"

This week we got a call to say that Donard footballer Dermot Hickey was on the UCG team that won the Sigerson in 1992. Any other takers on that one?

The Woodenbridge hurlers

So you thought that Woodenbridge was famous only for its golf course and its hotels. Not so.

In 1928 their hurlers beat Carnew in the Junior hurling championship but were later beaten be Avondale

Team - Mick O'Toole, Martin, Bill, John and Joe Byrne; Jim and Willie Parle, Bill Kavanagh, Mick Merrigan, Joe Parle, Mick Wolohan, Ned Kavanagh, Jim Clancy, Ned Brien and Joe Mangan.

Fr Lucey Cup

Anyone out there remember the Fr Lucey Cup or where it is today? At one time the Lucey Cup tournament was one of Blessington's big fundraisers.

The final could be sure to pack Boothman's field to capacity. We came across a report in an old Wicklow People of a semi-final between Dunlavin and Kilbride in 1955.

Goals by Pat Kelly and Peter Doyle helped Kilbride to half time lead of 2-4 to 0-2 but two goals by Christy Archabold in the second half almost shattered their dreams.

Kilbride won in the end by 2-5 to 2-3

Kilbride - Andy Brien; M.Molloy, Tommy Clarke, Jimmy Craul; Jimmy Clarke, Tom Brien, Andy Hanlon; Paddy Clark, Jim Donoghue, Pat Kelly, J.Reilly, D.Stack; P.Broe, S. Belan, Peter Doyle.

Dunlavin - Matt Byrne. M.Murphy, Mick Murphy, Paddy Gleeson; P.Laverty, M.Casey, T.Todd, P.Deering; S.Hayden, P Martin, C. Archabold, H. Fay, D.Casey and Jim Higgins.C.Murphy, M.Murtagh,

They brought in a man from Tallaght, P. Hall to referee the match. That wouldn't be allowed today.

Lil Collins R.I.P.

One of the great ladies of sport in Bray, Lil Collins, passed to her eternal reward at the week end.

Lil who was 92 years young was mainly involved in camogie and hurling but her late husband Bernie played football for Wicklow.

She was extremely proud of daughter Gwen who a camogie star with Bray Emmet's and Wicklow before becoming a nun and devoting her life to prayer.

Sons Liam and Dermot played hurling for Wicklow but even after all of them had retired from the game Lil still maintained her interest.

Her remains were removed to the church of the Holy Redeemer Bray where the celebrant of the Mass was a Kilmacanogue neighbour Fr Ben Mulligan. Lil, who was a Fleming from the Paddocks, was interred in her native Kilmacannogue.

To her sons, daughter and extended family we extend our sympathy.

May she rest in Peace.

Bray People

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