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Four Wicklow stories selected for landmark GAA Grassroots book

Four stories about County Wicklow have been selected to appear in a fascinating new book on the GAA – written by people at the heart of the association nationwide.

‘Grassroots: Stories From The Heart Of The GAA’, is a treasure trove of GAA memories, tales and incidents spanning over 150 years.

“The book generated an incredible response from every county in Ireland, as well as from the Irish abroad,” said author and journalist, PJ Cunningham who resides in Bray, collaborated with Croke Park on the publication.

“I have included stories not only since the GAA’s foundation in 1884, but from before, through to the Civil War and up to modern times.

“The collection is, in essence, the first time that this rich oral tradition of sideline and on-field stories have been put together and published in this form.

“It provides snapshots into the history of the GAA, recounted by the people at the heart of the action, whether those stories are happy or sad, dramatic or ordinary.”

Volume one has just been published and such was the response from the GAA community that work has already begun on a second collection.

The first edition includes stories from the rich history of Wicklow GAA. Brendan Tumelty was a great Wicklow player who emigrated to the Big Apple in the late fifties where he was a prominent member of the NYPD.

He was also a star in a very star-studded New York Gaelic football team of the sixties. He played one final match to end a sterling career against the globe-trotting Aussie ‘Galahs’ team.

This squad was laden with Mr Universe figures who used their power to overwhelm opponents on the pitch. The legendary John ‘Kerry’ O’Donnell beseeched 6’5” Tumelty to do something about their dominance at half-time – and the ensuing row led to one of the most celebrated rounds of fisticuffs on the famed Gaelic Park turf.

How the Wicklow man decked their talisman Ron Barassi is still talked about – even in Australia. Indeed, when an Aussie TV company made a ‘This is your Life’ programme for Ron some years later, secretly they flew Brendan out to be part of the occasion.

They pair became firm friends and both dined out on the dust up in the Bronx when they visited each other up until Brendan’s death seven years ago.

Bray native Jackie Napier recalls one of his county’s greatest ever triumphs when they won the All Ireland Junior hurling final against Hertfordshire after three games laden with controversy.

Jackie also supplied an insightful vignette on how loose lips nearly caused a strike as Wicklow overcame their differences and won the All-Ireland junior football final.

There is also a story from the pen of the late Jim Brophy on how a club man cast himself in the role of spy to try to get information on another team and ended up almost being thrown in jail.

Other contributors include former Irish soccer international Niall Quinn, Meath legends Sean Boylan and Bernard Flynn, Tony O’Hehir, son of the legendary Michael, former Galway hurling captain Joe Connolly, ex-Armagh player and manager Joe Kernan and RTÉ hurling analyst and former Offaly star, Michael Duignan.

“The folklore and stories that built up around our games are part of the reason that the organisation occupies such a special place in Irish society,” said GAA President, Larry McCarthy.

“The GAA has always been about more than just games, it is part of what we are.”

Grassroots: Stories From The Heart Of The GAA (Volume 1), priced at €19.99, is available now in all good bookshops.

*If you have a GAA anecdote or story you would like to share for Volume 2, contact PJ Cunningham at 086-8217631 or at: pj@gaastories.ie.

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