Wicklow GAA stories feature in second ‘Grassroots’ book

Six contributions with strong Wicklow connections are part of a compelling new GAA book written by those at the heart of the sport.

‘Grassroots: The Second Half’ is a gold mine of GAA tales spanning over 150 years and follows the publication of a successful first volume last year.

“The GAA and I were astounded by the response to the first edition,” said book editor PJ Cunningham, who collaborated with Croke Park on both publications.

“This collection is slightly different to the first in that as well as having the usual stories from the deep roots of rural society, there are also numerous stories where people from other sports and walks of life talk of their GAA experiences,” he said.

Former Irish rugby international Ollie Campbell, ex-snooker world champion Ken Doherty, and Vienna-based opera singer Tom Birch, all explain how they became big fans of Gaelic games.

“Virtually no subject escapes in the 400 pages, with tales of a parish priest’s curse, referees officiating with watches which didn’t work to players taking ‘leaks’ on the field of play,” said Cunningham.  

“All human life is in there whether it is going to and from matches or in one case, the story where a Kilkenny fan got locked into a well-known Dublin pub while his team won the All Ireland hurling final a mile away in Croke Park.”

Stories span and reflect the Wicklow GAA kaleidoscope with the late Eamonn Moules’ story of how he had to rely on a dollop of common sense when his watch stopped while he was refereeing a big local match.

The Garden County may be one of only two counties not to register a provincial senior title but for Valleymount man Michael O’Brien, there was compensation in knowing that his roots were immersed in a club that would forever be the ‘All-Ireland Scenery champion’.

Bray native Jack Napier proudly recalls his part in electing two Wicklow GAA presidents and one of those, Aodh Ó Broin – writing about his own playing days – gave credence to the term ‘Bray Wanderer’ in a GAA sense when traveling to play illegally in Cork.

Wicklow resident Ciaran Byrne pens an amusing account of his wife’s love of another county’s fortunes while the late, great Peter Keogh’s piece recalls how a man from the Banner got his beloved Kiltegan up and running as a GAA force.

GAA President Larry McCarthy said the book highlighted “the value of the folklore and stories built up around our games. 

“What these two Grassroots books do is ensure they become available to a wider audience as most, if not all, of these stories are being published for the first time,” he said.

Grassroots: The Second Half, priced at €19.99, is available now nationwide and from: www.ballpointpress.ie.

Volume 2 of Grassroots, author PJ Cunningham’s publication – in partnership with the GAA – featuring anecdotes and memories from club and county level across the association. The book is available nationwide and at www.ballpointpress.ie.

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