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Gaelic Athletic Association - Oral History Project


gaa oral history project

The immediate popularity of the GAA in Wicklow was obvious in the attendance of  over thirty clubs at the first county convention in 1886. The county was badly affected by the national decline in the GAA during the 1890s and it was not until the beginning of the twentieth century that the Association began to regain lost ground. Soon after, the county was included in a new second tier Gaelic football league. This 'Second Division', created in 1905, was the to be the arena in which Wicklow would have most of its success, winning several Leinster junior titles over the next number of decades as well as the county’s first junior All-Ireland title in 1936. Football was always the dominant game in Wicklow and although hurling was played, it was mainly consigned to the east of the county with geography an important factor in the determining of sporting preference. During the 1950s, the domination of football teams from East Wicklow was broken by Baltinglass, winners of the 1990 All-Ireland club championship and later by Rathnew, Leinster senior club winners in 2001. This success was not replicated at county level, however, and despite improvement in recent years, Wicklow still waits for its first Leinster senior title.


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A picture of the Bray Emmets football team in 1904, winnners of the All-Ireland football championship in 1902.
©Jackie Napier


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A publication from 1935 documenting Wicklow's first fifty years of involvement within the GAA.
©Anthony Doyle

Peter Keogh
Pat Mitchell

Peter Keogh, b. 1929

Peter recalls how he and a group of friends collected coupons from tins of Fry's Cocoa to get a new football for their school.
©GAA Oral History Project

Pat Mitchell, b. 1944

Pat describes how victories are celebrated in Rathnew and how they celebrated after the club's Leinster club championship win in 2001.
©GAA Oral History Project

'You could safely say that in every house in Rathnew, you'll find a pair of football boots. In every house in the village, there’s a pair of football boots behind the door as you go in.'
- Anthony Doyle, b. 1936
©GAA Oral History Project

'Rivalries are central to the excitement of the GAA. There is a reason why matches between local rivals are the best attended matches during the season. It pits neighbour against neighbour and relative against relative and gives rise to many a heated debate over a pint in the pub afterwards. I have many rivalries – in school my team see Arklow to be their main rivals. In Carnew Ladies, Bray would always be the old rival. And in Coolboy the local rivals would be Knockananna, so beating them in the Junior A county final this year was very very good!'
- Ann Lennon, b. 1978
©GAA Oral History Project

'We really began playing in a place called Fogarty's Field…and we played All-Irelands there to beat all All-Irelands. Everyday. And the church clock – the Protestant church was just a way over from us – and that was the clock.'
- Liam Dunne, b. 1936
©GAA Oral History Project

Click here to read a sample of a full length questionnaire: Lisa Moore, b. 1970