We had a chat with one of County Wicklow’s most unheralded stars, the Sports Photographer Extraordinaire himself Mr Dave Barrett who has captured so many of the magical moments in Wicklow Sport. We have all seen him patrol the sidelines of sporting fields across the county and beyond but we wanted to know more about one of Wicklow’s most treasured assets who has ensured the memorable sporting moments are forever captured for so many people to look back at fondly. Here’s our chat with the man himself:
Right so to kick off we will need to know a brief synopsis of where Dave Barrett is from and the people in the inner circle.
I’m born and bred in Dunlavin in rural West Wicklow. I still live here surrounded by sheep, cattle and Hollywood fans.
We have some of the top Wicklow GAA officials and players living on our road including referee Liam Cullen, umpire Johnny Byrne, Ladies Football award winner Jill Fadian and former Baltinglass SFC star Henry Sinnott.
I am ‘lucky’ to live in a house full of women with wife Antoinette and daughters Amy and Sophie. Even my dog Poppy is female. Sophie travelled to a lot of the matches (calls herself my “match-buddy”) with me before the COVID lockdowns.
How did you get into the photography?
I don’t know what sparked off my initial interest as a child. I just have memories of sending off rolls of film in the post and getting lots of blurry prints back a few days later.
My Aunt Amy gave me great encouragement to keep at photography during my teenage years. She kept me supplied with rolls of film, brought me to the Punchestown Festival (start of sports photography) every year and helped me to buy my first SLR camera. She was tragically killed in an accident in 1989 which was a devastating blow for all the family at the time.
What’s been your most memorable moment with camera in hand on the sports fields?
It is impossible to choose a specific memorable moment.
I really enjoyed the positive vibe around the county during the Mick O’Dwyer era. Crazy times, Wicklow jerseys everywhere and lots of great stories.
Dunlavin winning the IFC Final in 2019 was a big highlight in a difficult year for me personally. It was also special because I know most of the players very well and had been taking photos of many of them since their Under 11 St. Nicholas juvenile football days.
You’ve seen and photographed so many sportspeople over the years, who would be your favourite and why?
I again couldn’t pick a favourite sportsperson in Wicklow GAA. I particularly love taking photos of characters and there is no shortage of great characters in Wicklow.
I have been very lucky that all teams in Wicklow have been very accommodating and haven’t stopped me (yet!) sticking my camera in their face or even crawling around a team huddle to get a photo.
Outside Wicklow GAA, horse-racing’s Willie and Patrick Mullins are always very friendly and obliging even though they are at the very top of their sport and in high demand.
You’ve been behind the camera at every sporting event imaginable but would you have played much sport over the years yourself?
The highest level I played at was Dublin Senior Football Championship. It’s a long story but I ended up coming on briefly as sub in the Dublin SFC and my introduction for UCD certainly didn’t help and Kilmacud Crokes easily won and went on to win the All-Ireland Club Championship that season.
The highlights playing for Dunlavin were beating Dunlavin (😉) and Hollywood in the lowest division of the Wicklow League and scoring a goal in the Junior C Championship. I suppose my GAA career can be summed up by a Dunlavin fan who wasn’t impressed with my skill levels and was overheard saying “All the Barretts are good for is taking the wrapping off round bales”.
I also played soccer for Dunlavin AFC. We won a few league and cup trophies, and I can always say Pelé, Bob Marley and DavBar all played in Dalymount Park.
I was hoping the Arsenal or Wicklow scouts would spot me, but it was time to retire from sport and stick to the photos when the calls didn’t come.
What’s the most awkward moment/situation you’ve found yourself in when taking snaps?
I was kindly offered a lift by Mick Murphy after a photoshoot in Ballinakill. I somehow managed to rip the handle off his car door as I was getting in. I stood there embarrassed with the door handle in my hand. Mick did look shocked but being the gentleman he was just said get in, it was OK and he would sort it out the next day.
I was at a race meeting in Punchestown on a very hot day. I bent down to get under a railing and my trousers completely split along the seams from the crotch down along the inside leg. I had to sneak back to the car walking like a penguin to get a change. All I could find was a muddy heavy wet gear trousers. I got a lot of a strange looks that afternoon, but it did the job.
Bill Hill also tries to embarrass me every year with his annual birthday card
What photo would you use if you were asked to enter a photo in a prestigious sports photo competition?
Would have to be Bill Hill winning the ‘Make Ashford Great Again’ stakes on ‘Whoisbillhill’
How have you found things from a work point of view during 2020?
It has been very busy and I had to move the company headquarters to Arizona as the DavBar brand went global. Owlerwebsite says I am headquartered in Glendale in Arizona and estimates I have a revenue of $32.4M, and 111 employees https://www.owler.com/company/davbar 🤔
If for some reason you ever were unable to attend work at the last minute and had to call on a County Wicklow sporting figure, who would you choose and why?
I used Matty Ging (MatGin Images) from Tinahely as an apprentice last year and have his details on file. His experience working for the company will make him the best available option if he lowers his pay demands.
It is very difficult to compete with SOS Images in Rathdrum. Sandra & PJ O’Shaughnessy have the resources and contact and now head the largest sports photography agency in Wicklow.
You’ve attended more games in County Wicklow than most umpires have so your well placed to have a view on things, could you pick your dream Wicklow Club 15 from across the time you’ve been photographing the action?
Bill only gave me €50 to pick a dream Wicklow Club 15 Fantasy Football team. I had to spend €49 of it on Thomas Davis and a big backroom team and then spread the rest of my budget around as best I could. I had to pick John Keenan as a sweeper to protect that full back line.
1 – Brendan Lawrence (Knockananna)
2 – Lorcan Byrne (Kiltegan)
3 – Diarmuid Haughian (Lacken/Kilbride)
4 – Mervyn O’Neill (Stratford/Grangecon)
15 – John Keenan (Aughrim)
5 – Kevin Darcy (Tinahely)
6 – Brian Rossiter (Coolkenno)
7 – John Henderson (Bray Emmets)
8 – Thomas Davis (Dunlavin) capt.
9 – Brian Lennon (Donard/Glen)
10 – Micheal Stapleton (Ballymanus)
11 – Gary Murphy (Shillelagh/Coolboy)
12 – Keith Peppard (Hollywood)
13 – John Sayer (Rathnew)
14 – Billy Norman (Eire Og Greystones)
Senior Management Team
Manager – Vincent Murphy (Dunlavin)
Selectors – Pat Brennan (Blessington), Pat Carthy (Ballymanus), Ned Rossiter (Coolkenno) & Sophie Barrett (Dunlavin)
Nutritionist – Willie O’Hagan (Eire Og Greystones)
Yoga Teacher –Kevin Nolan (Laragh)
Lifestyle Coach – Amanda Butler (Donard/Glen)
Psychologist –Matt Byrne (Hollywood)
Physio – Katie Branagan (Dunlavin)
Doctor – Michael Meyer (Eire Og Greystones)
Team Mascot – Miley Leonard (St. Patrick’s)
Wicklow Fantasy Officials team:
Referee – Ned Doyle (Kiltegan)
Linesmen – Pat Hickey (AGB) & Pat Dunne (Hollywood)
Umpires – Joe McElheron (AGB), Tommy Redmond (Tinahely), Paul Porter (Avoca) & Jimmy Kelly (Knockananna)
What would be your dream sporting event to be photographing at?
The dream event to photograph would be Dunlavin winning the Wicklow Senior Football Championship in Aughrim (in front of fans!). Not sure how long I’ll be waiting for that one.
I’ll be very happy in the short-term if Wicklow Ladies can win the All-Ireland JFC Final in Croke Park (not pushed out to another venue) this year.
Have you ever had any hassle while working at a sporting event?
The first county match I officially covered was a Wicklow hurling match. I was ready to take the team photo and another photographer came over and like a scene from Goodfellas whispered “Take that photo and I’ll report you to Croke Park”. I thought he was joking but he wasn’t.
I have a few bruises from Billy and Tracy Winders using their elbows to get a better video angle at presentations. Willie Merrigan always keeps an eye on me in Arklow and Bill Hill has also been hassling me for a Q&A since February 2018.
But thankfully very little hassle overall.
As a man who has the privilege of working at so many games, is there anything that could improve on things here in Wicklow?
I’m like any good politician – I know many of the problems but don’t have the answers.
Some of the many challenges (outside COVID):
• Creating the right environment to ensure the best players make themselves available to play for their county in football, hurling, ladies football and camogie.
• Producing more top players from the large population centres and the academies.
• Looking after the younger players so they aren’t pulled all over the place – a talented 19 yearoldcould be expected to play college, under 20 county and adult club and county
• Getting the Wicklow fans back to Aughrim and raising the profile for county matches. Why did so many Wicklow fans disappear after the Mick O’Dwyer era?
• Cracking down on discipline and particularly repeat offenders. An end to one match bans for inflicting serious injuries.
• Communication between GAA, LGFA and Camogie County Boards to allow Ladies Football and Camogie play their showcase Senior Finals in the County Grounds.
• Hoping Bill Hill will behave after Donald Trump pardons him/her/it/them for all the smutty language in the past.
Who’s going to win the 2021 Wicklow Senior Hurling & Football Championship?
I’ll play safe.
Same again for 2021 – Bray Emmets to win SHC & Baltinglass to win SFC.