Pat’s fan­cied to shade an ex­cit­ing en­counter

PREVIEW A LOOK AHEAD TO THE SE­NIOR FOOT­BALL FI­NAL

Bray People - - Sport - Mark KENNEDY

KIL­TE­GAN ARE un­likely to re­peat the mis­take of two years ago when they again lock horns with St. Pa­trick’s in a re­peat of the county se­nior foot­ball fi­nal of two years ago at Aughrim on Sun­day at 3.30 p.m.

In 2006 they were brim­ming with over­con­fi­dence af­ter be­ing made the favourites by the book­ies and most other peo­ple fol­low­ing their de­feat of de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Rath­new rather com­pre­hen­sively in the semi­fi­nal.

That over­con­fi­dence as much as any­thing else proved to be their un­do­ing in the 2006 fi­nal, com­ing out on the wrong side of a 1-10 to 010 score­line af­ter los­ing the plot to a more fo­cussed and de­ter­mined St. Pa­trick’s side.

And there was one other ma­jor fac­tor in Kil­te­gan’s de­feat two years ago and that was a Wick­low town player by the name of Paul Earls, who took the Kil­te­gan de­fence apart with a pow­er­packed dis­play, scor­ing 1-7 of teams to­tal to send the Wick­low town side on to the podium to re­ceive the Mi­ley Cup for the twelfth time.

The 23-year-old teacher Earls is still the leader of the St. Pa­trick’s at­tack pack, he is bang on top of his form again this cham­pi­onship sea­son, but we will just have to wait un­til around 5 p.m. on Sun­day to see if that is to prove a bad omen for the men for Kil­te­gan once more.

For sure Kil­te­gan will be ap­proach­ing Sun­day’s fi­nal re­peat be­tween the teams with a lot more cau­tion than two years ago and they will be happy to know that this time it is St. Pa­trick’s who will be start­ing as the favourites with the book­ies and most foot­ball fans.

Most teams like to go into any im­por­tant match as the rank out­siders than the odds on cer­tain­ties and Kil­te­gan’s back room boys are sure to have their play­ers pumped up and rar­ing for the fray and bat­tle come Sun­day.

At the start of the year not many would have pre­dicted that we would again have the same fi­nal pair­ing as we had in 2006. For one thing St. Pa­trick’s were re­cov­er­ing from a very trau­matic year in 2007 and they had just lost their man­ager Gail Dunne who had guided them to ti­tles in 2004 and 2006.

Kil­te­gan also were en­deav­our­ing to re-mo­ti­vate them­selves af­ter the dis­ap­point­ment of los­ing the 2006 fi­nal and con­se­quently it was county cham­pi­ons Balt­in­glass, neigh­bours Bless­ing­ton and Bray Em­mets with Thomas Walsh on board who were be­ing most talked about as po­ten­tial fi­nal­ists this year.

How­ever both Kil­te­gan, al­ways great bat­tlers when it comes to cham­pi­onship foot­ball or hurl­ing, and St. Pa­trick’s have won their way through to the fi­nal on merit and all the in­di­ca­tors are that foot­ball fans could be in for one of the best fi­nals in years from two teams that like to let their foot­ball do the talk­ing.

Ri­valry be­tween the sides will be in­tense come Sun­day. Even though they beat Sun­day’s op­po­nents in last year’s cham­pi­onship, Kil­te­gan will still be fired up to gain re­venge for the fi­nal de­feat of 2006 and it is worst kept se­cret that, af­ter winning a stack of hurl­ing ti­tles in 1990s, their great­est am­bi­tion at the present time is to get their hands on the Mi­ley Cup.

For­mer St. Pa­trick’s player Casey O’Brien has just taken charge of the Wick­low town side from Gail Dunne and he will be anx­ious to start his man­age­rial ca­reer on a winning note; so he is sure to have his foot­ball thor­ough­breds chomp­ing at the bit to bring an­other county ti­tle to the county town.

This sea­son St. Pa­trick’s only failed to jump one cham­pi­onship hur­dle a the start of the cam­paign – that’s when they were beaten by Rath­new in an early match – but that glitch apart their progress to the fi­nal has been quite im­pres­sive and in­cluded vic­to­ries over fan­cied Bless­ing­ton and Bray Em­mets en­route.

And Paul Earls was the star of the show for the Wick­low team. While the county team had Paul Earls play­ing at wing-for­ward, Casey O’Brien has po­si­tioned him on the edge of his op­po­nents square where he is at his most danger­ous as he proved through­out this cur­rent cham­pi­onship cam­paign.

No doubt about it Earls is the vi­tal cog in the St. Pa­trick’s ma­chine, the man who make the mo­tor hum, but yet their at­tack is no-one man band ei­ther, with John Slat­tery, Dar­ragh O’Sul­li­van and the young cor­ner-for­ward Mat­tie Byrne well ca­pa­ble of prov­ing match win­ners on their day.

In­deed the Kil­te­gan de­fence will need to be on their toes if they are to pre­vent a re­cur­rence of the 2006 dis­ap­point­ment and drub­bing.

At the time of writ­ing there is a doubt whether David Smullen, an­other worka­holic at­tacker for St. Pa­trick’s, will have re­cover from in­jury to make the start­ing fif­teen and his ab­sence would be a set back to the Wick­low town side.

The lat­ter stages of the cham­pi­onship have seen the re­turn of soc­cer star Paudge McWal­ter to gaelic foot­ball action with St. Pa­trick’s. McWal­ter has given a huge lift to the team, strength­ened the de­fence where he has taken over the piv­otal cen­tre­back po­si­tion, and pro­vided one more rea­son why the Wick­low town side are the choice to pre­vail on Sun­day.

Kil­te­gan are not without their foot­ball stars ei­ther.

One of the in­ter­est­ing clashes of the af­ter­noon could be the one be­tween St. Pa­trick’s cap­tain and full-back Gary Jame­son and Seánie Fur­long, who many would re­gard as the coun­ter­point on the Kil­te­gan team to Paul Earls.

Seánie Fur­long is one of a num­ber of Kil­te­gan play­ers who have blos­somed on the in­ter-county scene un­der Mick O’Dwyer in the last two years and he has the foot­ball abil­ity, the ac­cu­racy, and the brav­ery to un­hinge the best laid plans of Casey O’Brien and St. Pa­trick’s.

The oth­ers in­clude Derek Daly and Jacko Dal­ton who has turned in a num­ber of man-of-the-match per­for­mances for Kil­te­gan in this year’s cham­pi­onship. So on this oc­ca­sion Kil­te­gan are not without a strike force and ca­pa­bil­ity of their own; for­wards who came do dam­age to St. Pa­trick’s if the get the right sup­ply of ball and suf­fi­cient pos­ses­sion.

Backed up by sound de­fend­ers like lion-hearted Ge­of­frey Ber­ming­ham, team cap­tain Stephen Cor­ri­gan and Adrian Fo­ley, Kil­te­gan are in this game with a fight­ing chance and don’t be sur­prised if like 2006 there is just a kick of a ball be­tween the sides when De­clan Pep­pard sounds his fi­nal whis­tle.

On which side of the fence will the score­board favour when the Hol­ly­wood of­fi­cial calls it a day. Will Kil­te­gan be the bridesmaids once more as St. Pa­trick’s cel­e­brate an­other wed­ding with Mi­ley or will they be singing ‘ the west’s awake’ up Kil­te­gan way come Sun­day evening.

Kil­te­gan will bring heart and pas­sion to Aughrim as well as no lit­tle foot­ball skill. St. Pa­trick’s will feel af­ter 2006 that they have the In­dian sign over their op­po­nents when it comes to se­nior foot­ball fi­nals. And the Wick­low town have the back-up of a strong subs bench if re­pairs or a change of strat­egy is needed along the way.

We feel that this has the mak­ings of a cracker of a fi­nal. Two years ago my es­teemed col­league and foot­ball ex­pert Peter Keogh summed up the 2006 fi­nal by plump­ing for a draw.

A draw is a pos­si­bil­ity again on Sun­day. How­ever, it did not hap­pened in 2006 and I am go­ing to stick my neck out and go for St. Pa­trick’s to do it again. But then again, I could be wrong.

Paul Earls of St. Pat’s is tracked by cur­rent Kil­te­gan man­ager Gavin Wynne in the county fi­nal in 2006.

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