Pat’s fancied to shade an exciting encounter
PREVIEW A LOOK AHEAD TO THE SENIOR FOOTBALL FINAL
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.