St. Pat’s will be better prepared for the challenge
ST. PATRICK’S and Kiltegan have to do it all again after the sides played a draw in what was regarded as one of the finest football contests as well as best attended finals in modern times.
The burning question for both teams now as they face up to next Sunday’s replay at Aughrim is which of them will have learned most from the draw and which of them succeeds best in putting the lessons learned into practice in the re-match.
Underdogs Kiltegan will feel disappointed over not putting St. Patrick’s away at the first time of asking when they had not one but several chances of doing so and will wonder if they have let that chance slip.
Favourites St. Patrick’s know only too well that they got out of jail last weekend on a couple of occasions and they will be hoping to plug the holes that allowed their opponents to set the pace throughout the drawn encounter.
Twice during the game Kiltegan opened up a four points gap on their opponents but as manager Gavin Wynne conceded they failed to push on from there; now there will be the lingering question of will the same openings present themselves in the replay.
For one thing the element of surprise that Kiltegan had last Sunday is gone and the Wicklow town side are only too painfully aware of the formidable challenge presented by their opponents who dictated the game from start to finish.
Centre-forward John Keogh gave Kiltegan the lead with a point after two minutes and from there on St. Patrick’s found themselves chasing the game, the best they could achieve was to draw level, never once did they get ahead.
St. Patrick’s lost the midfield battle to Kiltegan’s county star Jacko Dalton, who had a huge game for the westerners, and this is something that the Wicklow team will want to combat in the replay as a lot of their ills last Sunday stemmed from Dalton’s dominance.
It was as a result of that constant flow of ball from midfield that Kiltegan were able to challenge from the front with county players Derek Daly and Seanie Furlong having huge games as they put their opponents on the back-foot on Aughrim’s fitful scoreboard.
And it was a combination of that Kiltegan dominance at midfield, plus the deployment of Adrian Foley as a sweeper at centre-back, that starved St. Patrick’s main striker Paul Earls of a sufficient ball supply.
Over the course of the hour Paul Earls, who had demolished Kiltegan in the 2006 final with his 1-7 total, was restricted to just a hand full of opportuni- ties and yet he ending up contributing 1-2 to their total.
Afterwards Kiltegan manager Gavin Wynne conceded that a big plank in their strategy was curbing Earls, who they rightly perceived as a huge threat to their ambition to win their first senior football title in 22 years. Will the same antidote work for Kiltegan a second time or will St. Patrick’s come up with a new strategy to circumvent the best laid plans of Gavin and his back-room team. We will have to wait until Sunday to see the outcome there.
Kiltegan will also have to devise some counter measures, not least to deal with the awesome influence that the St. Patrick’s centre-back Paudge McWalter had on the outcome. Bloodied but unbowed, McWalter drove at the Kiltegan ramparts with passion and determination and was the player who did most to lift St. Patrick’s and haul them up to achieve a draw. Dara O’Sullivan and John Slattery also made huge contributions to getting a result for St. Patrick’s from last Sunday’s match.
And no doubt it is on huge battles like these throughout the field that the replay is going to hinge. In the end it will come down to which team has learned the most, and comes up with a new battle strategy to meet the new situation.
Kiltegan have lost the element of surprise, St. Patrick’s have learned a salutary lesson and, with not a kick of a football between these teams, that may be the key to the result at the end of the day.