Balto end year on a high
Baltinglass 1-10, Newcastle 16: The Johnny Fox Memorial Cup has found a new home on the banks of the river Slaney this winter after Baltinglass had found a happy ending to a disappointing year.
Ninety five years ago two Wicklow Clubs, Baltinglass and Newcastle, wrote themselves into the history books when they played the final of the Wicklow Junior Football Championship in Croke Park.
Meetings between the two clubs have been few and far between in more recent years but was relived on Sunday when the pair met again in a county Junior final at Blessington.
The new grounds at Blessington may have differed quite a bit from the City and Suburban Racecourse and Amusement Grounds on Jones Road which had just been purchased by the G.A.A. in 1913 for the sum of £3,500, but the result on the day was the same
The match in Croke Park was the final of the 1912 JFC but this time it was the final of Division 3 of the Whittle SFL and for once the more consistent Newcastle team were the slight favourites to come out on top.
For much of the first-half the men from the east coast looked to be heading for victory on the fine surface of Blessington’s new pitch.
Shane Cloake pointed a free to give them the lead but an in-form Conor Foley pointed two frees to put Baltinglass in front. However the lead was short-lived. When a Ronan O’Gara shot for the equaliser from a free dropped short and was fielded by big full-forward Richard Merryman he turned and drilled his shot to the net.
Ronan O’Gara pointed a free and Graham O’Brien added another from play to leave Newcastle leading by 1-3 to 0-2 at the end of the first quarter.
When the impressive David Faulkner shot for a point from 30 metres the ball dipped wickedly and beat the outstretched arms of Ian Lucy in the Newcastle goal to the top corner of the net.
Balto were back in business, but not for long.
Shane Cloake and Ronan O’Gara pointed frees as Newcastle continued to press forward.
Baltinglass staged a strong comeback in the last five minutes before half-time and had the last three points of the half from Conor Foley, Jason Kennedy and Ger Foley to level the game at half-time – 1-5 each.
Ian Sheerin had a fine point on the restart to put Baltinglass in front and slowly but surely the men of the west began to get on top all over the field.
Conor Foley had a great point from a difficult long-range free; sub Derek Byrne was only minutes on the field when he drilled over a point in the 47th minute.
Adam Merryman, Ronan O’Gara and Ciarán Doyle tried to rally a flagging Newcastle side but all they got from occasional raids into enemy territory was two wides.
After ten scoreless minutes Baltinglass came again with points by Conor Foley and Dave Faulkner to seal victory.
Even then Newcastle were not prepared to throw in the towel. Adam Merryman powered his way through defence but saw his powerful shot brilliantly saved by Patsy Keogh.
Keogh had kicked a ball off the goal line in the first-half when a Newcastle goal looked likely.
Newcastle got their first, and only point of the second-half in the seconnd minute of injury-time but by that time the Baltinglass supporters were uncorking the champagne.
Man of the match had to be county Minor Conor Foley who tormented the Newcastle defence from start to finish.
However, this was no one man show but a day when Balto were firing on all cylinders with Thomas Furlong playing a captain’s part and using all his great Senior experience to lead by example.
Newcastle were bidding for the double, after winning the Junior hurling championship but a long hard year may have taken its toll and they never reached the heights of other days.
The Johnny Fox Memorial Cup was presented to Baltinglass captain Thomas Furlong by County President Peter Keogh.
Baltinglass, the Johnny Fox Memorial Cup Division 3 champions at Blessington on Sunday.
Baltinglass captain Tom Furlong accepts the Johnny Fox Memorial Cup from Wicklow GAA President Peter Keogh.
Adam Merriman of Newcastle breaks through the challenge of Peadar Osborne of Baltinglass.