Hurlers failed to build on great win over Westmeath
GAELIC GAMES PETER KEOGH LOOKS BACK ON WICKLOW’S YEAR IN INTER-COUNTY HURLING
A GREAT win over the Christy Ring Cup holders Westmeath in Arklow had to be the high point of the hurling year in Wicklow.
Even if we failed to build on that victory and came up just short of of making the final of the Ring Cup that win showed that the material was still there to field a good hurling team.
John Mitchell had decided to stay on as manager while his backroom team of Seán Maher, Seán Keogh, Martin Barnes, Maurice Molloy, Seán Doyle, Jackie Napier and John Kelly all signed on for another year.
The hurling season started with the announcement that a new sponsor was coming on board. Cosgrave Developments had agreed to take over the sponsorship of the county hurling teams for a three-year period, a package was put in place and was accepted by the County Board and widely welcomed by all sides.
A new system had been put in place at central level whereby Tier 2 and 3 counties could avail of players from the top counties under certain conditions.
John Mitchell decided to avail of this scheme and brought on board players from Tipperary, Cork and Wexford. The success of that scheme has yet to be accessed but suffice to say that it did beef up Mitchell’s panel and gave his selectors extra options.
Colleges teams were allowed to take part in the Kehoe Cup and Wicklow kicked off the year with a match against Carlow I.T. in the new Bray Emmets Ccmplex at Old Conna in January.
Mitchell was team building and was trying out some new players and was happy to get a win – 1-16 to 2-9.
Scorers: Jonathan O’Neill 0-7; Eoin Mason 1-2; Jeffrey Bermingham and Fintan Donnolly 0-2 each; Andy O’Brien, Eoin Maher and Shane McGrath 0-1 each.
Other newcomers who got a run that day included Colm Ryan from Tipperary; T.J. Byrne (ARP), Paul Gahan (Avondale) and Paulie Sutton (Eire Og).
Wicklow 3-20, Roscommon 3-13: Wicklow’s second match was also played in Bray and was against the Nicky Rachard Cup winners Roscommon.
Wicklow led 3-12 to 1-5 at halftime but had to ride out a strong Roscommon rally in the last quarter.
Scorers: Jonathan O’Neill 0-8; Shane McGrath 2-0; Enan Glynn 1-1; Eoin Mason and Andy O’Brien 0-4 each; Colm Ryan 0-2 and Joe Murphy 0-1.
Another Tipperary man Ger White, Cork man Adrian Shanahan and John Harper (ARP) were the newcomers in that match.
The two wins was enough to see Wicklow through the semi-final but this time they were away to Meath in Pairc Tailteann.
Meath 0-13; Wicklow 0-12: The Kehoe Cup trail ended that February day in Navan but Mitchell was happy that his team was beginning to take shape.
Jonathan was again the top scorer with 0-6 while another newcomer, Ronan Keddy got a point. The other scorers were Andy O’Brien 0-4; and Eamonn Kearns 0-1.
Wicklow 1-16, Mayo 0-17: The league started the following Sunday, February 10, and Wicklow were at home to Mayo in Arklow. With the benefit of hindsight we can see that Mayo, now trained by Galway star Pete Finnerty laid down a marker that day – they were going to be no pushover for any team. They led by 0-11 to 0-9 at half-time.
Midfielder and Ccptain Jonathan O’Neill led by example that day and it was his goal, crashed to the net from a close in free in the 50th minute that saved the day for Wick- low. Jonathan scored 1-9; Eamonn Furlong 0-5; Eoin Mason and Adrian Shanahan 0-1 each. Galway man Brian Stones was back in the team for his first game that day.
Wicklow 1-11, Kerry 4-7: The Wicklow defence leaked the goals in both halves down in Tralee and Wicklow returned home pointless.
John Keogh, a great servant to the team down the years limped off injured that day and played no more for the year.
Another man who played his last game for Wicklow that day was goalkeeper Tom Finn.
Jonathan O’Neill scored 0-9; Brian Stones 1-0; Eoin Mason 0-2.
Kildare 1-16, Wicklow 1-14: This game started at an electrifying pace; Mattie Dowd shook the Wicklow net inside 30 seconds while a John Connor’s goal at the other end, almost from the puck-out brought the sides level. Kildare only sealed victory in injury-time but losing a home game was a big blow to Wicklow’s league ambitions.
Keith Barnes, who had been in and out of goal all year, took over the position permanently that day and had a very good year. Another great servant of Wicklow hurling, Michael Anthony O’Neill, played that day, while Mitchell introduced another newcomer, Tom Devereux from Wexford
Scorers: Jonathan O’Neill 0-7; John Connors 1-1; Eamonn Furlong 0-4; Shane McGrath and Eoin Mason 0-1 each.
Westmeath 3-19, Wicklow 0-9: Cusack Park in Mullingar was seldom a happy hunting ground for Wicklow teams, hurling of football. This was the only match in the year where it must be said that Wicklow were outclassed but they were to turn the tables on the Lake County at a later date.
Billy Cuddihy, who came on in the second-half was the only newcomer.
Jonathan scored seven of the nine points with Joe Murphy and John Connors getting one each.
Wicklow 3-12, Roscmmon 3-9: Wicklow were at home to Roscommon in their last match and finished on a winning note.
Newcomer Tommy Devereux was the star, scoring two great goals in the first-half. Shane Byrne got the other goal; Jonathan O’Neill 0-3; Joe Murphy and John Connors 0-2 each; Jeffrey Bermingham, Eoin Mason and Denis Moran 0-1 each.
Denis Moran was back in the team for the first time in that match and it was also the first time that ‘Bosco’ was not the top scorer.
The team that played that day was: Keith Barnes (ARP); Mark Collins, Graham (both Carnew), Stephen Kelly (Eire Og); Eoin O’Neill (Kiltegan), Colm Ryan (Moycarker/Borris), Eamonn Kearns (Avondale); Jonathan O’Neill (Glenealy), Jeffrey Berminghan (Kiltegan); Tommy Devereux, Joe Murphy (Carnew), John Connors (St. Pat’s); Eoin Mason, Adrian Shanahan, Eamonn Furlong (All Bray Emmets). Subs. - Shane Byrne (Avondale), Denis Moran (Buffers Alley).
Others that played in the league included: Tim Finn (Avondale), John Keogh (Kiltegan), Ger White (Moneygall), Ronan Keddy, Fintan Donnolly (Kilcoole), Brian Stones (Meelick/Eyrecourt); Shane MaGrath (Avondale); Eoin Maher (Mullinavat), Billy Cuddihy (Eire (0g); M.A. O’Neill (Glenealy), Jim Connors (St. Pat’s).
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Wicklow's Seán Kinsella keeps his eye on the ball while under pressure from Westmeath's Pat Clarke.
Eamon Furlong about to block down Westmeath's Paul Greville during the Christy Ring Cup match in Arklow.