Victory over Kil­dare in Croke Park the high point of sea­son

GAELIC GAMES PETER KEOGH LOOKS BACK ON WICK­LOW’S YEAR IN IN­TER-COUNTY FOOT­BALL

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THE HIGH point in Wick­low’s year came on a bright May day in Croke Park when we beat Kil­dare in the first round of the cham­pi­onship.

It was our first Se­nior Foot­ball Cham­pi­onship win in ‘Cro­ker’ and we cel­e­brated as if we had won the cham­pi­onship.

Mick O’Dwyer and Arthur French were back at the helm for their sec­ond year in charge of foot­ball in Wick­low and hopes were at an all time high that they could build on the prom­ise shown in 2007.

How­ever, Micko’s plans for an early start to train­ing had the be shelved when the Se­nior Foot­ball Cham­pi­onship ran in to trou­ble and fin­ished way be­hind sched­ule.

The luck of the draw in the first com­pe­ti­tion of the new year, the O’Byrne Cup ran against Wick­low and they found them­selves hav­ing to travel to Par­nell Park to play Dublin in the first round.

The gap in fit­ness lev­els be­tween the two teams was all too ap­par­ent and the Dubs ran out easy win­ners by 2-12 to 0-9.

Stephen Hur­ley was get­ting his first start that day while Seánie Fur­long came on a sub and played for the last quar­ter.

Thomas Burke made a re­turn af­ter in­jury and also got the last 20 min­utes while play­ers like Rory Finn, John Paul Kelly, John McGrath and Derek Daly were handed the chance to stake their claim for more per­ma­nent places on the team.

O’BYRNE SHIELD

It was then on to the Shield where Wick­low had a good enough win over D.I.T. at the Fair Green in Shil­le­lagh.

Micko in­tro­duced three more new­com­ers to the team for that match – Mick McLough­lin from Bless­ing­ton, Bray born Brian McGrath, who had de­clared for Wick­low from his Dublin club, Kil­macud Crokes and Dean Od­lum from New­town. Mervyn Travers made his re­turn in goal that day and Seánie Fur­long and Nicky Mer­nagh got their first starts.

The score was Wick­low 3-10, D.I.T. 1-9.

In the semi-fi­nal of the Shield played in Aughrim, Wick­low again stepped up their per­for­mance but still lost to Laois by 2-17 to 2-12.

Tony Hannon and Thomas Burke were start­ing for the first time for the sea­son with Hannon scor­ing one of the goals and Derek Daly get­ting the other. Paul Earls was top scorer with five points (all frees).

THE LEAGUE

Fit­ness was still a prob­lem when Wick­low lost to Antrim in the first league match in Aughrim

The fi­nal score was Antrim 1-13, Wick­low 1-8. Dean Od­lum got the goal while new­comer Seánie Fur­long was top scorer with 0-4.

Next up was a trip to Dun­gar­van to take on a Water­ford team that of­ten gave us trou­ble but one that we gen­er­ally beat. Wick­low stepped up their per­for­mance a fair bit but it still took a late goal from the penalty spot by Paul Earls to give us a comfortable 1-16 to 0-13 win.

Earls scored 1-3; Seánie Fur­long 06; Tony Hannon, just com­ing back to form scored 0-2; Dean Od­lum, John McGrath, Derek Daly, Thomas Walsh and John Paul Dal­ton 0-1 each.

Wick­low were at home to Kilkenny in the next match and had their ex­pected easy win - 2-34 to 0-5.

Seánie Fur­long scored 1-9 and Paul Earls 0-9. Un­der age star­let Ciarán Wal­she made his first ap­pear­ance in the league when he came on a sub while Bren­dan O hAn­naidh also made a wel­come re­turn.

Wick­low, as of­ten hap­pened in the past, re­served their worst dis­play of the league for their home sup­port­ers in Aughrim.

Of­faly led by 3-8 to 1-4 at half-time and won by 3-15 to 1-6.

Derek Daly got the goal; Seánie Fur­long 0-3; Pail Earls 0-2 and James Stafford, who came on a sub (0-1). Leighton Glynn made his first ap­pear­ance af­ter re­cov­er­ing from a groin op­er­a­tion when he came on in the sec­ond-half.

Micko’s men fi­nally lost their bat­tle for pro­mo­tion on a dread­ful day in Cu­sack Park in En­nis when a team, prob­a­bly suf­fer­ing from a hang-over af­ter the Of­faly match were beaten by 0-11 to 0-8 by Clare.

It was a game Wick­low could and should have won and in the end it was the dif­fer­ence be­tween get­ting pro­mo­tion or fin­ish­ing a re­spectable third in the ta­ble.

Wick­low then had two good wins on the trot, beat­ing Lon­don in Ruis­lip and Car­low in Aughrim on suc­ces­sive Sun­days.

In the Lon­don match we outscored the Em­i­grants 4-9 to 0-6. Tommy Gill was the top scorer with 1-5; Leighton Glynn, Derek Daly and Dean Od­lum also got goals.

The AGB star Ciarán Hy­land made his first re­turn to action af­ter a long lay-off through in­jury that day.

The fi­nal score in the match against Car­low was 1-15 to 1-6 with Gill again get­ting the goal and Tony Hannon re­turn­ing to the top of the scor­ing chart for the first time with 0-6.

Wick­low’s last match in the league was in Ardfinnan where Tip­per­ary won by two points – 0-12 to 0-10 to grab the sec­ond pro­mo­tion spot, but it could so eas­ily have been Wick­low

Af­ter a league run like that spir­its in the camp were at a low ebb but the one man who never lost faith in his team was the boss, Mick O’Dwyer.

‘For­get about the league’ he told his player; what mat­ters to me is the cham­pi­onship and the day we are now aim­ing for is Sun­day, May 18, in Croke Park.

Wick­low were in­vited to play a South Kerry se­lec­tion on the day that Micko’s club Water­ville were open­ing their new club­house and won by 1-11 to 0-6

That gave Micko a boost and Arthur French was even more con­fi­dent – if in­deed that was pos­si­ble.

Still the ghosts of past fail­ures haunted some of us long suf­fer­ing fol­low­ers of the Blue and Gold as we headed for Croke Park on that May day.

THE CHAM­PI­ONSHIP

Cometh the day. Micko and Arthur were in buoy­ant mood as the Ard­ca­van bus rolled out from the Glen­view Ho­tel on the fi­nal stage of a jour­ney that was to take this crew into the his­tory books.

It was a fully fo­cused team that hit the green sward of Cro­ker. They took the game to Kil­dare from the first whis­tle and never let up for a mo­ment. This was above all else a ‘team’ dis­play with every­one step­ping up his per­for­mance.

In the player rat­ings in the na­tional press four got nines while four more got eights – a quite re­mark­able per­for­mance by any stan­dards. Noone dropped be­low a six Fi­nally the man of the match went to Tony Hannon or Leighton Glynn, de­pend­ing on which pa­per you were read­ing.

The RTE tro­phy for player of the match went to Seánie Fur­long.

The team that made his­tory lined out like this: Mervyn Travers (AGB), Ciarán Hy­land (AGB), Damien Power (Rath­new), Alan Byrne (An­nacurra); Mick McLough­lin (Bless­ing­ton), Dara O’hAn­naidh (Capt., Bray Em­mets), Paddy Dal­ton (Coolkenno); Thomas Walsh (Bray Em­mets), James Stafford (Rath­new); Tony Hannon (Hol­ly­wood), Leighton Glynn (Rath­new), JP Dal- ton (Kil­te­gan); Dean Od­lum (New­town), Seánie Fur­long (Kil­te­gan), Paul Earls (St. Pa­trick’s). Subs. - Ciarán Wal­she (Balt­in­glass); Derek Daly (Kil­te­gan).

The quar­ter-fi­nal against Laois, played in Dr. Cullen Park, Car­low, was al­ways go­ing to be dif­fer­ent, and dif­fi­cult.

RTE pun­dit Tommy Lyons summed it up be­fore the match when he told view­ers that the Wick­low play­ers could suf­fer from nerves.

‘They had noth­ing to lose against Kil­dare and just gave it a lash. Now ex­pec­ta­tions are sky high and it re­mains to be seen if they can take the pres­sure’.

How right he was. Some of the play­ers were a bag of nerves in the first-half and never got into the game. they squan­dered scor­ing chances at one end, gave away soft frees at the other and went in trail­ing be five points – 0-9 to 0-4 at half­time.

Micko could not wait to get them back to the dress­in­groom.

They came out a dif­fer­ent team in the sec­ond-half and took the game to Laois. How­ever, they needed a break or two to get back into the match but none were com­ing their way Over­all they failed to con­vert any one of four goal­ing chances and that in the end cost them the match.

The start­ing team was the same as in the Kil­dare match but Brian McGrath, Tommy Gill and Rory Nolan came on dur­ing the match.

CON­TIN­UED NEXT PAGE

Mick O’Dwyer cel­e­brates with Arthur French and Martin Cole­man af­ter the cham­pi­onship win over Kil­dare in Croke Park.

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