Selection headaches for maestro Micko
HAPPY NEW Year Micko! Without any doubt the maestro will need a change in fortunes after having a worrying time over the Christmas. Pulling a team together for the first match in the O’Byrne Cup has caused him a few headaches.
What with the ban on training; players out of the country (for how long we don’t know), others on the injury list or unavailable the poor man must have had more problems than puddings on his plate during the festive season.
Of the revised panel of 46 players which Micko announced in October some have not made themselves available and others who will be available later in the year are out at the moment.
Brian Stafford and Derek Daly are in Australia; Brian McGrath is club tied; Ciarán Walshe has been claimed by his college DCU for the O’Byrne Cup and Shield while others are on the long term injury list.
Wicklow are at home to Carlow in the O’Byrne and the venue has been confirmed as Blessington on Sunday next – the 4th of January. It could be a baptism of fire for quite a number of the newcomers. The latest reading on his panel is: Definitely out - Brian McGrath, Damien Power, Derek Daly, Dara O hAnnaidh, Ciarán Walshe, Paddy Dalton, Michael McLoughlin and Pádraig Higgins.
Doubtful - Mervyn Travers; Billy Norman, Rory Nolan, Thomas Walsh, Seánie Kinsella and Jacko Dalton.
Newcomers available - Alan Nolan (Baltinglass); Eoin Keogh, Wayne Callaghan, Dean Siney, Paddy Brophy (Blessington); Stephen Kelly (Eire Og); Frank Clune (Annacurra); Jonathan Kinch (Bray Emmets); Stephen Fanning (Aughrim); Brian Osborne (Carnew); Paudge McWalter (St. Patrick’s).
A safe looking line-out, made up of whatever players have declared themselves fit could read something like this – Mervyn Travers, Ciarán Hyland; Alan Nolan or Stephen Kelly, Alan Byrne; Paudge McWalter, Eoin Keogh, Leighton Glynn; Two out of three of the Blessington men for midfield – Paddy Brophy, Anthony McLoughlin or Gavin Murray; Tony Hannon, John McGrath, Darren Hayden; Dean Odlum, Seánie Furlong and Paul Earls.
That would mean a new full-back; a new centre half back and two new midfielders for starters, and Micko may go even further. Darren Hayden is the only U-21 player on that likely list, that is if Gavin Murray does not make the cut.
However, Brian Osborne from Carnew, who is on the U-21 panel is knocking at the Senior door; Jonathan Kinch from Bray Emmets is not far off the pace while one of last years Minors Dean Siney could also get the call. All of the young players impressed in the local championships during the year.
Another player to catch the eye in a short run in the Senior champi- onship was Tommy Kelly from St. Pat’s. However, he is still a Minor and may be ruled out on that score.
It is not easy to say how a team along these lines will gel on their first time together but it would be nice to get the year off to a winning start.
You will have noticed from that panel that Blessington are the big winners this year and obviously the team that impressed Micko and his selectors most. They have at least six players in the running for places on the team so perhaps it is not totally by chance that the first match of the year is being played in Blessington.
Our prediction last week that Micko could be leaving Waterville around midnight on the 31st was not far off the mark. Blessington groundskeeper Mick Curran has revealed the maestro has booked the pitch for his first training session on the morning of New Years Day. That is just three days before they take on Carlow in the O’Byrne Cup.
It may not a be case of ‘burn-out’ this year – more like ‘roasted alive’.
Got my hands on a copy of ‘Top Ace’ , the Irish Handball annual and the Wicklow page makes interesting reading.
From it we gather that the Wicklow Alley Cats were purring nicely in 2008.
The Coolboy club were again going strong and had winners, at county, Leinster and even national and international level
Congratulations to Richard Willoughby who has been appointed manager of the Ireland Junior team who are heading off across the Atlantic this week. Richard is one of the top handball coaches in Ireland and puts in a colossal amount of time and effort into promoting the game at all levels.
Shauna Hilley, one of the rising stars of Ladies Handball reached no less than five All-Ireland finals this year, winning her All Ireland medal in the 40 x 20 Minor singles. She was also awarded the Wicklow ‘Handballer of the Year’ for the second time.
Patricia Doyle, the G.A.A. Handball all star of the year was also up among the national winners. She partnered Shauna in the All-Ireland Senior 60 x 30 final before going on to will All-Ireland titles with cousin Stacy Doyle in the 40 x 20 junior doubles. Patricia also win the Ladies 60 x 30 Intermediate singles and the Irish National Ladies B title.
It was not all about the ladies game, the lads had their day in the sun as well.
Keith Kavanagh won Leinster titles on both courts. In his debut year in colleges handball he won titles in the 60 x-40 and the 30 x 20 courts
He also added the boys U-16 One Wall National title to his collection.
In Feile na nGael the Coolboy team of Wayne Kinsella, Stephen Barnes, Daniel Curry, Aaron Kinsella and Connor Hill did well to reach the national semi-finals with Doyle claiming the runner-up place in the Boys Division 4 skills.
Daniel Curry and Aaron Kinsella also won the Leinster U-11 60 x-40 doubles final.
The Coolboy club also won the Leinster 40 x 20 Senior and Junior Club Championships. The Senior team was Michael Gregan, Oran Quale, Johnny Willoughby and Richard Walshe.
Jerome Willoughby won the Leinster 40 x-20 Junior Singles and then joined up with Christopher Doyle, James Gregan Michael Lennon and Pat Doyle to win the Leinster Junior title.
One of the most remarkable achievements of all was achieved by Tom Walsh of Bray.
Tom ended his three years as President of the Handball Association last match and was back in the alley to partner Paddy Lennon of Coolboy to reach the All-Ireland final of the Ruby Masters A Doubles in August.
Arklow too had much to celebrate in 2008. Edmund Rice and John Quinn won the Leinster 40x20 doubles Masters doubles; Quinn also won a Leinster 60x30 open Masters title while Rice was a runner up in Masters B final.
This is not intended to be a complete list of who won what in Wicklow Handball in 2008 – just a few of the snippets we picked out from the report.
Handball, it appears is going from strength in the county. Just recently we read of moves afoot to restore the old alley in Tinahely, bring back the club and hopefully produce another Joe Cleary in the not too distant future.
They have also a new 40 x 20 court in Annamoe, the ‘Alley under the Bridge’ we used to call it.
Now we here that moves are afoot to have the Bray Emmets Alley replaced and hopefully also do something about Baltinglass.
Wicklow’s director of Coaching Hugh Kenny has taken up a new job as trainer of Newbridge Club Sarsfields. The ‘Sash’ is one of the strongest clubs in Kildare and are rarely out of the top four. Hugh, who was one of Seán Boylan’s selectors with the Ireland team in the International Rules series this year could be just the man to give Sarsfields the final push.
Ironically the new Baltinglass manager is a Sarsfields man Ray O’Sullivan, so as they say ‘fair exchange is no robbery’. Bord na nOg Hollywood girl Emma Burke is the new Bord na nOg PRO. She replaces Pat Mitchell who has taken up the new post of Radio Officer.
The Board held their first meeting just before Christmas and new Chairman Damien Byrne was quite pleased with the turn out.
The main purpose of the meeting was to launch Martin Barnes new fixtures plan for 2009. There was a good debate on the plan and again Martin was pleased enough with the response from the clubs.
Next step is a meeting with the officers of the District Boards with a view to streamlining the whole fixtures structures.
Next meeting of the Board in on January 26.
Camogie in Kiltegan looked to be heading for bad times recently
A great bunch of girls that had brought ten Senior championships to the area were coming near the ‘sell by’ date and even officers to run the club were getting hard to find.
However, one of the new officers who does not share in the gloom is the U-16 manager Pat Lee.
Pat believes in keeping the action going at all cost. He erected a tent on the Square in Baltinglass at the weekend and had his girls out hosting a Christmas cake sale, meeting their followers and supporters and generally spreading the message that camogie is a great game and is available to everyone. Girls we noted on the stand included Michelle Farrell, Laura Burke, Pippa Lee, Jennifer Jackson, Seren Pollard and Anya Pollard
The message - camogie in the area is alive and well.
NANCY O’NEILL CUP
A big crowd basked in the lovely winter sunshine at the picturesque Stratford pitch on St. Stephen’s day to watch the local team do battle with the O’Neill Boys for the Nancy O’Neill Memorial Cup. After losing the cup to Donard a year ago it was rumoured that high profile manager Gail Dunne, brought in at enormous cost, could like Gerard McCarthy lose his job, if not his head. Happy to report that Gail survived and so did the ‘Boys’
So the cup is back home in Eadestown, or should that be Neilstown.
Also happy to report that the referee John White was also numbered among the survivers at the finish – but only just..
On the Stratford side they were claiming that he couldn’t count and did not keep tabs to the number of subs Gail had used.
On the other side the ‘Boys’ supporters claimed that he was a ‘home town ref’ and gave the local team two late pelalties, which in fact should have been going the other way.
All is well that ends well; the starstudded ‘O’Neill Boys’ team with at least ten current or former county players on board won the cup on a score of 1-14 to 3-7. Everyone received medals, and that included the referee and all adjourned to the Glen Lounge for refreshments and to complete the fundraising end of the exercise.
All proceeds went to Baltinglass Hospital.
Helping out at the cake sale in aid of Kiltegan Camogie Club.