Glenealy retain their crown
GAELIC GAMES MARK KENNEDY LOOKS BACK ON THE WICKLOW HURLING CHAMPIONSHIPS
ONE OF the welcome developments on the hurling scene in Wicklow in 2008 was the return of Arklow Rock Parnell to the Senior hurling fold after an absence of several years.
In the 1970s and 1980s the Arklow men were on the top of the championship pile alongside Carnew and so their re-emergence as a Senior side has kindled hope that they may once again broaden the competitive base of the championship at Senior level.
For the last two decades Senior hurling in Wicklow has been shackled in the restrictive clutches three clubs – Kiltegan who held sway in the 1990s to win six titles; Carnew and Glenealy who have shared the championship titles of this decade between them.
Every year in recent times it has been a virtual foregone conclusion that the final will be contested by one or other combination of the big three – thus the emergence first of Bray Emmets and then Arklow Rock Parnells stirs new hope that the championship will be re-invigorated by the arrival of new teams on the block.
However, Bray and Arklow Rocks still have some way to go to catch up with the three big hitters of Wicklow hurling; for the moment, together with Avondale and Kilcoole, they fill cameo roles to the big stars of the Wicklow hurling scene.
Thus it was no surprise really that once more the battle for championship and league glory in the county effectively rested between Carnew, Glenealy and Kiltegan, with the latter team not as strong contenders as heretofore due to the fact that they decided to concentrate their biggest effort on winning the football title for the first time in 22 years.
Before a sliothar was struck in anger Carnew and Glenealy were the choice of most shrew pundits to be the teams to face up to each other in the league section and championship proper and people were not disappointed in their choice.
Carnew were out to topple old rivals Glenealy from their throne while the defending champions were equally resolute to bridge a 50year gap to the last time a club put back-to-back titles together in Senior hurling.
And it fell to Carnew to draw first blood in the league section. With titles alternating between the clubs this decade Robert Doyle’s men lifted the league title with an unbeaten run that included a 1-13 to 1-10 win over Glenealy and a walk-over from football focussed Kiltegan.
As league champions Carnew went straight through the championship final. Glenealy had to earn their right of passage to the decider, setting up another head-to-head with Carnew with a rather decisive 1-19 to 1-10 win over Kiltegan in the semi.
The final went to a replay, confirmation that there is rarely more than a puck of a ball between these teams at any time. Both teams produced hurling of high intensity and skill and that despite the fact that the replay was played in awful weather conditions.
A feature of both games, draw and replay, was the marvellous exhibitions of scoring by Don Hyland for Carnew and Jonathan O’Neill, for Glenealy. This was one of the best years of hurling by Jonathan O’Neill and it culminated in being selected on the team of Christy Ring AllStars.
In the end, Glenealy realised their dreams of back-to-back titles, winning the replay by 2-10 to 0-10, having been held to a 1-12 each draw at the first time of asking.
Jonathan O’Neill played a huge role in both matches and received the man of the match trophy for his efforts.
In the drawn encounter he scored eight of their 12 points, including banging over the equaliser with the last puck of the match.
He was equally prolific in the replay as he totted up 1-7 of Glenealy’s total. Another factor that probably swayed the replay in Glenealy’s favour was the fact that they had the inspirational Leighton Glynn back from Australia.
Because of the late finishing of the Senior hurling championship, Glenealy had to line out the next day in the Leinster Club championship against Confey of Kildare. Players appeared drained and listless after a hard county final, Jonathan O’Neill played with an injured hand, and the net result was that they were beaten by the Kildare champions 1-9 to 0-9.
Michael Neary, the manager of Glenealy Seniors, has called for the hurling championship to be run off much earlier in the summer when the weather is better.
‘Having to play a Leinster Club match just 24 hours after a hard county final is far from an ideal situation. If the Wicklow champions are given a fair and reasonable chance, I believe to can go far in Leinster,’ Michael said.
Proof of that fact was to be seen earlier in the year in the Leinster league competitions. Competing in division one Carnew were unlucky not to qualify from their group, having drawn with Harps of Laois, beaten Oliver Plunket’s, and lost narrowly to Rapparees from Wexford.
Participating in division two, Glenealy did qualify from their group, progressing to the semi-final before being beaten in the semi-final by three points by Cloughbawn, a Senior team from Wexford.
Glenealy completed a championship double in 2008 by also winning the Intermediate hurling title. Only three teams took part in this championship and they beat Carnew in the final by 0-14 to 0-8.
However none of the three teams – the other was Kiltegan - was eligible to participate in the Leinster Club, ruled out because they were all Intermediate teams of Senior clubs.
Michael Neary steered a second club to championship success in hurling in 2008. He was the manager of Newcastle Juniors as they lifted the championship with a dramatic win over northern neighbours Fergal Og in the closing stages.
Both teams were fancied to make the final in many quarters after they were bolstered by former St. Patrick’s players and they served up a cracking game of hurling and one of the best Junior finals in years.
Newcastle were trailing their opponents by 1-11 to 0-9 with just a minute of normal time left on the clock. Lion-hearted Ta O’Brien pushed forward to the edge of the square and got the vital touch to a John Dee O’Brien late, late free to crash home the winning goal. John Dee O’Brien fired over a mighty point immediately afterwards and thus Newcastle had performed their great Houdini act.
Newcastle also had to take part in the Leinster Club against Dublin’s Naomh Barro the next day and, like Glenealy, they found the strain of having to play two games in the space of 24 hours too much and they succumbed to an eight points defeat. Notwithstanding that defeat, it still was a memorable year for Newcastle nonetheless.
After the heart-break of their championship final defeat, Fergal Og gained compensation and revenge when two weeks later they turned the tables on Newcastle, lifting the Junior league title with a 2-9 to 0-9 win in the final.
Aughrim, with a number of quality players in their team including Shane O’Loughlin, Robert Lambert, Clive Horan, Alan Byrne and Kevin Byrne, proved too good for Kilmacanogue/Enniskerry in the Junior B hurling championship final, picking up the silverware with a rather comprehensive 1-10 to 0-3 win in a one-sided final.
Bray Emmets have to be a major force in Senior hurling on Wicklow in coming years, one would think.
In the last few years they have been one of the top clubs at underage hurling level in the county and this surely has to feed itself through to strengthening their Senior team to challenge the likes of Glenealy and Carnew in years to come.
We had another example of their potency at under-age level in the Minor hurling championship where, in the final, they renewed battle with once king-pins Carnew and beat the south county side by 3-9 to 2-8 to lift the Minor title after a cracking match. A bright omen for the future perhaps.
Glenealy captain Enan Glynn lifts the cup aloft after his side beat Carnew in the Senior hurling final replay.
Leighton Glynn who lined out for Glenealy against Carnew in the Wicklow Senior hurling final replay after returning from Australia.