Wick­low find the goal-den touch to earn point in Antrim

GAELIC GAMES NA­TIONAL FOOT­BALL LEAGUE DIVI­SION 4

Bray People - - Sport - Peter KEOGH

Wick­low 3-6, Antrim 0-15: A sec­ond-half goal rush, led mainly by full-for­ward Seánie Fur­long cov­ered up for a mul­ti­tude of sins by a new-look Wick­low team in Case­ment Park on Sun­day.

To come away with a point from the Belfast venue is a good day’s work at any time and in the end Micko and his men­tors were more than happy with the re­sult.

How­ever, when they re­flect on this match they will know that this, over­all was not a good dis­play and that, in the end they were a shade lucky to get the draw.

A bit like the Laois match in the cham­pi­onship a year ago Wick­low sim­ply did not ar­rive for the firsthalf of this match and it took all of Micko’s mo­ti­va­tional skills to get the team go­ing for the sec­ond-half.

A new-look de­fence, short of at least a half dozen of the play­ers avail­able last year were in trou­ble from the start and to make mat­ters worse they lost a key player Ciarán Hy­land to a yel­low card and Stephen ‘Ch­ester’ Kelly be­fore half­time.

It was hard graft­ing rather than good foot­ball that saved the day.

A fly­ing Antrim team had dom­i­nated the first-half and were not flat­tered to lead by 0-8 to 0-3 at half­time.

To make that score­line look even worse, Wick­low had played with what ever as­sis­tance a mostly cross-field wind had to of­fer and had failed to score from play. All three Wick­low points had come from Tony Hannon frees.

Micko’s half-time pep talk had worked won­ders and Wick­low came out a dif­fer­ent team for the sec­ond-half. None-the-less they were lucky to hold on for a draw in the end.

No. 12 Conor Mur­ray had a point al­most straight from the throw-in as Antrim laid down an early marker. When Seánie Fur­long was fouled at the other end Tony Hannon sent over the free to tie the scores but the rest of the half be­longed to the home side. Mid­fielder Michael McCann, Kieran Close, James Loughrey and Mur­ray added points with Hannon point­ing an­other free won by Fur­long to leave the Glen men lead­ing by 0-5 to 0-2 at the end of the first quar­ter.

Nor did mat­ters im­prove for the Gar­den County in the sec­ond quar­ter. Mid­fielder McCann sent over two more points, wing-back Tony Scul­lain added an­other as against an­other Hannon free for Win­klow af­ter Leighton Glynn was fouled.

Twice in the clos­ing stages the game could have taken a dra­matic turn, but didn’t.

First Seánie Fur­long was brought down in the square and the ref­eree had no hes­i­ta­tion in point­ing to the spot.

Paul Earls hit a poor enough penalty which Antrim goalie Seán McGreevey had no trou­ble in sav­ing and Ciarán Wal­she drove the re­bound into the side net­ting.

A great chance for Wick­low to get back into the game gone abeg­ging.

Min­utes later Ciarán Hy­land brought down cor­ner-for­ward To­mas McCann at the other end.

The ref again awarded a penalty but this time sent off Hy­land on a yel­low card - a rather harsh de­ci­sion since he let the Antrim full-back Seán McVeigh off scot-free for the same of­fence.

The usu­ally re­li­able Paddy Cun­ning­ham drove his shot well wide of the div­ing Mervyn Travers and prob­a­bly jus­tice was done. Half-time Antrim 0-8; Wick­low 0-3.

Micko was not ex­actly pat­ting his charges on the back at half-time but his words had the de­sired re­sult and it was a more fired-up Wick­low team that took the field for the sec­ond-half.

None-the-less it was Paddy Cun­ning­ham who opened the sec­ond­half scor­ing with a point to put the home side six clear.

Seánie Fur­long was fouled by McVeigh for the umpteenth time and the Kil­te­gan man pointed the free him­self. The full-back was called ashore and re­placed by Paul Con­lon.

It could have been the wrong move for Antrim man­ager Liam Bradley to make be­cause if Fur­long was roast­ing McVeigh he re­ally went to town on the less ex­pe­ri­enced Con­lon.

Cun­ning­ham and Hannon ex­changed points and when Dean Od­lun was fouled Hannon sent over his fifth free to give Wick­low some hope.

Then Wick­low hit a pur­ple patch. John McGrath sent in a long ball which was fum­bled by a de­fender and Seánie Fur­long was in for an easy goal and only two points sepa- rated the sides.

That was in the 15th minute of the half and two min­utes later Dean Od­lum won pos­ses­sion, rounded his marker and slipped a neat shot to the net.

So af­ter been out­played for so long Wick­low were now a point in front.

The sec­ond goal ap­peared to act as a ‘ wake-up’ call for the home side. They went on to land the next three points to go two up again.

How­ever, Wick­low were now fight­ing with grim determination and came bat­tling back once again. Paudge McWal­ter made a good run down the right and sent in a cen­tre which Seánie Fur­lomg again fielded in front of the full-back.

The full-for­ward rounded his marker but was pushed out to the left by force of num­bers. How­eve, he had the ball on his deadly left foot and squeezed his shot to the net and Wick­low were back in front with just four min­utes on the clock.

It was the ex­pe­ri­enced Kevin Brady, who had come on as a sec­ond-half sub that got the last score of the match on the 70th minute to get Antrim a draw.

Deep in in­jury-time dis­as­ter struck for Wick­low.

The hard-graft­ing Paudge McWal­ter was yel­low-carded for bring­ing down a for­ward and when John McGrath ap­peared to re­mon­strate with the ref­eree he too was yel­low­carded. How­ever, by that time Antrim had taken off their three free-tak­ers and Michael McCann missed the kick.

While Seánie Fur­long may have saved the day he would be hard pressed for man of the match by Mervyn Travers.

The AGB man gave an­other great dis­play of goal­keep­ing and dis­played great brav­ery and judg­ment on a num­ber of oc­ca­sions when he had to ad­vance out­side of his box to make in­ter­cep­tions.

Jacko Dal­ton had his best game at mid­field and off-loaded the ball fast, as Micko had asked him to do. Leighton Glynn and Paudge McWal­ter were also very ef­fec­tive but had their hands full with lively wing-for­wards.

Over­all a re­sult that should bol­ster con­fi­denc in a new-look team.

Wick­low’s Dean Od­lum cel­e­brates his goal against Antrim.

Ciarán Hy­land takes ad­van­tage of a clash be­tween two Antrim play­ers.

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