Tough tests for hurlers and Un­der-21 foot­ballers

GAELIC GAMES PETER KEOGH PRE­VIEWS THE WEEK­END ACTION

Bray People - - Sports -

AS I sit to pen this preview I am looking out my win­dow at Lug­na­coille, Le­in­ster’s high­est moun­tain.

This morn­ing, and all over this week­end it is cov­ered in a blan­ket of glis­ten­ing white snow. A sight to be­hold you may say, but not one to warn the hearts of the fix­tures mak­ers, or in­deed team man­agers.

Last week­end the care­ful plan­ning of men like Phillip McGilly­cuddy, Martin Barnes and even the team ad­min­is­tra­tors like Martin Cole­man and Brian McBride went for noth­ing as roads were ren­dered im­pass­able and fields un­playable.

The show must go on and all in­volved must go through the same rou­tine this week, and hope for the best.

At this point in time the weather man is giv­ing us no guar­an­tee of bet­ter times ahead but this week­end we don’t have the snow prone Wick­low moun­tains to con­tend with - our two big matches are away from home, Wick­low away to Kil­dare in the NHL and the re-fixed U-21 foot­ball cham­pi­onship match be­tween Wick­low and Long­ford in Long­ford.

NHL

Michael ‘Titch’ Phe­lan and his se­lec­tors, Martin Barnes and Eu­gene Byrne were looking for­ward to hav­ing their first test for a new-look team on home soil last week.

An opener against Ar­magh was just the sort of game they needed to get the show on the road.

How­ever, the Ark­low pitch was deemed un­playable at an early hour and be­cause of the dis­tance Ar­magh had to travel a call had to be made.

Now Wick­low face a much more daunt­ing task against a strong Kil­dare side.

For­mer Tip­per­ary star David Kennedy has an­chored the Li­ly­whites’ de­fence in re­cent years but in the Ke­hoe Cup this year he played at full-for­ward.

He will cer­tainly be a big hand­ful for new full-back Jim Con­nors.

The Wick­low team to play Ar­magh, as listed on the pro­gramme would cer­tainly have raised a few eye­brows

There was cer­tainly a few sea­soned play­ers like Joe Mur­phy, Wil­lie Collins, Andy O’Brien, Eoin Ma­son, Tom Dev­ereux, Ger Whyte and De­nis Mo­ran in the subs.

But then the new men at the helm may have been more im­pressed from what they saw on the train­ing ground rather than they were with past rep­u­ta­tions.

How­ever, there was a nice back­bone to the team with the ex­pe­ri­enced Ted Kennedy in goal; Jim Con­nors, Eoin O’Neill; Jo­hathan O’Neill and Ro­nan Keddy at mid­field; Jef­frey Ber­ming­han on the ‘40’ flanked by two very ex­pe­ri­enced hurlers in Ea­monn Fur­long and John Keogh.

New­comer Eoin Dunne is at full-for­ward flanked by two of the young guns Christy Moore­house and Alan Driver.

The full team reads: Ted Kennedy; Shaun Byrne, Jim Con­nors, Billy Cud­dihy; Thomas Doyle, Eoin O’Neill, John Con­nors; Jonathan O’Neill, Ro­nan Keddy; Ea­monn Fur­long, Jef­frey Ber­ming­ham, John Keogh; Christy Moore­house, Eoin Dunne, Alan Driver.

The 19 subs are - Fin­tan Don­nolly; Colm O’Neill, Willy Collins. Joe Mur­phy, TJ Hen­nessy, Andy O’Brien, Tom Dev­ereux, Liam Kenny, Nick Skel­ton, Peter Kiely, Adrian Keogh, Ciarán Doyle, De­nis Mo­ran, An­thony Driver, Eoin Ma­son, Eoin Ma­her, TJ Byrne, Michael Con­nors and Ger Whyte.

U-21 FOOT­BALL

The man­ager Phillip McGilly­cuddy was dis­ap­pointed when the un­der-21 match had to be post­poned last week. He had geared to prepa­ra­tions and his train­ing for that date and ev­ery­thing was set to roll.

How­ever, he has no prob­lems with the new date. Iron­i­cally Wick­low had asked for a change to this date early on be­cause of the clash with the Na­tional League match.

Phillip and his se­lec­tors Mick O’Toole and Co­nan Daye could stand to gain from the change of date. First of all Micko was forced by cir­cum­stances to bring on three U-21 play­ers on Satur­day, which was not in the over­all plan.

As well as that some of his in­jured play­ers may ben­e­fit from the ex­tra week. Craig O’Neill who is likely to start at cor­ner-back has missed a lot of train­ing and only just made it back in time.

Top scorer Shane Carty was also out with in­jury and it was touch and go whether he would have played on Satur­day. Oth­ers like Colm Coogan and Gavin Mur­ray could also ben­e­fit from the de­lay.

How­ever, the one player who stands to gain most from that ex­tra week is Paddy Byrne.

The Ballymanus star was one of the key fig­ures when Wick­low shocked Laois a year ago. Shortly af­ter that he had a re­cur­rence of an old knee in­jury which re­quired surgery and took him out for the rest of the year.

He only got the all clear in Jan­uary and re­turned to train with the side. In re­cent weeks he was again hit with a ham­string in­jury but is re­cov­er­ing well.

Paddy told the ‘Wick­low Peo­ple’ on Sun­day that he hopes to play some part in this match on Satur­day.

Car­low man Micky Byrne took over as the team trainer and even in the re­stricted time at his dis­posal has done a good job. The gen­eral view is that Wick­low will not fail for want of fit­ness this time.

Long­ford still hold all the aces. Home venue will give them a head start; a num­ber of matches in the Hast­ings Cup will have them up to speed and very sharp.

How­ever, there is a quiet con­fi­dence in the Wick­low camp.

Not be­ing able to get a full team to­gether at any stage is a draw­back ac­cord­ing to Phillip McGilly­cuddy.

The man­ager is also wor­ried about his top striker Ciarán Wal­she, who in ad­di­tion to hav­ing to play on the Se­nior team last week will be ex­pected to train for the Siger­son Cup with his col­lege DCU on Wed­nes­day..

At full strength Wick­low can field six scor­ing for­wards and that is some­thing that has not hap­pened all that of­ten in the past.

A full-for­ward line of Paul Cun­ning­ham, Dean Siney and Ciarán Wal­she would pack plenty of punch.

Top scorer Shane Carty and Dar­ren Hay­den will be two of the half-for­ward line.

One of last year’s stars Donal Fitzger­ald and Seán Tobin will be in con­tention for the other place. And that still leaves Paddy Byrne to ei­ther start or come in at some stage.

Ro­nan Phe­lan looks cer­tain to be the goal­keeper; Craig O’Neill, Bren­dan McGarr and Ciarán Doyle will be the full­back line.

Front run­ners for the half-back line are Seán Met­calfe, Brian Os­borne and An­thony McLough­lin. Mid­field should come from Blaine Har­mon, Cathal McNi­cholas or Gavin Mur­ray.

That would still leave some very strong play­ers in re­serve, notably Mark Kenny, Craig Smullen, Niall Cur­ran, Duirmuid Cronin, Mark Caplis, Barry Mur­phy and thje very promiss­ing 17-year-old Tomás Kelly.

A look back at clashes be­tween the sides in Mi­nor foot­ball three years ago is of no great help.

A win in Pearse Park would be just the tonic we all need at the mo­ment.

A look back at clashes be­tween the sides in Mi­nor foot­ball three years ago is of no great help.

Wick­low trav­elled to Long­ford with high hopes of a win that would see them top their group.

How­ever, Long­ford beat them that day to force a play-off for the sec­ond qual­i­fy­ing place.

When the sides met again in that play-off Wick­low came out on top with plenty to spare.

Wick­low's Paul Earls gets his shot away de­spite pres­sure from the Water­ford de­fence.

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