Wick­low fin­ish strongly to edge past Long­ford

Bray People - - Bray Sport - Peter KEOGH

Wick­low 1-11, Long­ford 2-6: Phillip McGilly­cuddy’s un­der-21 foot­ballers got off to a winning start in the Le­in­ster cham­pi­onship on Satur­day.

This match should have been played a week ear­lier but was one of a num­ber of games that fell foul of the snow storm..

How­ever, it took a great last quar­ter rally to see them snatch victory from the jaws of de­feat against Long­ford in at their own Pearce Park in Long­ford town on this oc­ca­sion.

The home side held the edge for most of the way. Two goals mid­way through the first-half boosted their con­fi­dence and saw them go in lead­ing by 2-3 to 1-3 at half-time and they held that ad­van­tage through most of the third quar­ter.

It took Wick­low a long time to fully re­cover from the set­back and in fact it took an in­spi­ra­tional point by Bless­ing­ton’s An­thony McLough­lin, at that time play­ing in the full-back line, to bring Wick­low level on the stroke of the hour and points by Paul Cun­ning­ham and Cathal McNi­cholas deep in in­jury-time gave the Gar­den County team a hard-earned victory.

Long­ford got off to a great start with a point in­side 30 sec­onds and an­other in the fourth minute.

Ciarán Wal­she was set up by Cathal McNi­cholas for Wick­low’s first point in the fifth minute.

Then a sweep­ing move­ment half the length of the field, started by Blaine Har­mon and car­ried on by Seán Met­calfe saw Dar­ren Hay­den score a cracker of a goal in the tenth minute and Wick­low were in front.

The lead was short lived. When a shot by cen­tre-for­ward De­nis McCormack came back off an unright the Wick­low de­fence were caught nap­ping and num­ber 15 Phillip Dob­son was in like a flash to blast to the net.

An­other move a minute later, started again by the cen­tre-for­ward saw the num­ber ten Pau­ric Gill blast home Long­ford’s sec­ond goal and the mid­lan­ders were four points up.

Ciarán Wal­she pointed a free af­ter an off the ball foul on Paul Cun­ning­ham and Dar­ren Hay­den was set up for an­other point by Donie Fitzger­ald to leave just the one goal be­tween the sides at the break - 2-3 to 1-3.

Early in the sec­ond-half Donie Fitzger­ald started a move and was then in on the end of it to send over a good point - sub Seán Tobin pro­vid­ing the link.

Dob­son and McGoldrick added points for Long­ford and four sep­a­rated the sides again.

The Wick­low fight­back re­ally started in the 40th minute when Ciarán Wal­she was fouled and pointed the free him­self. When Paul Cun­ning­han was fouled in the 43rd minute Wal­she again did the need­ful.

Wick­low kept up the pres­sure and again Wal­she was fouled and pointed an­other free in the 45th minute.

While Wick­low were get­ting on top the scores were painfully slow in com­ing. An­other eight min­utes had passed be­fore Dean Siney won a free and again the deadly Wal­she sent over the equaliser.

When Long­ford got back on the at­tack the weak­ness in the Wick­low last line of de­fence again showed up and Dob­son went through for a sim­ple point to re­store the home lead.

Wick­low were now fight­ing for their cham­pi­onship lives, but do­ing it with great heart and spirit.

An­other six score­less min­utes had passed be­fore An­thony McLough­lin de­cided it was time to show his for­wards what it was all about.

He fielded a ball in his own full-back line, raced the length of the field and sent over the lev­el­ling point.

That was in the 60th minute and Wick­low sup­port­ers heaved a col­lec­tive sigh of re­lief.

A few of us who still be­lieve in the power of prayer said ‘thank you God for giv­ing up a draw’.

Bet­ter was to come. With three min­utes of added time gone Blaine Har­mon brought off a great in­ter­cep­tion to foil a Long­ford at­tack. The ball was swept up field where the hard-work­ing Dar­ren Hay­den pro­vided the fi­nal pass for Paul Cun­ning­ham to send over the lead point from a dif­fi­cult enough shot.

The ref still played on and in the fifth minute a Dean Siney shot took a de­flec­tion and a 45 was sig­nalled.

The Wick­low fol­low­ers were shout­ing ‘put it dead’, ‘put it dead’ as Cathal McNi­cholas lined up the kick.

How­ever, the New­town lad made no mis­take from the kick and put it straight be­tween the posts.

A win, per­haps a some­what lucky one, but it gives Wick­low a home venue for a sec­ond round match against Laois.

An­thony McLough­lin was eas­ily the best of a hard­worked Wick­low de­fence. Ciarán Doyle had a good hour, first at cor­ner-back and then at full-back.

Brian Os­borne worked hard and cov­ered a lot of ground and did well to hold a lively cen­tre for­ward to a sin­gle point. Seán Met­calfe did a lot of good things and was some­what un­lucky to be re­placed.

Very lit­tle in it at mid­field but Cathal McNi­cholas and Blaine Har­mon worked very hard.

Up front both Ciarán Wal­she and Dar­ren Hay­den showed the ben­e­fit of their se­nior ex­pe­ri­ence.

The two 19-year-olds Dean Siney and Paul Cun­ning­ham are com­ing on well. Donie Fitz led the at­tack well while Seán Tobin worked hard when brought on.

All will have ben­e­fit­ted from this match.

The squad that faced Long­ford in the Le­in­ster Un­der-21 foot­ball cham­pi­onship.

Dean Siney reaches for the ball as he is chased by Kevin Dif­fley of Long­ford.

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