Wicklow denied share of spoils by last-gasp point
GAELIC GAMES NATIONAL HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 3A
Kildare 0-17, Wicklow 113: Wicklow’s hurlers were unfortunate not to get a draw from their opening national league away match at Newbridge and yet at the same time lucky not to be beaten by seven points or more.
Michael ‘Titch’ Phelan was pleased, however, with the commitment and spirit shown by his players as they took Saturday’s contest right down to the wire before being cruelly hit by a late, late Kildare winner.
Indeed Kildare had to come from three points behind in the last eight minutes to draw level as the game entered injury-time and then Wicklow were to see a share of the league points plucked from their grasp as Paul Fitzgerald stroked over the winning point from a free on the sideline with the last puck of the match.
In the opening half Wicklow had two good chances of goals to possibly steal victory but the shots of Geoffrey Bermingham and Eoghan Dunne brought good saves from the Kildare keeper Paul Dermody.
Against that Wicklow had their goalie Ted Kennedy to thank for keeping them in the hunt as the Carnew man also effected a number of super stops when the Lilywhites threatened to over-run his team-mates.
Furthermore Wicklow can apportion part of the reason for being 0-7 to 0-6 in front at the break to the profligate shooting of Kildare’s forwards from good scoring positions.
However, Wicklow’s hurlers started the match with a performance full of positives and passion. The marking of the backs was tight; full-back Jim Connors had a huge game and midfielder Jonathan O’Neill was on song with his free-taking to storm into a 0-6 to 0-2 lead in the opening 20 minutes.
Jonathan O’Neill got the show on the road for Wicklow inside 20 seconds when he pointed his first free and for a brief period we dared to dream of a surprise victory, even though Kildare were lining out with five changes of personnel in their starting line-out.
Tipperary man David Kennedy was one of the absentees and like Wicklow their team was largely experimental in its rejigged formation.
One of Wicklow’s early points came from Geoffrey Bermingham who lined-out in an attacking role at centre-forward and was one of the visi- tors best forwards on the day, scoring two points in all.
As the half progressed several Wicklow players seemed to run out of puff, allowing the Lilywhites to gain a grip. The marking by Wicklow around the centre of the park was loose and David Harney at wing-back and Lorcan Harney at midfield took advantage.
Lucky for Wicklow though, Kildare’s finish was not always on a par with their play and they posted an excessive ten wides in the opening 30 minutes. In contrast Wicklow did not have their first wide until the 31st minute – it came from Christy Moorehouse – and they finished the half with just two wides.
In between all their erratic shooting, Paul Fitzgerald constantly found the target from frees, David Cafferty, Paul Divilly and David Harney from a ‘65’ popped over further points to reduce the margin to a minimum at half-time – 0-6 to 0-7.
Seven minutes into the second-half and Jonathan O’Neill got Wicklow away first again, this time pointing a ‘65’ but it was Kildare who were display the fire-power that Wicklow lacked in attack as Lorcan Harney, David Cafferty and Paul Fitzgerald all posted points to give the home side the lead for the first time (0-9 to 0-8) after 46 minutes.
Fitzgerald stretched that lead to two points a minute later; Paul Divilly added another point for the Lilywhites and that was the signal for Wick- low to switch Eamon Furlong to full-forward and bring on Liam Kennedy for Ronan Keddy.
Geoffrey Bermingham continued to work his socks off for Wicklow in attack and he laid off the pass to his wing-back Thomas Doyle for a point on 52 minutes.
Fitzgerald countered for Kildare with another point from a free and they led by three, 012 to 0-9 into the last 15 minutes.
Inspired by two points from frees by Jonathan O’Neill, Wicklow stepped up their game once more.
Substitute Liam Kennedy took full advantage of a crossfield pass from Carnew colleague Joe Murphy to post the equaliser and they looked to have got the rub of the green in the 62nd minute when Jonathan O’Neill failed to get adequate lift off to a free and sliothar whizzed all the way to the left-hand, far corner of Paul Dermody’s net.
Wicklow were back in the lead, 1-12 to 0-12. Kildare hit back to make for a nail-biting finish to this game. Points by Kevin Divilly and Paul Fitzgerald brought the sides level for the fourth time.
Eoghan Dunne, who had switched to wing-forward, restored Wicklow to the front but Paul Fitzgerald, the scorer of ten of Kildare’s points, equalised from a free as the match headed to injury-time.
No one would have complained had the referee blown full-time at that stage. Wick- low would have been happy with a share of the league points; it would leave them on track for a place in the division final.
However, play continued and Kildare won a free on the side- line to the right of goal. Paul Fitzgerald kept a cool head as he drilled the sliothar straight between the posts for the winner.
The lack of sufficient scoring power in attack also contributed to Wicklow pulling up short at the final whistle.
Scorers for Kildare were: Paul Fitzgerald (0-10, eight frees), Paul Divilly and David Cafferty (0-2 each), David Harney, Lorcan Harney and Kieran Divilly (0-1 each).
Wicklow’s scorers were: Jonathan O’Neill ( 1-6, five points and goal from frees); Geoffrey Bermingham and Joe Murphy ( 0-2 each), Thomas Doyle, Eoghan Dunne and Liam Kennedy (0-1 each).
Jim Connors tries to get to the ball ahead of Lorcan Harney of Kildare.
Wicklow’s Ronan Keddy on the attack against Kildare.