Wick­low teams fac­ing tough tests

PREVIEW PETER KEOGH LOOKS AHEAD TO THE WEEK­END ACTION

Bray People - - Sport -

WICK­LOW TAKE on Laois in the quar­ter-fi­nal of the Le­in­ster U-21 Foot­ball cham­pi­onship at Aughrim on Sun­day.

This is a game fraught with dan­ger for the home side, and man­ager Phillip McGilly­cuddy and his se­lec­tors know that.

A year ago they caught the O’Moore lads nap­ping in Port­laoise and had a very clear-cut victory over a team that had con­tested the Al­lIre­land fi­nal a year ear­lier.

That de­feat hurt deeply in Laois and without doubt they will come to Aughrim with all guns blaz­ing on Sun­day.

Re­venge, just as much as a place in the semi-fi­nal, will drive on the Laois lads and the ques­tion could be - do we have a mo­ti­vat­ing fac­tor to match that?

Phillip McGilly­cuddy has this team as well pre­pared as it is pos­si­ble to do with the present re­stric­tions. Along with se­lec­tors Mick O’Toole and Co­nan Day he has sifted through a big panel and has come up a fully com­mit­ted and well bal­anced team.

He brought in Mick Byrne to do the phys­i­cal train­ing and the O’Han­ra­hans club­man had done a good job.

They were very slow to set­tle against Long­ford but the long jour­ney to the venue and the fact that it was their first match, or even the first time that the full panel were to­gether may have ac­counted for that.

How­ever, they made up for a bad start with a blis­ter­ing fin­ish which saw then clinch victory in in­jury­time.

The man­ager did not mince words when he ad­dressed his team af­ter the match. He told then that a start like that would not do against Laios. He de­manded 60 min­utes of foot­ball from every­one when they take the field at Aughrim. ‘That is what it will take to get us to a semi-fi­nal’.

The de­fence, and in par­tic­u­lar the full back-line was where most of the prob­lems arose in the Long­ford match. With young gi­ant Donie Kingston likely to op­er­ate at full-for­ward for Laois this prob­lem could get even big­ger this time round.

The switch­ing of An­thony McLough­lin to the in­side line worked well and we can ex­pect to see the Bless­ing­ton lad start nearer to goal on Sun­day. The two subs that were used in de­fence, Colm Coogan and Craig Smullen could hold their places but it is un­likely that we will see too many changes on what, af­ter all, is a winning team.

Paddy Byrne is fight­ing hard to reach match fit­ness and no doubt his ex­pe­ri­ence would be a great help. How­ever, with few places avail­able in at­tack he may have to start on the bench again.

No doubt about it this is a good, com­mit­ted panel. They have worked hard and have the abil­ity to make fur­ther progress in Le­in­ster.

Last year the team got car­ried away af­ter beat­ing Laois; that is un­likely to hap­pen again.

They can put six scor­ing for­wards on the field, and that is some­thing that not ev­ery county can do. They have two hard work­ing mid­field­ers and enough cover in de­fence.

Given the breaks this is a match they can win.

The team that beat Long­ford - 1-11 to 2-6 - lined out like this: Ro­nan Phe­lan (Bal­li­na­cor); Craig O’Neill (Kil­mac), Bren­dan McGarr (Bless­ing­ton), Ciarán Doyle (St. Pat’s); Seán Met­calfe (Dunlavin), Brian Os­borne (Carnew), An­thony McLough­lin (Bless­ing­ton, 0-1); Blaine Har­mon (Kil­te­gan), Cathal McNi­cholas (New­town, 0-1); Shane Carty (Dunlavin), Donie Fitzger­ald (Ash­ford, 0-1), Dar­ren Hay­den (Eire Og, 1-1); Ciarán Wal­she (Balt­in­glass, 0-6). Paul Cun­ning­ham (Bray Em­mets, 0-1). Subs - Seán Tobin (St. Pat’s) for Carty; Colm Coogan (Ballymanus) for McGarr; Craig Smullen (Eire Og) for Met­calfe.

The rest of the panel is - Rory Bres­lin; Tomás Kelly, Mark Kenny, Paddy Byrne, Mark Caplis, Diar­muid Cronin, Niall Cur­ran, Gavin Mur­ray, Barry Mur­phy and Donal Finch.

Laois have sev­eral Mi­nors of 2007 on the panel. Rob­bie Ke­hoe an out­stand­ing de­fender is now op­er­at­ing around mid­field. Joe Mul­hare, Conor Boyle, Zach Tuohy, Brian Smith and oth­ers are likely to be in the hunt for places. The big ques­tion is will John O’Lough­lin play, he has been in­jured since last year’s cham­pi­onship and this year is cap­tain of the UCD team but is still very doubt­ful. Donie Kingston is likely to start, James Doyle an­other Mi­nor of two years ago will be push­ing hard. John Scully, Gearoid Han­ra­han, Am­brose Do­ran are also in the hunt for a place in the start­ing line up.

Laois v. Wick­low pre­vi­ous meet­ings: 1969 - Laois 2-7, Wick­low 2-6. (Car­low); 1992 - Laois 3-9, Wick­low 1-6 (Aughrim); 1993 - Laois 1-8 Wick­low 1-4 (Port­laoise); 1996 Wick­low 3-14, Laois 2-7 (Port­laoise); 2005 - Laois 2-13, Wick­low 0-2 (Balt­in­glass); 2007 - Laois 0-11, Wick­low 1-5 (Aughrim); 2008 Wick­low 1-11, Laois 0-3 (Port­laoise).

Forty years ago Laois and Wick­low met for the first time and the oc­ca­sion was the pro­vin­cial fi­nal in Dr. Cullen Park. Laois scraped home by a sin­gle point - 2-7 to 2-6. The teams lined out as fol­lows.

Laois: Tony Burke (Killeshin); Dan Lut­trell (Court­wood), Tom Man­ley (Por­tar­ling­ton), Ea­mon Roy­croft (Por­tar­ling­ton); Tim Clancy (Cap­tain, Tima­hoe), Christy Mur­phy (Por­tar­ling­ton), Liam De­laney (Strad­bally); Ivor Houi­han (RIP, Mount­mel­lick), Bobby Miller (RIP, Tima­hoe); Steve Allen (Por­tar­ling­ton), Sea­mus Flem­ing (St. Joseph’s), John­nie Lawlor (Emo); John Clancy (RIP, Tima­hoe), Paddy Lawlor (Emo).

Wick­low: Pat Cronin (Strat­ford); Wil­lie Whe­lan (Dunlavin), Liam O’Lough­lin (An­nacurra), Pat Hed­der­man (Ti­na­hely); John Doyle (Donard), Jim Sul­li­van (Forestry Col­lege), John Davis (Bal­li­nas­toe); Moses Cof­fey (Rath­new), Tom Fo­ley (Dunlavin); Gerry Far­rell (St. Pa­trick’s), Gary O’Toole (Ark­low), Mick O’Toole (St. Pat’s); John Simp­son (Shil­le­lagh), Gerry Sin­nott (New­town), Johnny McDanald (Rath­new). Subs. - Murt Doyle (Rath­new), Seán Mur­ray (Kil­mac) and Tom Kennedy (Carnew). NHL - WICK­LOW V. MAYO

Time was when Wick­low men­tors would lose lit­tle sleep over a hurl­ing match with Mayo, be it home or away.

That day is well and truly gone. The Con­naught men have come on a ton in the small ball game and are now a match for any team in tier three. Last year they gave us a nasty shock in Aughrim and put paid to our hopes of lift­ing the Christy Ring Cup.

That set­back came in the wake of a great dis­play that saw us beat a hotly-fan­cied West­meath side.

Wick­low have a new, high-pro­file man­ager in Michael ‘Titch’ Phe­lan, a Kilkenny All-Star and All-Ire­land win­ner.

There can by no doubt that he is get­ting a good turn-out of play­ers, both at train­ing and for matches.

How­ever, it is equally true that the team is miss­ing the steady­ing in­flu­ence of play­ers like Don Hy­land, Gra­ham Keogh, Michael An­thony O’Neill, Timmy Collins and John Keogh.

The truth is that the new man­ager, his trainer Frank Ryan and se­lec­tors Martin Barnes and Eu­gene Byrne are team build­ing, and only in the very early stages at that.

It will be some time be­fore we can ex­pect to see a set­tled team take the field in the Blue and Gold.

The back-bone is start­ing to take shape; Ted Kennedy ap­pears to be the front run­ner for goal, Jim Con­nors is do­ing well at full-back while Eoin O’Neill is stak­ing a claim to the No. 6 jer­sey. The ever re­li­able vet­eran Jonathan O’Neill is still our num­ber one mid­fielder while Ro­nan Keddy, who part­nered him there at the end of last sea­son looks the most likely to do so again.

Jef­frey Ber­ming­ham, one of the most ver­sa­tile hurlers of them all, has been tried at cen­tre-half and full-for­ward. Joe Mur­phy is an­other player des­tined for a big role this year.

When the sides met in the Christy Ring Cup last year Mayo’s top marks­man was Keith Hig­gins with 0-9. Hig­gins has been out of the coun­try and may not be avail­able on Sun­day. How­ever, Mayo are no longer a one man team. In Pierce Hig­gins and Stephen Brod­er­ick they have a strong mid­field (Brod­er­ick scored 1-3). Derek McDon­nell and Derek McCann were oth­ers to get on the score­sheet. Sea­mus Bar­rett starred at cen­tre-back while they have an­other high scor­ing for­ward in Adrian Free­man.

Wick­low have only six of the team that played in that match left - Ber­ming­ham, Eoin and Jonathan O’Neill, Ro­nan Keddy, Joe Mur­phy and Ea­mon Fur­long.

Gone are play­ers like Don Hy­land, Timmy Collins, Stephen Kelly, Colm Ryan, Ea­monn Kearns, Keith Barnes and Seánie Kin­sella.

How­ever the three subs used, Liam Kennedy, De­nis Mo­ran and John Con­nors, are still avail­able.

Wick­low gave a promis­ing dis­play against Kil­dare in the first round of the league. They have the right mo­ti­va­tion and the spirit in the camp is good.

It might be tempt­ing faith to pre­dict a Wick­low win at this stage. How­ever we do have home venue and that will be a help. Hurl­ing men of long stand­ing like Jackie Napier be­lieve that the team play bet­ter in Ark­low so if they are right the switch of the match from Aughrim may be an­other help.

No doubt about it a win at this stage would give ‘Titch’ and all in­volved a great boost.

The team that lost by a point to Kil­dare lined out as fol­lows: Ted Kennedy; Wil­lie Collins, Jim Con­nors, Billy Cud­dihy; Thomas Doyle, Eoin O’Neill, John Con­nors; Jonathan O’Neill, Ro­nan Keddy; Ea­mon Fur­long, Jef­frey Ber­ming­ham, Joe Mur­phy; Christy Moore­house, Eoghan Dunne and Alan Driver.

Paul Cun­ning­ham sends over a point for the Wick­low Un­der-21s dur­ing their win over Long­ford.

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