Sweet success for Wicklow
A DOUBLE scores win over arch rivals Carlow at any time and in any game is always welcome.
Keeping Wicklow’s footballers in a challenging position for promotion is also a good thing to maintain interest and incentive in the remainder of the league.
That’s as good as it got in this division four game at Aughrim on Sunday with Micko’s men showing by their patch performance that they have a lot of work still to do if they are to be battle ready for the championship in two months time.
Carlow are also Wicklow’s opponents in the Leinster Championship opener in May and the one saving grace at the moment is they are in the same boat as the Garden County when it comes to being ready for the championship standard football.
Wicklow played a lot of sloppy football at times, were slow in moving the ball forward, spilled a lot of possession to their opponents and allowed Carlow too much space and freedom outfield.
This put a lot of pressure on Wicklow’s defence and thankfully they were the one section of the team that was playing with the spirit, passion and intensity that we have come to expect from the team and was required at this level.
Even in the first half, when playing with the wind advantage, Wicklow were coming under a lot of pressure from their opponents and Carlow could have taken an early lead had they not squandered two gilt edge scoring chances by trying to ‘walk’ the ball into the Wicklow net.
That’s not an easy task to achieve when you’re faced with Mervyn Travers in goal and confronted by a rock solid full-back line of Ciaran Hyland, Stephen Kelly and Alan Byrne who were outstanding in the work they did.
Little behind those three Wicklow stalwarts were the half-backs Stephen Canavan, who started in place of Darren Hayden, Brian McGrath and Patrick McWalter, who drives at his opponents at every opportunity and with courage.
Not surprisingly therefore, it took Carlow some 20 minutes to register their names on the scoresheet with a point from a free by corner-forward Johnny Kavanagh, their place kicker.
Once you left defence, Wicklow’s problems started. We showed too much respect and too much of the ball to Carlow who were then able to keep up the pressure.
Carlow’s John Murphy was winning an awful lot of ball in midfield and one has to remember also that they started without their Aussie rules and U-21 star Brendan Murphy, who was being rested after a hard game in the U-21 championship against Offaly the day before.
However, on two minutes Patrick McWalter surged forward and played a good ball to roaming corner-forward Paul Earls, who drew the free off his marker and set up the opening point for Seanie Furlong.
Both teams kicked some terrible wides before Seanie Furlong had Wicklow’s second point on 10 minutes. And we had to wait another 9 minutes for Wicklow’s third score, a point by Rathnew man and wing-back Stephen Canavan who burst past his man after taking the pass from JP Dalton.
After 20 minutes of patchy football the scoreboard read Wicklow 0-3, Carlow 0-1.
Despite their short-comings Wicklow went on to lead by 0-7 to 0-3 at the break with points by Rory Finn, who started in place of Paul Cunningham, Leighton Glynn, Paul Earls and Ciaran Jones.
And Leighton Glynn brought a good save from Carlow keeper Michael Hennessy at his near post with a ground volley from the right after being teed up for the shot by Furlong.
With the wind at their backs in the second half, Carlow would not have felt out of the game at the halfway stage.
The fact that Wicklow took a long time in coming out for the second half suggested that the players were getting a ‘talking to’ from the Maestro himself.
Carlow introduced star midfielder Brendan Murphy for the second half, hoping to push for victory.
But inside three minutes they suffered a cruel blow when wing-back Alan Curran was sent off on a second yellow. Down to 14 players, Carlow backs were effectively to the wall when they needed to capitalise on the wind.
And their woes were further compounded six minutes from the end when they were reduced to 13 men with the sending off of corner back Padraig Murphy, also on two yellows.
Still the visitors traded points with Wicklow throughout the third quarter, leaving them still just four points 0-10 to 0-6 adrift at the three quarter stage.
Wicklow had their best attacking spell in the final quarter when they fired over four unanswered points from Seanie Furlong, Ciaran Jones, Paul Cunningham and the roaming ball-carrier Paul Earls to underpin a victory that keeps their promotion hopes very much alive.
Minutes from the end Carlow’s Ken Doyle fielded a great high ball on the edge of the Wicklow square, swivelled around his marker but blazed his left foot shot wide of the posts. In a way it summed up this game for both teams.
Wicklow's Paul Cunningham bursts past Kieran Nolan of Carlow.