Hurlers are fly­ing high

Bray People - - SPORT - At Ark­low MARK KENNEDY

WICK­LOW HURLERS are the only un­beaten teams in Divi­sion 3B, head­ing the league ta­ble with eight points from four starts.

How­ever, their home win over Roscom­mon last Sun­day was not a ‘scenic jour­ney to suc­cess’ like the pre­vi­ous week in Done­gal; rather it was achieved by dig­ging deep and re­fus­ing to buckle.

Af­ter their un­ex­pected de­feat to Louth, Roscom­mon came to Ark­low hell bent on winning so as to get their bid for a place in the divi­sion fi­nal back on track.

And they were buoyed by the fact that they had beaten Wick­low by a point in the Ke­hoe Cup com­pe­ti­tion back in Jan­uary.

Wick­low’s task of coun­ter­ing the westerner’s re­solve and gutsy per­for­mance was not helped by the fact that many of the play­ers were show­ing the ef­fects of hav­ing played in en­ergy-sap­ping Le­in­ster League matches with their clubs just 24 hours ear­lier.

And the home side had to con­tend with two qual­ity sharp-shoot­ers in the Roscom­mon team, wing-for­ward David Dolan and mid­fielder Michael Kelly who en­sured that Wick­low were chas­ing the game for a lot of time with their qual­ity scores, mostly from placed balls.

But if Dolan and Kelly were pil­ing on the points for Roscom­mon, they were still no match for Wick­low’s cen­tre-for­ward Jonathan O’Neill, who again fin­ished up as top scorer for his team and for the game with a smash­ing ten points.

Jonathan O’Neill’s scor­ing con­tri­bu­tion to Wick­low’s suc­cess was all the more praise­wor­thy con­sid­er­ing that he was play­ing with a frac­tured thumb, an in­jury picked up the pre­vi­ous week against Done­gal.

David Dolan opened the scor­ing for Roscom­mon with a point from a free af­ter two min­utes, but Wick­low also opened brightly and replied with three rapid fire points from O’Neill (free), John Con­nors and mid­fielder Ea­mon Kearns to lead to 0-3 to 0-1 af­ter 12 min­utes.

Full-for­ward Don Hy­land was splay­ing mar­vel­lous passes to his col­leagues in the early play but un­for­tu­nately Wick­low were not trans­lat­ing those op­por­tu­ni­ties into to scores.

In­stead Roscom­mon started to ex­ert more of a grip on the ex­changes and Dolan pointed from a free, Bren­dan Han­ley con­verted from play, and mid­fielder Michael Kelly har­vested points from a lon­grange free and from a well struck ‘65’ to re­cap­ture the lead, 0-5 to 0-4 af­ter 27 min­utes.

Wick­low were be­com­ing more leaden footed and were labour­ing. In the face of the Roscom­mon surges, more of the bur­den was fall­ing on to the shoul­der of Wick­low’s de­fence where Eoin O’Neill, Gra­ham Keogh, mak­ing his first full-game start, Willy Collins, Ge­of­frey Ber­ming­ham, Liam Kennedy and Billy Cud­dihy were show­ing stout re­sis­tance.

Ev­er­green MA O’Neill fed cousin Jonathan for a point from play and just on half-time Ge­of­frey Ber­ming­ham scored a mar­vel­lous point from mid­field to send Wick­low in for half-time lead­ing by 0-6 to 0-5.

Michael Kelly lev­elled for Roscom­mon im­me­di­ately af­ter the restart, fir­ing over the bar with an­other mag­nif­i­cent ‘ 65’; David Dolan shot two points in quick suc­ces­sion for the lead and thus the game ebbed and flowed, play fluc­tu­ated right to the fi­nal whis­tle.

It was the phe­nom­e­nal ac­cu­racy of Jonathan O’Neill that was keep­ing Wick­low in the hunt. But even so they found them­selves trail­ing Roscom­mon by 0-11 to 0-9 at the end of the third quar­ter.

Jonathan O’Neill pulled an­other point back for Wick­low from a free on 55 min­utes, Kevin Con­nelly im­me­di­ately ex­tended the Roscom­mon lead back to two. And so the bat­tle for supremacy raged.

As two more frees sailed radar like over the Roscom­mon bar, Jonathan O’Neill brought Wick­low level with their op­po­nents on 58 min­utes and he re­stored the home side to the lead (0-13 to 0-12) on 62 min­utes with a great point from a line ball to the left of goal.

Casey O’Brien in­tro­duced fresh legs to his at­tack. Roscom­mon re­fused to sur­ren­der. Don Hy­land en­sured that the vis­i­tors needed a goal to win as he landed a point for Wick­low with three min­utes re­main­ing.

Roscom­mon stormed the Wick­low ram­parts in the dy­ing mo­ments and won a 20 me­tre free. Wing-back Shane Cur­ley tried to blast to the net, but Gra­ham Ke­hoe blocked the shot with his body.

Then John Coyne’s fol­low-up whizzed past the wrong side of the post.

Wick­low breathed a sight of re­lief as the fi­nal whis­tle sounded. They are now just one victory away from be­ing sure of a place in the divi­sion fi­nal.

Wick­low's Jonathan O'Neill blocks this clear­ance from Roscom­mon's David Lough­nane.

Roscom­mon's Colm Mo­ran keeps a tight hold on Wick­low's Andy O'Brien.

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