Wick­low go­ing for suc­cess on the dou­ble on big day in Aughrim

Bray People - - SPORT - PETER KEOGH GAA re­porter

WICK­LOW GO­ING for suc­cess on the dou­ble on big day in Aughrim.

A great dou­ble-header at Aughrim on Sun­day with our all con­quer­ing foot­ballers and hurlers in ac­tion on the same pro­gramme.

The Wick­low County Board and the ju­ve­nile peo­ple are com­ing to­gether to pro­mote this as one of the great days out for our un­der­age play­ers and the hope is that par­ents, schools and clubs will bring along their ju­ve­niles and fill Aughrim on the day. The pro­gramme is Na­tional Hurl­ing League Wik­low v. Derry 12.45; Na­tional Foot­ball League Wick­low v. Long­ford 2.30.

Start­ing with the hurl­ing this can be Casey O'Brien's great chance to seal pro­mo­tion and pos­si­bly a place in the league fi­nal as well. He passed his first great test last week with a heart­warm­ing win over a highly-rated Lon­don side and now he takes on his sec­ond big chal­lenge in seven days.

Team spirit is at its high­est level for a long time with back up for play­ers in trou­ble in ev­ery sec­tor of the field. If one were to find any fault with this Wick­low team, it could be their over re­liance for scores on their great vet­eran Jonathan O'Neill.

How­ever, the young play­ers on the side are also com­ing on well and im­prov­ing with ev­ery out­ing. Ea­mon Kearns and Tommy Doyle are de­vel­op­ing into a strong enough mid­field pair­ing but we do be­lieve that Derry have one out­stand­ing player in that sec­tor of the field in Kevin Hin­phey and a lot could de­pend on how Wick­low can han­dle him on Sun­day.

With­out a good sup­ply of the ball from the mid­dle there is lit­tle that for­wards like Andy O'Brien, Don Hy­land and O'Neill can do.

Our de­fence is also play­ing very well at the mo­ment. Graham Keogh has got a new lease of life at full-back. Jim Con­nors is com­ing on with ev­ery match and Ge­of­frey Ber­ming­ham is play­ing bet­ter than ever. Willy Collins, Liam Kennedy and Billy Cud­dity com­plete a rear­guard that sells scores dearly.

Up front Ro­nan Keddy is hav­ing a great year while Eu­gene Dunne, Alan Driver and Leon Browne are im­prov­ing with ev­ery match. Casey's panel is also strong enough on the bench.

Eoin O'Neill is ex­pected back shortly and he will give the se­lec­tors that ex­tra op­tion they need in de­fence, while Joe Mur­phy made a come­back in the sec­ond half on Sun­day and Enan Glynn, Peter Keane, Colm O'Neill and Karl Lacey are also avail­able if needed.

One man with a mighty call to make is Stephen Kelly. The life of the duel player is not get­ting any eas­ier and this is the first time that the Eire Og man may have to make a clear choice be­tween hurl­ing and foot­ball.

It is known that the hurl­ing se­lec­tors would like to have him on the line for the first match on Sun­day so that he could be used, if needed, at some stage in the match. But Kelly is now a key man in Micko's de­fen­sive set-up. He has been fill­ing the full-back role in re­cent matches and Micko would cer­tainly like to have him fresh and ready to go from the start on the foot­ball team. As we said, a win would send Wick­low to the top of the ta­ble (at the mo­ment Derry holds that po­si­tion on score dif­fer­ence only) and with their last match away to point­less Ar­magh, they would be as good as home and dried.

WICK­LOW V. LONG­FORD

This is the first of two cru­cial matches that Mick O'Dwyer's men face in the com­ing weeks. Long­ford are at present on the top of the ta­ble, a point ahead of Wick­low and in many peo­ple's books the favourites, not just for this match but for one of the two pro­mo­tion spots.

Wick­low's last dis­play against Fer­managh was not great al­though in the end it did give us a very pre­cious point. How­ever, Micko will be telling his charges that a step up on that form will be needed on Sun­day.

With the ex­cep­tion of John McGrath the team ex­pects to be at full strength for this match. New­comer Austin O'Mal­ley from Mayo will be avail­able for se­lec­tion while Brian McGrath joined the panel for train­ing for the first time this week.

He had been club tied with Kil­macud Crokes up to the All-Ire­land Club semi­fi­nal but is now back and fully com­mit­ted to win­ning back his place. While like O'Mal­ley he may not start on Sun­day, he is a very use­ful ad­di­tion to the panel.

The de­fence as a whole have been do­ing al­right but it is now clear to ev­ery­body that we need a bit more height and strength in our full-back line. With Alan Nolan out in­jured we do not have any­one else on the panel ca­pa­ble of fill­ing the key full-back po­si­tion and up to now we have been de­pend­ing on James Stafford to drop back for at least the set pieces.

Stafford and Rory Finn are gelling well at mid­field and could form our best part­ner­ship in the area. Up front we have sure fire score get­ters in Seánie Fur­long, Leighton Glynn and Tony Han­non and mighty work­ers like John Paul Dal­ton and Paddy Dal­ton.

With Pa­trick McWal­ter's fit­ness im­prov­ing by the week and Niall Gaffney, the McLough­lin brothers and the two Paul Cun­ning­ham's bid­ding for places, Micko does have plenty of op­tions around the field.

Conor McGraynor, Barry Dal­ton, Peadar Burke and Adam Mer­ri­man are also shap­ing up very well in train­ing. How­ever, Micko is likely to stick to his tried and trusted play­ers for this im­por­tant match. He may also be tempted to use O'Mal­ley and Brian McGrath at some stage should the need arise. All we want on Sun­day is good weather, a big crowd to cheer on both teams and two great wins.

Ver­dict: A Wick­low dou­ble.

MI­NOR FOOT­BALL

Hugh Kenny takes his Mi­nor foot­ballers to Kin­negad to take on West­meath in the sec­ond round of the Le­in­ster League. While the team got off to a good start with a ten point win over Kilkenny last week, this is a far big­ger test and the re­sult of this match will be a clear in­di­ca­tion of what we can ex­pect from this team in the year ahead.

ON THE HOME FRONT

So far our foot­ball leagues have been hit by an un­ex­pected prob­lem - in­surance. Last week only two of the sched­uled matches took place, the rea­son be­ing that Croke Park, who han­dle all mat­ters con­cern­ing af­fil­i­a­tion and in­surance, in­ter­vened to point out that one or other or pos­si­bly both teams in all other matches were not prop­erly in­sured at the present time.

The rea­son for this is that up to now al­most all clubs in Wick­low and most other coun­ties only paid their in­surance in the month of March but now the cut­off date is the 1st Jan­uary. How­ever, we are told that Croke Park is now hav­ing sec­ond thoughts on the mat­ter and have ex­tended the dead­line to the 31st March so that should mean that all league matches fixed for this week­end will go ahead as planned. (See fix­ture list).

Andy O'Brien has his eyes on the goal dur­ing the Lon­don v. Wick­low Al­lianz Hurl­ing League Divi­sion 3A match in Ruis­lip.

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