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