O’NEILL WINS IT FOR

Bray People - - SPORT - PETER KEOGH At Ruis­lip

CASEY O'BRIEN'S hurlers pulled off a re­mark­able win over a strong and tal­ented Lon­don side on Sun­day.

It was a win carved out as much by grit, de­ter­mi­na­tion and team spirit as any­thing else and cer­tainly up­set the form book. This Lon­don team is made up mostly of new re­cruits, all of them com­ing from the strong hurl­ing coun­ties.

It was cer­tainly a win that did not look on the cards at the half way stage in this match. The home team had led by 1-12 to 1-4 at half-time af­ter com­pletely dom­i­nat­ing the sec­ond quar­ter of the match.

How­ever, Casey O'Brien got his team fully firedup at half-time and point by point they cut back the deficit. With a lit­tle over five min­utes to go vet­eran striker Jonathan O'Neill sent over his tenth point of the match which brought the sides level and set the stage for a hec­tic fin­ish to what had been a highly en­ter­tain­ing match all through.

With the game in its clos­ing min­utes, O'Neill struck again send­ing over the win­ning point from an acute an­gle out near the cor­ner flag. We may have seen greater dis­plays but never braver. Ev­ery one of the 18 play­ers that took part in this match gave it ev­ery­thing and in the end fully de­served this morale-boost­ing vic­tory.

Wick­low started well in this match with Jonathan O'Neill point­ing two early frees, the first for a foul on Ge­of­frey Ber­ming­ham and the sec­ond when Tommy Doyle was brought down. Lon­don had the scores level in­side five min­utes with ace marks­man Martin Finn send­ing over two points and they then went ahead for the first time when cen­tre-back Niall Healy found the range.

In the tenth minute Andy O'Brien got through for a great goal af­ter good work by Jonathan O'Neill and that score did much to keep Wick­low in the hunt at a time when they were play­ing against the wind. The sides were still level af­ter 17 min­utes but as the game ticked in to the sec­ond quar­ter Lon­don struck for a goal by Finn and they dom­i­nated the rest of the first half to bring their tally to 1-12 at the break with Wick­low's only re­ply com­ing from full-for­ward Don Hy­land who sent over a good point.

Noth­ing much changed in the open­ing min­utes of the sec­ond half. Jonathan O'Neill won and pointed a free but Finn did the same at the other end. The same play­ers ex­changed points again in­side eight min­utes but amaz­ingly that proved to be Lon­don's last score of the match.

Slowly but surely Wick­low were get­ting on top. Their de­fence that had given away frees need­lessly in the first half tight­ened their game re­mark­ably, so much so that for the re­main­ing 30 min­utes of this match Lon­don never even hit a wide or never got in a de­cent shot at Wayne O'Gor­man in the Wick­low goal.

The Lon­don de­fence re­mained strong and de­ter­mined with the re­sult that Wick­low had to earn ev­ery score twice over. Eu­gene Dunne, who had just come on as a sub, won a free for ' Bosco' to point. He added an­other when he was brought down him­self and Andy O'Brien tacked on a point as the game en­tered the last quar­ter but there was still a siz­able gap be­tween the sides.

Dunne had a great point in the 57th minute. O'Neill pointed from play a minute later and the game was at last be­gin­ning to look winnable. A mighty point from mid­fielder Ea­mon Kearns left only one be­tween the sides and with just over five min­utes to go O'Neill pointed a free to bring the sides level.

The point that was to win the match came with three min­utes to go and was surely one of O'Neill's finest scores in a long ca­reer and the one that he will prob­a­bly tell his grand­chil­dren about. He was only yards from the cor­ner flag when he broke two tack­les be­fore send­ing over a magnificent shot and Wick­low were in front.

Lon­don still had time to save the day but at that stage the Wick­low de­fence had got com­pletely on top and were show­ing re­mark­able dis­ci­pline. Where they had been con­ced­ing frees in the first half, they were mak­ing no mis­takes at this stage.

Jonathan O'Neill fin­ished with a grand to­tal of 11 points in what was an­other great per­for­mance. How­ever, this was no one man show.

In fact it was the best team per­for­mance that Wick­low have put on in hurl­ing for quite some time.

They did have their stars and one of them was Kil­te­gan's Ge­of­frey Ber­ming­ham who played a blinder in the half back line.

Graham Keogh at full-back, Jim Con­nors and Willy Collins were great in the corners while Billy Cud­dity also had his mo­ments.

Liam Kennedy, al­though still ham­pered to some de­gree by his in­jury, was a tower of strength at cen­tre half back while Stephen Kelly made a mighty con­tri­bu­tion to this vic­tory when he was sprung from the subs bench.

Ea­mon Kearns and Tommy Doyle held their own well at mid­field with Kearns storm­ing into the game in the last quar­ter. Ro­nan Keddy was an­other to up his game when the side needed him most.

Andy O'Brien, who was a doubt­ful starter up to the last minute, may not have been at his bril­liant best but his early goal was vi­tal and he worked tremen­dously hard through­out.

Don Hy­land again made his great ex­pe­ri­ence tell to good ef­fect while Alan Driver, Leon Browne and sub Eu­gene Dunne also made fine con­tri­bu­tions to this vic­tory.

This was Lon­don's first set­back but they are far from out of the run­ning in this competition and could still qual­ify for the knock­out stages.

Casey O'Brien was very pleased with the spirit and de­ter­mi­na­tion that his side showed in fight­ing back against the odds but he knows that they must pro­duce at least the same ef­fort again when they take on Derry, the only other un­beaten team in the divi­sion, at Aughrim on Sun­day.

Ro­nan Keddy goes on a surg­ing run through the Lon­don back­line.

Don Hy­land scores a point de­spite the best ef­forts of Bobby Mulc­ahy.

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