Gar­den County sides have pro­mo­tion in their sights

Foot­ballers and hurlers in ac­tion in Aughrim dou­ble-header

Bray People - - SPORT - MARK KENNEDY Sports re­porter

WICK­LOW HAVE two cru­cial top of the ta­ble league matches in hurl­ing and foot­ball at the week­end.

Wins over Long­ford’s foot­ballers and Derry’s hurlers would put Wick­low in pole po­si­tion to gain pro­mo­tion in both leagues.

Wick­low go into Sun­day’s foot­ball en­counter one point be­hind Long­ford, while the hurlers are neck and neck with Derry in the 3A league, both with the max­i­mum six points from three matches.

The hurlers are play­ing with tremen­dous self-be­lief and pas­sion at the mo­ment and we look for­ward to see­ing the same spirit from the foot­ballers in their league per­for­mances.

Last Sun­day was a typ­i­cal ex­am­ple of the never-say-die spirit of Casey's O'Brien men as they carved out a dra­matic sec­ond half vic­tory even though ev­ery­thing ap­peared lost at the half­way stage. Lon­don re­tired at half-time in a com­mand­ing po­si­tion, ahead by eight points, 1-12 to 1-4, but then they were re­stricted by a pal­try two points on the change-over by a Wick­low team that does not in­clude the word de­feat in their vo­cab­u­lary.

The Gar­den County hurlers un­leashed their power in the sec­ond half and blew the ex­iles away with the wind, outscor­ing their op­po­nents by 11 points to two in the last 35 min­utes to record a sat­is­fy­ing vic­tory by the slen­der­est of mar­gins (115 to 1-14).

Lon­don were held score­less for the last 23 min­utes which was an­other fit­ting tes­ta­ment to the stonewall de­fence that Casey O’Brien has welded to­gether over the last two sea­sons.

Ev­ery­one of the six de­fend­ers sell ev­ery score very dearly if at all with Jim Con­nors, Graham Keogh, Ge­of­frey Ber­ming­ham and Liam Kennedy lead­ing the de­fen­sive line and fronting a top of the range shot stop­per in Wayne O’Gor­man.

Ea­monn Kearns and Thomas Doyle have gelled into a for­mi­da­ble mid­field part­ner­ship, while Don Hy­land and Jonathan O’Neill may be in the twi­light of bril­liant hurl­ing ca­reers, but have taken a new lease of life since Casey O’Brien took charge.

O’Neill has been top scorer for Wick­low in ev­ery game this year and his 11 points last Sun­day in­cluded a su­per win­ning point from near the cor­ner flag four min­utes from the end. Back af­ter a ham­string in­jury, Andy O’Brien again stamped his name on Wick­low’s goal, show­ing what a dan­ger­ous for­ward he can be close to goal.

The hurlers need to show the same pas­sion, fire and de­ter­mi­na­tion in their play next Sun­day if they are to beat a Derry side that will be just as keen to take the two points away from Aughrim.

Mean­while Mick O'Dwyer’s foot­ballers re­sume league ac­tion af­ter a week’s rest with a home game against Long­ford and, hav­ing al­ready dropped two league points in draws in away games against Car­low and Fer­managh, a win over Long­ford on Sun­day is a must if Wick­low are to main­tain the push for pro­mo­tion from Divi­sion 4.

We al­ways find Long­ford a hard nut to crack at the best of times and the mid­lan­ders will have their prospects boosted with the re­turn of Brian Ka­vanagh who is one of their top for­wards.

Up to this Ka­vanagh was All-Ire­land Club tied with Kil­macud Crokes along with Wick­low’s Brian McGrath and is it pos­si­ble that we could see both play­ers face off against each other in Sun­day’s league clash.

At times in re­cent sea­sons Wick­low’s foot­ballers have been in­clined to re­lax their con­cen­tra­tion in cru­cial games, drop vi­tal league points, but they can­not af­ford such a lux­ury against Long­ford or they will be se­verely pun­ish for such a lapse.

Wick­low have three of their re­main­ing four league games, and the three hard­est op­po­nents at home, so they could not asked for a bet­ter run in to the league and their quest to move clear of the base­ment fourth divi­sion.

With the re­turn from in­jury of Ciarán Hy­land and Pa­trick McWal­ter - the scorer of the equal­is­ing point against Fer­managh two weeks ago - Micko has been mov­ing steadily to­wards hav­ing his full cham­pi­onship squad at his dis­posal, and the re­cent ac­qui­si­tion of Mayo player Austin O’Mal­ley will serve to bring fur­ther strength to the panel and scor­ing op­tions to the at­tack.

O’Mal­ley joined the squad for the first time on Thurs­day last, par­tic­i­pated in a match amongst the panel on Sun­day, and ac­cord­ing to re­ports im­pressed his new team-mates as well as the back­room boys.

It is highly likely that Mick O’Dwyer will give O’Mal­ley some game time against Long­ford if not a place on the start­ing fif­teen.

As the 1-15 scored away to Fer­managh demon­strates, Wick­low is al­ready en­dowed with qual­ity scor­ing for­wards in Seánie Fur­long and Leighton Glynn, while Jacko Dal­ton ap­pears to be hit­ting top form of late, Paddy Dal­ton is a worka­holic in the half-line, and Tony Han­non is back off his hon­ey­moon.

Also most heart­en­ing is the news that James Stafford seems to have found a mid­field part­ner in Rory Finn, who has been mak­ing waves in re­cent matches, but fill­ing the full-back po­si­tions still re­mains a concern for Micko.

Andy O'Brien claims the slio­tar de­spite be­ing held by Colm Burke in the Lon­don v. Wick­low Al­lianz Hurl­ing League Divi­sion 3A match in Ruis­lip, Lon­don, on Sun­day.

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