County teams con­tinue un­beaten league runs

Hurlers win while foot­ballers draw with Long­ford

Bray People - - SPORT - MARK KENNEDY Sports re­porter

LAST WEEK­END was a good one for Wick­low in league com­pe­ti­tions and it could have been even bet­ter.

The hurlers main­tained their on­ward un­beaten march in Divi­sion 3A with a home win over hot favourites Derry, but the foot­ballers were held to their third draw by Long­ford whereas a win would have eased their pro­mo­tion pres­sures.

Casey O'Brien's hurlers now top their league on their own af­ter chalk­ing up their fourth straight vic­tory and they are now through to the league fi­nal be­fore they play their last game away to Ar­magh.

But the foot­ballers con­tinue to live dan­ger­ously in their bid to get out of the base­ment fourth divi­sion and any slipups in their three re­main­ing matches could see their pro­mo­tion prospects scup­pered yet again.

For one thing Mick O'Dwyer's men need to dis­cover the fire, pas­sion and never-say-die spirit that mark the dis­plays of the hurlers who have lost only three matches in the last two sea­sons and won two tro­phies in Kehoe Cup and 3B league.

That mes­sage could scarcely be lost on play­ers at Aughrim last Sun­day. The large crowd rose to the per­for­mance of the hurlers, who were roared on to a dra­matic late vic­tory over hot favourites Derry de­spite be­ing re­duced to 14 men for over half the match.

In con­trast Wick­low's loyal sup­port­ers were given lit­tle to shout about in the foot­ball en­counter as Long­ford con­trolled a large swathe of the play in the sec­ond half even though Wick­low were play­ing with the wind and the vis­i­tors could have stole vic­tory at the death.

But thank­fully Long­ford's ace free-taker Seán McCor­mack pulled a score­able in­jury-time free wide of the near post on the left and Wick­low held on for a draw that leaves pro­mo­tion still achiev­able but far from cer­tain.

As things stand Long­ford head the group on eight points, Wick­low and Roscommon are on seven points with the Gar­den County claim­ing sec­ond on score dif­fer­ence.But it must be re­mem­bered that Roscommon have a game in hand and the re­al­ity is that Wick­low should re­ally con­sider them­selves in third place and out­side pro­mo­tion at the mo­ment. We have Roscommon and Clare at home in our last two league matches and we can­not af­ford any more of the slip-ups that have cost us pro­mo­tions over the last four sea­sons.

But first Micko will take his foot­ballers to Nowlan Park next Sun­day to play Kilkenny and it is in­con­ceiv­able that we would lose that game.

How­ever, win­ning will not be enough; Wick­low must use the game to build up score-dif­fer­ence in case that comes into play in de­cid­ing which two teams go up.

Fur­ther­more the foot­ballers need to re­duce the mis­takes count in their play and they need to play with the spirit, cohesion and de­ter­mi­na­tion be­ing shown by the hurlers with such suc­cess.

Get­ting back to the hurlers, it now looks as if they may have to face Derry again in the fi­nal of the league and, if that turns out to be the case, we can be sure that the Oak Leafers will be wait­ing in the long grass to avenge last Sun­day's de­feat.

It's fresh in our mem­o­ries what hap­pened a few short years ago. The hurlers chalked up a shock league win over Laois at Ark­low; the teams met again in the fi­nal in Thurles and we want to for­get about the out­come the sec­ond time round.

So the hurlers need to be well pre­pared for the pos­si­bil­ity of a sec­ond clash with Derry in this year's fi­nal in just un­der five weeks. Last Sun­day's vic­tory is no guar­an­tee of suc­cess in the fi­nal; it will have to be won on the field on the day.

The hurlers need to keep feet on the ground and show no slack­en­ing of re­solve. Per­haps we should seek to have Ch­ester Kelly and Leighton Glynn re­leased from foot­ball du­ties to put their shoul­der to the wheel.

We will need all hands to the pump for the fi­nal. Derry will be seek­ing to put the shack­les on goal poacher Andy O'Brien, so we may need other op­tions on the day. If the need arises Leighton Glynn would give us an at­tack­ing force that Derry would not be ex­pect­ing.

Long­ford's De­clan Reilly tries to hold onto Wick­low's John Paul Dal­ton.

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