County teams continue unbeaten league runs
Hurlers win while footballers draw with Longford
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.