Wicklow march on with a narrow win over Mullingar
WICKLOW’S FIRST team continued their run in the Newstalk Provincial Towns Cup with a hard-fought second round win away to Mullingar on Sunday.
Wicklow played into the light breeze in the first half and started well. They moved the ball wide at every opportunity and were close to scoring on a number of occasions. On each occasion a knock on or a loose pass forced the turnover and allowed the Midlanders to clear down the pitch.
Mullingar were well up for the battle and had a strong kicking game which pinned Wicklow back into their half. Wicklow worked their way back up field through a fine break by Daniel Mannion. The ball was moved left and then right but Wicklow just couldn't make the breakthrough and the ball was eventually turned over by some strong Mullingar counter-rucking and cleared to safety.
A knock on from a long clearance kick allowed Mullingar to gain a rare foothold in Wicklow territory and they were duly rewarded when Wicklow conceded a penalty in front of the posts. The kick went over and Mullingar led 3-0.
Wicklow bounced back almost immediately and were soon on the scoreboard after being held up over the line on a number of occasions the referee awarded Wicklow a penalty which Barry Lynn successfully converted to level the scores at three points apiece.
A huge kick through by Stephen Duffy was thrown into touch by the Mullingar defender. The resultant penalty kick was converted by Barry Lynn and Wicklow led 6-3 at the break.
A very nervy start to the second half saw Wicklow commit a number of errors, which allowed Mullingar a foothold in Wicklow territory. They were awarded a penalty inside their own half which was moved forward ten metres because of some unnecessary back chat. This brought the kick into range and could have cost Wicklow the match after a superb kick which bounced onto the crossbar and over to bring the sides level at 6-6.
Wicklow didn't panic and worked their way back into opposition territory. Barry Lynn missed a 35 metre penalty with 20 minutes to go. Ten minutes later he landed a fantastic kick to give the lead back to Wicklow who led 9-6 with ten minutes to go.
Mullingar weren’t finished and launched a series of attacks.
To Wicklow’s credit they defended well and a partially blocked drop goal attempt was as close as the home side came to scoring. Wicklow cleared their lines and closed out the game much to the relief of their travelling supporters.
This wasn't the best performance Wicklow have produced this year but they will be glad to have won a place in the quarterfinals of this historic competition. There were eight second round games played and only two games produced an away winner which shows how difficult it is to win away from home in the towns cup.
The quarter-final draw sees Wicklow take on South East rivals Tullow at home on April 3rd. Tullow have been in a rich vein of form in recent weeks and hammered Longford by 53-10 on Sunday in the cup. They have also beaten Wicklow in Ashtown Lane this year in the league. It will be a huge challenge for Wicklow to win a place in the semi-finals for only the third time in their his- tory. If they play to their potential they have the ability to do it.
Bizarrely next Sunday sees Wicklow firsts and seconds travel away to Tullow for the final league game of the year. Kick-off is at 1.30 and 3 p.m.
Wicklow: T O'Donovan, S O'Brien, Simon Norton, J Jenkinson, R Monahan, L Fenton, D Mannion B Hurley, A Byrne, Stephen Duffy, C Sillery S Breen, Barry Lynn, Jack Dunne, Russel Andrew. Subs: R Nolan, S Byrne, P Jameson, Brian Byrne, David Quinn.
Wicklow’s Daniel Mannion bursts forward against Mullingar.