Bray People - - GAA ROUND-UP - PETER KEOGH At Castle­comer

A HAT-TRICK of goals by Tony Han­non was the main fea­ture of Wick­low's win over Kilkenny in the sixth round of the Na­tional Foot­ball League played in Castle­comer on Sun­day.

How­ever, there is more to this story than Han­non's goals - much more.

If ex­tend­ing their un­beaten run in Divi­sion 4 of the NFL was Wick­low's main ob­jec­tive, then the ver­dict must be 'mis­sion ac­com­plished'.

How­ever, Mick O'Dwyer would have learned lit­tle from this one-sided con­test al­though it must be said that Kilkenny put up braver re­sis­tance than has been the case in re­cent years.

In many ways this game was a com­edy of un­ex­plained er­rors.

Wick­low were un­der lit­tle or no pres­sure in this match and still man­aged to do all or most of the things that Micko would not have wanted them to do.

For starters they kicked a grand to­tal of 18 wides, many of them from very favourable scor­ing po­si­tions.

Wick­low had a dream start to this match with Seánie Fur­long point­ing a free af­ter a foul on Paul Earls af­ter 30 sec­onds and Paul Cun­ning­ham land­ing an­other point in the sec­ond minute. Tony Han­non found the net with a shot that was most likely in­tended for a point, all in­side three min­utes.

The pat­tern con­tin­ued but at a much slower pace with the home side im­prov­ing all the time. J.J. Dumphy opened Kilkenny's ac­count with a point in the sixth minute but they had to wait al­most 20 min­utes for their next point.

In be­tween a num­ber of bad wides, Pa­trick McWal­ter, Seánie Fur­long (2) and Dar­ren Hay­den had Wick­low points but when David Gar­vey shook off his marker and got in­side to box a Kilkenny goal and leave the score stand­ing at Wick­low 1-6 to Kilkenny's 1-2 af­ter 25 min­utes, there was a def­i­nite hush among the small crowd of Wick­low sup­port­ers that had made the jour­ney.

How­ever, Wick­low hit back smartly with Tony Han­non blast­ing home his sec­ond goal and Seánie Fur­long kick­ing over two good points to leave the half-time score Wick­low 2-8, Kilkenny 1-2.

How­ever, Micko and his se­lec­tors found them­selves with plenty of work to do dur­ing the in­ter­val.

The team was down to 14 men, they had to find a re­place­ment for Stephen Kelly at full-back and had to de­cide on tak­ing off Pa­trick McWal­ter to avoid fur­ther dam­age to his in­jured knee.

In ad­di­tion they had also lost Paul Earls to a back in­jury very early on. Alan Byrne went to full­back, Rory Finn dropped back to cen­tre half and Stephen Ka­vanagh came on to make it an all Rath­new part­ner­ship at mid­field.

If fig­ures are any­thing to go by, then the sec­ond half of this match was bet­ter than the first - Wick­low scored 2-8 in both halves but kicked less wides and only con­ceded two more points to Kilkenny in the sec­ond half.

Wick­low were down to 14 play­ers for all of the sec­ond half but con­tin­ued to set the pace.

Seánie Fur­long got them off to a fly­ing start again with an early goal and Hay­den con­tin­ued to raid from the back and sent over two more points.

When Tony Han­non com­pleted his hat-trick in the 60th minute it was all over.

Wick­low and Roscommon are tied at the top of the ta­ble but Wick­low have a game more played. It means that they must win when the Con­naught cham­pi­ons visit Aughrim next Sun­day if they are to stay in con­tention.

Vic­tory also came at a price; Wick­low's full­back Stephen ‘Ch­ester’ Kelly was sent off on a straight red late in the first half while two more of his play­ers, Pa­trick McWal­ter and Paul Earls, picked up in­juries that could keep them on the side­line for the rest of the League cam­paign.

On the credit side Micko and his se­lec­tors man­aged to take a look at fringe play­ers like Paul Cun­ning­ham, Dean Healy, Conor McGraynor, Stephen Ka­vanagh, Barry Dal­ton and An­thony McLough­lin while rest­ing Leighton Glynn, Brian McGrath and Jacko Dal­ton.

Of the new­com­ers on trial, Paul Cun­ning­ham was the most im­pres­sive and apart from scor­ing three good points, did a lot of don­key work as well.

Three play­ers stood out from the pack on this day; Seánie Fur­long had a great game and was kick­ing points when most oth­ers were kick­ing wides.

Tony Han­non's three goals was a huge con­tri­bu­tion to vic­tory while Dar­ren Hay­den had a blinder at wing-back and also moved for­ward to kick three great points.

How­ever, all will have to up their game again when they take on Roscommon on Sun­day.

Paul Earls breaks through a gap in the Kilkenny de­fence.

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