Hurlers taste first de­feat as Ar­magh go goal-crazy

Bray People - - SPORT - MICK HA­GAN At the Ath­letic Grounds

AR­MAGH 5-11 WICK­LOW 2-14

WICK­LOW COM­PLETED their Al­lianz Na­tional Hurl­ing League Divi­sion 3A cam­paign when they made the trip to the re­vamped Ath­letic Grounds in Ar­magh city on Sun­day last.

Both sides en­tered the fray from a dif­fer­ent side of the scale with Wick­low aim­ing to keep con­tinue their 100 per­cent in­tact hav­ing scored four straight wins over Kil­dare, Meath, Lon­don and Derry and do­ing so had qual­i­fied for the fi­nal, while the men from the Or­chard County were al­ready doomed to rel­e­ga­tion but were hop­ing to col­lect their first league points in this year’s cam­paign.

Both man­agers took the opp­porunity to ex­per­i­ment as they drafted in a num­ber of fringe play­ers. Wick­low man­ager Casey O’Brien made five changes from the team that edged out Derry by a sin­gle point in a high scor­ing game at Aughrim two weeks ago.

Ted Kennedy re­placed Wayne O’Gor­man in goal while Colm O’Neill slot­ted in at cor­ner-back in place of flu vic­tim Jim Con­nors, wing-back Ge­of­frey Ber­ming­ham was rested which saw Eoin O’Neill make a wel­come re­turn to the play­ing fields af­ter in­jury to form the half-back line with Se­nior club hurler of the year Liam Kennedy and Billy Cud­dihy.

Dual player Stephen Kelly, who re­ceived a straight against Kilkenny in foot­ball, was cleared to line out and he took his place at mid­field. The for­ward line saw a num­ber of po­si­tional switches with saw Nigel Driver and Joe Mur­phy re­plac­ing the in­jured Ro­nan Keddy and sus­pended Enan Glynn.

The end re­sult saw the hosts in­flict a six-point vic­tory over the Gar­den County in high scor­ing game which saw Ar­magh col­lect their first points in the competition while Wick­low were suf­fer­ing their first league de­feat since the ap­point­ment of Casey O’Brien at the start of the 2010 cam­paign.

Wick­low took the game to the op­po­si­tion from the start which saw them jump in to a early lead with points from Tommy Doyle and top scorer Jonathan O’Neill from a free in the open­ing three min­utes, while full-for­ward Paul Heaney replied with a point for the home side.

At this stage Wick­low upped their game and af­ter good work by Wick­low man of the match Ea­mon Kearns, his long de­liv­ery found Andy O’Brien who rounded his marker to score a goal and fol­low­ing a foul on Tommy Doyle ace free-taker Jonathan O’Neill pointed to give his side a 1-3 to 0-1 lead af­ter eight min­utes played.

Dur­ing the next ten min­utes both sides were guilty of missed chances as the home side looked hun­gry for ac­tion with their de­fence on top and their fast mov­ing for­wards caus­ing havoc in the vis­i­tors de­fence it was only a mat­ter of time be­fore scor­ers would come.

The win­ners struck a dou­ble blow in the space of three min­utes with goals from De­clan Coul­ter and Conor Cor­van which saw them take the lead, but a quick re­sponse saw Jonathan O’Neill score a point from play which saw the teams level on a score of 1-4 to 2-1 af­ter 20 min­utes.

As both teams upped their per­for­mance which saw them pro­duce good open hurl­ing as they strived for vi­tal scor­ers which saw the sides level on three oc­ca­sions, De­clan Coul­ter pointed two from play and mid­fielder James King added an­other, while Ea­mon Kearns, Don Hy­land and Jonathan O’Neill (‘65) replied for Wick­low with a point each which saw them level once again on a score of 1-7 to 2-4.

Once again both sides missed sev­eral scor­ing chances which must have left both man­agers fum­ing while Wick­low were left to rue a missed goal chance when a move­ment in­volv­ing sev­eral play­ers saw Ar­magh’s im­pres­sive goal­keeper Si­mon Do­herty make a point­blank save.

With the sides level and seven min­utes left to play in the open­ing half the home side re­ceived a lucky break when a long ball from mid­fielder Kieran McKieran was fum­bled by Ted Kennedy which re­sulted in a goal, a Wick­low re­ply brought a point from Jonathan O’Neill af­ter good work by Ea­mon Kearns.

The home side fin­ished the stronger with a point each from De­clan Coul­ter and John Cor­van which saw them lead­ing on a score of 3-6 to 1-8 at the break.

Ar­magh con­tin­ued to keep the pres­sure on af­ter half-time which saw Martin Maguire in­crease the lead with point and af­ter both sides missed scor­ing chances Jonathan O’Neill found the net with a goal, and not for the first time in the game the home side upped their game which saw them score points from De­clan Coul­ter and Conor Cor­van to give them a four-point cush­ion at the end of the third quar­ter.

A Wick­low rally which saw them show some of their old flair which saw them record 11 Na­tional League wins dur­ing the last two cam­paigns as they showed great spirit as they took the game to the hosts and were re­warded with four points in a row, two from Jonathan O’Neill, one from a ‘65, and one each from Don Hy­land, Andy O’Brien, and Wayne O’Gor­man who was mak­ing a re­turn out field.

De­clan Coul­ter, who proved to a thorn in the Wick­low de­fence over the hour, scored his sec­ond goal to give his side a two-point lead on a score of 4-9 to 212 af­ter 62 min­utes played.

With both teams bat­tling to se­cure the league points it was Ar­magh who fin­ished the stronger with a goal from Conor Cor­van and two pointed frees from De­clan Coul­ter, while Wick­low replied with sin­gle points from Jonathan O’Neill and Don Hy­land, which left Ar­magh wor­thy win­ners in a bet­ter all round team per­for­mance.

But de­spite this lack­lus­tre show­ing this Wick­low team can bounce back and won’t need much mo­ti­vat­ing for their Divi­sion 3 league fi­nal clash with arch-ri­vals Derry.

Af­ter the game Wick­low man­ager Casey O’Brien was dis­ap­pointed hav­ing suf­fered his first league de­feat since he was ap­pointed at the start of last year but was full of praise for the en­tire panel for the great ef­fort and said this team have trained very hard over the last num­ber of months and this de­feat will be a wake-up call and they will be well tuned in for the chal­lenge that lies ahead in which they will face Derry in the league de­cider in three weeks time.

Wick­low's Graham Keogh takes con­trol of the slio­thar in front of Ar­magh's Paddy Heaney.

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