Bray People - - SPORT - MARK KENNEDY At Aughrim


WICK­LOW'S DES­TINY with re­gard to pro­mo­tion from Divi­sion 4 is no longer in their own hands as a re­sult of last Sun­day's de­feat to Roscommon in a cru­cial top of the ta­ble clash at Aughrim.

The ex­perts tell me that it's still math­e­mat­i­cally pos­si­ble for Wick­low to se­cure pro­mo­tion but we now need oth­ers to do us a good turn so that re­sults of re­main­ing matches fall in our favour.

It needn't have come down to a nail­bit­ing fin­ish to the league as Wick­low coughed up a five­point lead in the sec­ond half as well as fail­ing to con­vert some very score­able chances, mostly no­tably Tony Han­non get­ting noth­ing from a free in front of goal in the first half and Paul Cun­ning­ham pulling his at­tempt wide when it looked eas­ier to score.

We now have to take on a Clare team, who are com­ing with a late rally, in our last match and un­for­tu­nately at this stage the odds are stacked in favour of Wick­low find­ing them­selves again play­ing the Lon­dons and Kilken­nys in 2012.

A big crowd turned up at sunny Aughrim on Sun­day, pro­vid­ing the per­fect set­ting for this clash of the ta­ble-top­pers, but not all per­for­mances of the Wick­low play­ers matched the im­por­tance of the game or the oc­ca­sion.

Our in­side for­ward line of Austin O'Mal­ley, Seánie Fur­long and Leighton Glynn were su­perb and had the beat­ing of their op­po­nents through­out, and James Stafford played him­self to a stand­still against two big Roscommon mid­field­ers Michael Fin­neran and Kevin Hig­gins.

But in other ar­eas we were miss-fir­ing on too many cylin­ders and as a re­sult we were not able to press home our ad­van­tage af­ter tak­ing a cru­cial five-point lead mid­way through the sec­ond half.

Roscommon came to Aughrim with the rep­u­ta­tion of Con­nacht cham­pi­ons and we needed to be on top of our form from start to fin­ish. In­stead we al­lowed the Rossies to pick them­selves up off the can­vass in the fi­nal quar­ter with mid­fielder Kevin Hig­gins de­liv­er­ing the killer blows - a goal and a point - when he moved to full-for­ward.

The galling thing is that his goal should never have hap­pened. Wick­low dropped guard for a Roscommon free on the right wing, and alert winger Cathal Cregg spot­ted that our backs were sleep-walk­ing.

Tak­ing a quick free, Cregg picked out Kevin Hig­gins un­marked in front of the Wick­low posts and the big and burly Roscommon num­ber nine blasted to the net to put the Rossies 3-13 to 213 ahead with just nine min­utes left.

In fair­ness Wick­low tried to make good the dam­age. Leighton Glynn, Austin O'Mal­ley and Seánie Fur­long were at the heart of the fight­back, but it came up just short at the fi­nal whis­tle.

Per­haps in the fi­nal anal­y­sis, a draw would have been a fairer re­sult to a match that throbbed all the way and pro­duced some very ex­cit­ing foot­ball, es­pe­cially in the sec­ond half when scores came thick and fast, with first one team in the as­cen­dancy and then the other.

Wick­low were first to get off the mark, with Leighton Glynn land­ing the open­ing point in less than two min­utes.

James Stafford pump­ing in high balls and Austin O'Mal­ley were in­volved in the build-up and, to­gether with Seánie Fur­long, that was the pat­tern to so many of Wick­low's at­tacks.

Donie Shine and Conor De­vaney an­swered Wick­low early points from Glynn but af­ter that the home side opened up a 0-5 to 0-2 lead in the first quar­ter as O'Mal­ley fol­lowed up with a fine brace and Seánie Fur­long added a sin­gle, an ex­cel­lent score from 50 me­tres on the right touch-line.

A minute later Roscommon were back on par­ity. Keeper John Flynn did well to parry a sting- ing shot from Donie Shine, but cor­ner-for­ward John Rogers volleyed to the net from an acute an­gle at the near post.

That set the tone for this ding-dong battle be­tween the sides. It was Wick­low's turn to cheer ten min­utes later as Seánie Fur­long raised the green flag when he boxed the ball to the net at the far post from a cross by Leighton Glynn on the left. Tony Han­non fin­ished wide from a free in front a goal, the ball glanc­ing off the post, but even so the home side re­tired for the break ahead nar­rowly by 1-7 to 1-6.

We had an ex­plo­sive start to the sec­ond half. In­side a minute Karl Man­nion had drilled a shot to the net to put Roscommon back in front.

This lead was short-lived as Wick­low hit back with an im­me­di­ate re­sponse.

Bot­tled up by three Roscommon de­fend­ers, Seánie Fur­long still suc­ceeded in get­ting his pass away to Austin O'Mal­ley who drilled a ter­rific left-foot shot in­side Ge­of­frey Claf­fey's right hand post.

That was the start of a pur­ple patch for the Gar­den County men, who eased into a five-point lead near­ing the end of the third quar­ter, 2-11 to 2-6, with a brace from Fur­long and a sin­gle from O'Mal­ley.

Mick O'Dwyer's men looked to be in the driv­ing seat at that stage and they should have driven on to vic­tory.

How­ever, James Stafford was be­gin­ning to show tired legs from all the work he had put in, help­ing out in de­fence as well as at mid­field.

The frail­ties in Wick­low per­for­mance in other ar­eas also took their toll when the chips were down.

Roscommon dug deep and fought back with grit and de­ter­mi­na­tion.

De­spite good work by James Stafford for Wick­low, mid­field­ers Kevin Hig­gins and Michael Fin­neran had been win­ning the battle for Roscommon. Donie Shine, John Rogers, Se­nan O'Grady and David Keenan were also to the fore for the western­ers.

A string of points from Donie Shine, Kevin Hig­gins, Conor De­vaney, Karl Man­nion and John Rogers brought the sides level at 2-12 each af­ter 58 min­utes.

The ex­changes were hec­tic from there to the fi­nal whis­tle. Rogers and Wick­low's Paul Earls ex­changed points be­fore Roscommon's mid­fielder turned full-for­ward Kevin Hig­gins struck a ma­jor blow for the western­ers.

Wick­low's de­fence showed a lapse of con­cen­tra­tion for a Roscommon free. Cathal Cregg picked out Hig­gins un­marked in front of goal and the big num­ber nine ap­plied the clin­i­cal fin­ish with pow­er­ful drive.

Roscommon now had their tails up and Wick­low were chas­ing the game.

Leighton Glynn, Austin O'Mal­ley and Seánie Fur­long con­tin­ued to ask ques­tions with points, but Roscommon held on for a dra­matic win in a very com­pet­i­tive game.

Man of the match: Mid­fielder Kevin Hig­gins (Roscommon).

Roscommon's Seán Pur­cell closes in as Wick­low's Tony Han­non gets his pass away.

Wick­low's Seánie Fur­long and Roscommon's Donal Ward battle for the ball.

Wick­low’s Dean Siney puts pres­sure on Peter Dom­i­can.

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