A YEAR TO RE­MEM­BER

League success eases cham­pi­onship hurt

Bray People - - SPORT - PETER KEOGH GAA Re­porter

ONE THING that GAA sup­port­ers the coun­try over - per­haps I should say world over - yearn for is the chance to see their na­tive county per­form­ing on the big stage.

To paint a proper pic­ture and make this al­most per­fect the venue has to be Croke Park; the man stand­ing on the podium in the Ho­gan Stand at match end with one hand on a cup must be the Pres­i­dent of the day.

To make the pic­ture really per­fect the player with one foot on the first step of the stand, try­ing to pull him­self away from ador­ing sup­port­ers, brush­ing off the lip­stick with one hand and straight­en­ing his hair for the cam­eras with the other, sim­ply has to be your own cap­tain.

When that day comes for a Wicklow per­son, man or woman, ev­ery­one in the 'Garden' is smelling of roses. 2012 brought such a dream to re­al­ity for Wicklow sup­port­ers when Leighton Glynn was the cap­tain supreme as Harry's men turned in their great­est per­for­mance of the year to brush aside Peter Canavan's Fer­managh to claim the Di­vi­sion 4 Cup.

For my own part I was back again, look­ing down from the dizzy heights of the Press Box in Cro­ker at a Wicklow cap­tain wav­ing a cup aloft (in 2011 it was Caitri­ona McKeon with the All Ire­land ladies tro­phy).

It doesn't hap­pen to us too of­ten so you can bet your bot­tom dol­lar that ev­ery Wicklow man, woman or child watch­ing live in the great sta­dium, see­ing it on the box or lis­ten­ing to Michael Sar­gent and Gerry Gre­han on ra­dio are un­likely to ever for­get what that sam­ple of life in 2012 was like.

I be­lieve that I am speak­ing for ev­ery Wicklow sup­porter when I say that what we want in the year ahead is more of the same.

The high point of the GAA year in Wicklow was that dis­play against Fer­managh and lift­ing the Di­vi­sion 4 Cup but on the way to that crown­ing glory there was many ex­cit­ing mo­ments and a num­ber of great matches as well.

It was Harry Murphy's first year as man­ager af­ter he re­placed the great Mick O'Dwyer. His se­lec­tors were Gavin Wynne and Mick Murphy, who was also phys­i­cal trainer. Kit Man­ager was Ciaran Byrne while ad­min­is­tra­tor was Trevor Cul­bert.

Wicklow made a slow start to the year, as might be ex­pected - los­ing their first match to DCU in the O'Byrne Cup at Balt­in­glass.

The stu­dents got off to a fly­ing start but a goal by Joey Kelly brought Wicklow level at 1-6 to 0-9. DCU still led be 0-13 to 1-7 at half time.

The fi­nal score was DCU 0-18; Wicklow 1-14 but Wicklow missed two frees in the clos­ing stages that could have given them vic­tory.

O'Byrne Shield

Wicklow 2-16; Athlone IT 1-10 Harry's men bounced back a week later with a win over an­other col­lage team at Balt­in­glass. Paul Cronin, Nicky Mer­nagh, Tony Han­non and Rory Finn were the top scor­ers.

Wicklow lost to Wex­ford in the Shield semi-fi­nal at En­nis­cor­thy but only af­ter their best dis­play of the New Year. It was a goal in the sec­ond pe­riod of ex­tra time that saw the home side scrape a win - 115 to 0-17.

Na­tional Foot­ball League

In the NFL Wicklow beat Kilkenny 3-25 to 1-1; Lim­er­ick 2-13 to 0-14; Car­low 1-9 to 0-10; Leitrim 213 to 1-10; Lon­don 1-16 to 0-10; Clare 1-15 to 1-12.

We lost to Fer­managh 0-9 to 0-11 and Water­ford 1-12 to 4-7 be­fore beat­ing Fer­managh in the fi­nal 216 to 1-11 in Croke Park. That was a day we had long dreamed of.

When cap­tain Leighton Glynn re­ceived the cup from Pres­i­dent Liam O'Neill, it was the moment that Wicklow sup­port­ers had long been wait­ing for.

We are not go­ing through the League blow for blow but a cou­ple of per­for­mances did stand out.

One was against a fan­cied Lim­er­ick team in Aughrim when the 'Wicklow Peo­ple' report said - 'Harry did two things on Sun­day - he played him­self into favour with the Wicklow sup­port­ers and he prob­a­bly got an­other brick or two in place in his team build­ing op­er­a­tions'.

U-21 cap­tain Dean Healy had a great game; Rory Finn es­tab­lished him­self as a mid­fielder while Mick McLough­lin im­pressed at cen­tre back.

Wicklow won by 2-13 to 0-14 and the scor­ers were - Tony Han­non 1-4; Leighton Glynn 1-3; Seanie Fur­long 0-5; Rory Finn 0-1.

The sec­ond stand out per­for­mance was the day we clinched pro­mo­tion with a win over Clare in Aughrim.

It was a fully fired up Clare team that needed only a draw to clinch pro­mo­tion and leave Wicklow still stranded in no man's land.

How­ever Wicklow were on fire, from John Flynn, who brought off some spec­tac­u­lar high catches in goal to 'top of the left' (as Michael O'He­hir would say) John McGrath ev­ery man gave his all.

Ch­ester Kelly stood out in de­fence; James Stafford con­trolled the air­ways while Rory Finn was con­sis­tency it­self.

Leighton Glynn played a cap­tain's part while Tony Han­non who scored 0-7 and An­thony McLough­lin were oth­ers to shine in a good team per­for­mance. The fi­nal score was - Wicklow 1-15; Clare 1-12.

The team that beat Fer­managh in the fi­nal was: John Flynn, Ciaran Hyland, An­thony McLough­lin, Alan Byrne, Dean Healy, Michael McLough­lin, Stephen Kelly, James Stafford, Rory Finn, Leighton Glynn, Daragh O'Sul­li­van, Dar­ren Hay­den, Tony Han­non, Seanie Fur­long, John McGrath. Subs used: Peadar Burke and Paul Earls.

With the League ti­tle and pro­mo­tion safely in the bag Harry was free to con­cen­trate on the champi- on­ship.

The draw was not too favourable and wait­ing to am­bush us in the first round was the old en­emy.

We lost to Meath in that first round of the Le­in­ster Cham­pi­onship 0-11 to 0-16 with­out ever find­ing the rhythm or the pas­sion we dis­played in the League fi­nal.

Wicklow got off to a fly­ing start and went five points up but in hind­sight that could have led to a lit­tle com­pla­cency in an in­ex­pe­ri­enced team. By half time Meath had got the deficit down to a sin­gle point (0-8 to 0-7) and with Wicklow turn­ing over to play against a strength­en­ing wind the signs were not good. And so it turned out to be. Meath were able to lift their game and were soon in the lead and when we lost our cap­tain Leighton Glynn we were really in trou­ble.

In the end the Roy­als had five points to spare with­out man­ag­ing to get a shot past in-form 'keeper John Flynn.

The only change from the League win­ning team was that Stephen Byrne (Rath­new) re­placed the in­jured Mick McLough­lin at cen­tre half back. Subs used were Peadar Burke, Paul Earls, Niall Gaffney, Conor McGraynor and Ja­son Bol­ger.

The qual­i­fiers

We could not com­plain with our draw in the qual­i­fiers. We beat Water­ford at home in Aughrim in the first round by 1-17 to 0-15, thus aveng­ing one of our two League de­feats. Again the sec­ond round draw gave us a match that we should have been able to win but in­stead lost to Leitrim at Car­rick-on-Shan­non 0-10 to 0-13.

It was the end of Harry's first year in charge and while he had de­liv­ered to what he promised - to get us out of Di­vi­sion 4 - he may have been a bit disap- pointed at the cham­pi­onship form.

Ju­nior foot­ball

For the Ju­nior foot­ball team it was also a once off. In more re­cent years a char­ity tour­na­ment run in Kil­dare had given us some use­ful match prac­tice for this team but that was not avail­able in 2012.

Harry, Gavin and Mick were again in charge and they did get in a lit­tle prepa­ra­tion be­fore they took on Meath at a Meath venue.

A poor start saw them trail by 0-6 to nil af­ter 15 min­utes. Things just had to get bet­ter and they did. A goal by Dean Od­lum and points by Daniel Woods, Ciaran Wal­she and Adam Mer­ri­man brought them into the game but they still trailed by 1-8 to 1-3 at half time.

An­other goal by sub Aaron Murphy in the sec­ond helped but we still lost by 2-4 to 1-16.

Team: Robert Lam­bert; Shane Mooney, James Kelly, Kevin Han­lon; Barry Murphy, Ian Sheerin, Stephen Far­rell; Adam Mer­ri­man, Daniel Woods; Bren­dan McCrea, Matt Gil­bert, Theo Smith; Dean Od­lum, Ciaran Wal­she, Jamie Snell. Sub: Aaron Murphy.

U-21 foot­ball

For the sec­ond year in a row we failed to even match, not to men­tion beat Car­low, and with a home venue at that.

Which raises the ques­tion - is it not time we res­ur­rected this im­por­tant grade of foot­ball at lo­cal level. Car­low got off to a good start at Balt­in­glass but a goal by Bren­dan McCrea raised hopes. Car­low still led by 0-9 to 1-2 at half time.

The sec­ond half was much bet­ter but Car­low still ran out win­ners by 0-14 to 1-6.

Team: Wil­liam Hen­der-Phillips; James Snell, Paul McLough­lin, Kevin Han­lon; Dean Healy, Michael Man­gan, Martin O'Brien; Daniel Woods (0-1), Jody Mer­ri­gan; Ed­ward Doyle, Thomas Kelly (0-3), John Hen­der­son; Bren­dan McCrea (1-0), Ea­monn Wolfe (0-1), Conor McGraynor (0-1). Subs: Billy Clark­son; Aaron Murphy, Kevin Murphy, Eoin Doyle.

Man­age.ent: Damien Byrne and Ron­nie Phillips; Se­lec­tors: An­thony Nolan, Pat Wo­gan,

Kit Man­ager: P.J. O'Connor.

With the Mi­nors

The Mi­nor foot­ballers un­der Owen Doyle with Liam Cullen, Bren­dan Daly and Gary Duffy as se­lec­tors had a sea­son of ups and downs.

They took a dread­ful ham­mer­ing from a pow­er­ful Dublin out­fit in the first round of the league and never really fig­ured in that com­pe­ti­tion

How­ever they started off well in the cham­pi­onship with a win over Laois at Aughrim. The Moore boys came to Aughrim as hot favourites but Owen had got the Wicklow boys well tuned up and a prac­tice match against the All-Ire­land Cham­pi­ons had brought them on a ton. They led by 2-1 to 0-3 at half time and were in no way flat­tered by the fi­nal mar­gin of vic­tory.

Scor­ers: Michael O'Connor scored 1-1; Pa­trick Phe­lan 1-1; Daniel Daw­son 0-2; Conor French 0-1.

In a sec­ond match in Aughrim they lost nar­rowly to West­meath 0-10 to 0-7 af­ter miss­ing many scor­ing chances.

It was def­i­nitely a match Wicklow should have won. How­ever they did have a num­ber of play­ers who should fig­ure in Wicklow teams in the years ahead.

Scor­ers: Michael O'Connor 0-3; Dara Lo­han, Conor French, Thomas Dono­hue and Conor Healy 0-1 each.

Team: Robert Fitzger­ald (Annacurra); Jamie Mi­ley (Val­ley­mount), Rory Mar­ron (St Pats), Cathal O'Dual­lachain (Bray Em­mets); Conor Hat­ton (Ti­na­hely), Dara Lo­han (Bray Em­mets), P.J. Daly (Kil­te­gan); Pa­trick Phe­lan (Aughrim), Thomas Dono­hue (Bless­ing­ton); Daniel Daw­son (Dunlavin), Paul El­lis (Rath­new), Aaron Nu­gent (Ash­ford); Conor Healy (Donard/Glen), Conor French (St Pats), Michael O'Connor (Bless­ing­ton). Padraig Kelle­her (AGB) played in all other matches while the subs used in­cluded - Adam Flem­ing and David Tomp­kins (Balt­in­glass), An­drew Howard (Dunlavin).

A great day for Wicklow GAA - Se­nior foot­ball cap­tain Leighton Glynn lifts the Di­vi­sion 4 Cup.

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