AND WE’RE OFF
Wicklow to face tough students
Wicklow v DCU - Sunday - Greystones 2pm Harry Murphy and his footballers kick off the new season with this match against DCU at the Eire Og pitch in Greystones on Sunday.
It will mark the start of a hectic week, the likes of such I for one can't remember. Three official matches in eight days are certainly new to me.
Harry and his henchmen Gavin Wynne and Mick Murphy are running with a panel of over 40 players at the moment and he probably needs something like this to have a proper look at all of them.
This is a repeat of the opening game in the same competition last year. We got a really testing match against the highly rated students at Baltinglass. Then, as now, Harry was in experimental mode and was putting more emphases on trying out new players, or seasoned players in new positions and while he lost a great battle by a point he could just as easily have won it by the same margin.
The man that beats us that day was a youngster caller Rock - Dean Rock, a son of the great Barney. The final score was DCU 0-18; Wicklow 1-14 and we missed two late frees after taking off Tony Hannon
Hannon has now retired but most of the others that played that day are still on the panel. Niall Gaffney and Peadar Burke are in Australia; while a number of others are not available for one reason or another.
In fact none of the top scorers in that match will be available on Sunday. Joey Kelly (Resting), Seanie Furlong (injured), Nicky Mernagh (injured) and Hannon (retired). Others on the injured list include Leighton Glynn, Cathal Rossiter, Stephen Kelly and the comeback kid Damien Power.
Rory Finn is on army duty and may not be available while Paddy Byrne has not rejoined the panel. Without a doubt Harry will be fielding an experimental team and will certainly be doing the same against Carlow on Wednesday night.
Wednesday - O'Byrne Cup - Wicklow v Carlow - Bray Emmets grounds.
Experimenting is likely to continue on Wednesday when we renew rivalry with the neighbours but depending on Sunday's result there may be a bigger push on to get a result.
Harry will be certainly pushing to get out as strong a team as possible to take on Dublin in Parnell park on Sunday week but we will be in a better position to have a look at that match in next week's issue.
The position with students on the panel is not a clear as it was a year ago and at this stage management are hoping to have at least John McGrath released to play for Wicklow on Sunday.
The full panel for Sunday: James Stafford; Paddy Dalton, Barry Murphy, John Flynn, Robert Lambert, Steven Cohan, Luke Benson, John McGrath, Kevin Hanlon, Anthony, Michael and Paul McLoughlin; Kevin Murphy, James and Ian Sheerin, Ciaran Tyrrell, Stephen Byrne, Alan Byrne, Jason Bolger, Paul Earls, Patrick McWalter, Colm Byrne, Mathew Byrne, Dean Healy, Darragh O'Sullivan, Richard Murphy, Mathew Gilbert, Eoin Keogh, Brendan Kennedy, Eugene Dunne, Adam Merryman, Rory Finn, Paul Cunningham, Rory Nolan, Danny Woods, James Kelly, Darren Hayden,Brendan McCrea, Ciaran Hyland, and Mark Doyle.
The U-21 football is also up and running. Joint managers Damien Byrne and Ronnie Phillips have already got in a couple of matched, including one against Wexford in Castletown which they won.
They have a match against the DCU Freshers in Bray on Thursday (tomorrow) night. They have also entered the team in the Hastings Cup, a competition which was very popular with U-21 mentors a few years ago.
It was run, and probably still is run, by a committee in Longford and always involved teams from Northern Ireland. In the past it was very competitive and ideal preparation for the championship.
Pat Wogan (Bray Emmets) is the third selector; Donal 0'Keeffe is stats manager; and PJ O'Connor (Rathnew) is kit manager.
Wicklow's first match in the Hastings in against Longford on Saturday January 12. We play Roscommon on the following Saturday, January 19 while the final - be it Cup or Shield will be played on the last Saturday of January. No venues fixed at this time.
Carlow are also running an U-21 tournament and Wicklow have been invited to take part.