Bray People - - SPORT - The Michael Neary view

Wicklow man­ager Harry Murphy speaks to his play­ers be­fore their drawn O’Byrne Cup game against DCU in Greystones on Sun­day. Wicklow play Car­low in Bray in their sec­ond game at 7.30 p.m. this evening (Wed­nes­day).

AS I drove the short but wel­come drive from my home in Kil­coole to Eire Og G.A.A. club for last Sun­day's O'Byrne Cup match I was in con­sid­er­able awe of the fan­tas­tic sport­ing fa­cil­i­ties Greystones has to of­fer and in par­tic­u­lar in the space of a cou­ple of hun­dred yards of the G.A.A. pitch.

Within this area one can find a soc­cer club, a rugby club, a ten­nis club, Eire Og G.A.A. club, Shore­line Leisure Cen­tre, Greystones Golf Club and many more sport­ing ac­tiv­i­ties avail­able on Greystones beach. What an in­cred­i­ble ar­ray of ameni­ties - no won­der Greystones was re­cently so highly placed as one of the best places in the world to live.

In terms of sport­ing fa­cil­i­ties one has to be some­what grate­ful to both the Celtic Tiger and the Na­tional Lot­tery whom I'm sure played a sig­nif­i­cant role in de­vel­op­ing some of th­ese won­der­ful grounds for the many sport­ing en­thu­si­asts in the lo­cal catch­ment area.

The county foot­ballers' first game of the year against DCU at­tracted a nice crowd in the splen­didly turned out Eire Og grounds. The game ended in an en­ter­tain­ing draw on a re­spectable score­line of 1-12 to 2-9. A few new faces were given their chance to shine, most notably Matthew Byrne (St. Pat's) and Bren­dan McCrea (Carnew), and both of th­ese play­ers to their credit rose to the oc­ca­sion and will be happy with their con­tri­bu­tion.

In par­tic­u­lar Bren­dan McCrea who capped a fine 70 min­utes with his well-taken first-half goal and point. He also won three close-in frees which were duly con­verted. The game also saw the wel­come re­turn from a long-term in­jury of Paudge McWal­ter (St. Pat's) and both he and his club­mate, Dean Healy, in his new rov­ing half-for­ward role par­tic­u­larly im­pressed me.

Harry will be pleased to have avoided a de­feat in the first game and the draw will keep their chances of qual­i­fy­ing from this group alive. In the ab­sence of four of last year's start­ing cham­pi­onship for­wards - Leighton, Seánie, John McGrath and the now re­tired Tony Han­non - Harry will be en­cour­aged by the score­line and in par­tic­u­lar the per­for­mances of the above two debu­tants, but he will no doubt be anx­ious to get his in­jured play­ers back in time for the chal­lenge fac­ing the team in Di­vi­sion 3.

As one would ex­pect for the first game of the sea­son, the ball move­ment was some­what laboured, par­tic­u­larly in the sec­ond­half and as a re­sult numer­ous scor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties were lost. DCU's greater fit­ness lev­els in the sec­ond-half en­abled them to fin­ish a lot stronger and Wicklow were let off the hook with some poor fin­ish­ing from the stu­dents, par­tic­u­larly in the last ten min­utes when the game opened up.

When the cur­rent in­juries clear up and when some of the panel mem­bers re­turn from play­ing with their own col­leges, Harry will have a huge pool of play­ers to pick from and the big­gest prob­lem he will face will be keep­ing this large panel mo­ti­vated and pro­vid­ing suf­fi­cient game time to ev­ery­one. It's great the year has started with such a pos­i­tive per­for­mance and the team should ben­e­fit greatly from the next two games in the com­pe­ti­tion against Car­low and Dublin.

This week I want to talk briefly about two more re­cip­i­ents of the Wicklow G.A.A. awards.

Paul Earls of St. Pat's was awarded Se­nior Club Foot­baller of the year. When St. Pat's needed him most (and not for the first time) Paul came up trumps with a match-win­ning goal in this year's county fi­nal against Balt­in­glass. A highly-con­sis­tent player for both club and county over the years, Paul is a model player and an ex­am­ple to all ju­ve­niles.

De­spite the close at­ten­tion a player of his cal­i­bre al­ways re­ceives, we never see Paul get in­volved in any­thing he shouldn't. His elec­tri­fy­ing pace and his ca­pa­bil­ity to win quick, low ball are some of his ex­cel­lent qual­i­ties. His ex­pe­ri­ence and his proven goal-tak­ing abil­ity will be vi­tal as Wicklow em­bark shortly on their Di­vi­sion 3 cam­paign. He is one of the most re­spected Wicklow play­ers on and off the field and thor­oughly de­serves this award.

The Se­nior Club Hurler award was given to Ray­mond Nolan (Avon­dale). When Avon­dale en­joyed a mini hurl­ing re­nais­sance in 2012 in reach­ing the SHC semi-fi­nal, Ray was to the fore­front of this achieve­ment. His con­sis­tency from placed balls and open play was re­mark­able and on cur­rent form he is now in the same ex­cel­lent free-tak­ing cat­e­gory as Jonathan O'Neill and Don Hyland, and in this re­gard and on his cur­rent form would be a wel­come ad­di­tion to the county panel.

Ray had some­what dropped off the hurl­ing radar in the county a few years back but he worked in­cred­i­bly hard and re­turned a more fo­cused and fit­ter player. It is most un­usual for a player who is not from ei­ther the county cham­pi­ons or the run­ners-up to re­ceive this award, and Ray's success is a tes­ta­ment to the high level of his per­for­mances over the last cal­en­dar year.

Ray will be anx­ious for Avon­dale to con­tinue their progress and go one step fur­ther in 2013, and if he con­tin­ues with the form he showed he will drive them to achiev­ing their goal.

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