Hurlers set for clash with DCU
New look outfit looking good
Wicklow v. DCU The second round of the Kehoe Cup featuring Wicklow and DCU will be the only show in town at the weekend.
Fortune has again smiled on Casey as he gets another home match for his new look team. Had Fingal beaten DCU on Sunday then Wicklow would have been away in the second round but students (God love them) have to do all the travelling.
While the venue had not been announced at the time of writing, we are all assuming that it will be in Bray once more.
The Bray club certainly made a big impression on everyone last week with the way they handled their first big hurling fixture of the year.
The stewarding was excellent and of course the Astroturf pitch was in immaculate condition. Without any shadow of doubt the stars of the show on a cold enough January day were the ladies who turned out endless cups of steaming hot tea and coffee to keep everybody in good humour right through the evening.
If we needed a grim reminder that this was still January and mid-winter by anybody's standards all we had to do was look up at the Sugar Loaf covered to the ground in a heavy coat of snow - enough to chill the marrow of even the most dedicated supporter of the game.
Casey O'Brien, whether by necessity or by choice, fielded what could only be described as a very experimental team on Sunday last; it ranged in age and experience from the great veteran Jonathan O'Neill in his new position as goalkeeper to 17-year-old Daniel Staunton who finished up in the number 15 spot.
In between we had players like Brian Osborne who is only back from a term abroad and was playing his first match in a Wicklow jersey in years, Gary Byrne from Glenealy who impressed at wing back, new midfielder Shane Byrne from Avondale and what I thought was the biggest gamble of all was playing an 18-year-old like Mikie Lee at full forward.
It was also warming to Eoin Mason at wing forward but then he did not come out again for the second half.
Anyway the selectors have a number of other young players on their panel that I'm sure they would like to have a look at which would include giant Minor Cian Kelly from Glenealy, Harry Stephenson from Bray Emmets, Gavin Weir, Shane Nolan and Gino Fuscardi, who did get a short run last week.
Casey will not want to take the students too lightly. No team coming from DCU at the present time can be regarded as a pushover.
We noted on the report on last Sunday's match that they have a particularly dangerous full forward line in Sean McGrath, Padraig Brehony and Colm Egan.
I don't know if Astroturf pitches are officially sanctioned for competitive matches but I do know that on Sunday's evidence they are definitely the answer to fixtures problems at this time of year.
Had Sunday's match to be played on what is even a good pitch in Bray it would have been a totally different ballgame. Spectators just marvelled at the pace of the game and how free it was flowing at all times.
No shemozzle while the sliotar was trying to be hacked out of a pool of water or a soft spot on the pitch; no slipping and sliding all over the place and both teams came off the field looking as if they might be coming in from a tea party.
While Casey is likely to be experimenting again he will also be anxious to get another win. Should we survive this challenge by the students on Sunday, it would put us into a semi-final against either Armagh or Meath and while that game would be an away match it would still leave Wicklow with a reasonably good chance of making the final of a competition which they have often won in the past.
The only other match likely to be played in Wicklow on Sunday, should pitch conditions allow, is the Division 2 relegation play-off between Ashford and Valleymount.
That match was fixed for the An Tochar pitch in Roundwood last Sunday morning but had to be cancelled after torrential rain made what is regarded one of Wicklow's best winter pitches totally unplayable.
It's a fair bet that the fixtures people will still be sticking with that venue but it should be remembered that snow is also a factor in one of the highest pitches in Ireland.
The West Winter League appears to be gone into mothballs for the moment. The reason being that a number of the clubs due to take part have not registered their players as yet, and without registration there is no insurance cover.
Outgoing fixtures boss Tom Byrne ventured the opinion that the real start-up date will now be deferred to the first weekend in February.
Wicklow’s Andy O’Brien gathers the ball ahead of Down’s Eoin Clarke.