Wicklow pro­duce prom­ise of more to come

O’brien stars as Garden put Down to the sword

Bray People - - SPORT - PETER KEOGH At Bray

CASEY O'BRIEN got the new sea­son for his Se­nior hurl­ing team off to a great start with a win over old ri­vals Down in a game played on the Astro Turf at the Bray Em­mets com­plex on Sun­day.

De­spite gloomy fore­casts from the weather men and a heavy blan­ket of snow look­ing down on the pitch from the lofty heights of the Sugar Loaf, this game was played in cold but rea­son­ably pleas­ant con­di­tions.

Apart from a short pe­riod in the first quar­ter Wicklow led all of the way in this very com­pet­i­tive and equally en­ter­tain­ing match.

Last year Wicklow had trav­elled north to Newry and played a draw with the Mourne men and later had a nar­row win over them at a neu­tral venue but down the years lit­tle or noth­ing has sep­a­rated the sides.

Caolan Bail­lie gave Down the lead when he pointed a free in the very first minute but it took Andy O'Brien only an­other 60 sec­onds to bring Wicklow level, also from a free.

Bail­lie gave Down the lead once more but again Andy was on tar­get when he pointed a free for a foul on him­self and the sides were level for a sec­ond time.

The fly­ing Christy Moore­house used his blis­ter­ing pace to go around the Down de­fence and put Wicklow in front for the first time af­ter 14 min­utes and Ro­nan Keddy added an­other from play.

Andy Sav­age and Mikie Lee ex­changed points be­fore Down hit one of their good patches in the match and Bail­lie and Michael Tur­ley cut back the deficit with points. Points by O'Brien (free) and Eoin Ma­son in ex­change for one by Bail­lie left Wicklow lead­ing by 0-9 to 0-7 at half time and we all re­tired to the club­house where Frances Stephen­son and her helpers had the very wel­come cup of hot tea.

How­ever we got some­thing more to warm the cock­les of our hearts when the game restarted. The Wicklow full for­ward line com­bined to split open the Down de­fence with Christy Moore­house and Mikie Lee do­ing the spade work and Andy O'Brien ap­ply­ing the fin­ish for the only goal of the match.

Wicklow were on their way but there was still a long road to travel and a stiff bat­tle ahead. Wicklow held on to their five point ad­van­tage thanks mainly to the ac­cu­racy of O'Brien from frees and good work by fly­ing mid­fielder Ro­nan Keddy.

As the game ticked into the fourth quar­ter Down took over again. Sub Paul Sheeran, James Coyle and Daniel Toner sent over points and the Ul­ster men were back in con­tention once more. It was a stiff bat­tle right through the last quar­ter.

Jim Conors, who was play­ing in the un­usual po­si­tion of cen­tre for­ward, sent over a point to rally the Wicklow men and Andy O'Brien pointed one more free, this time from his own 65m line, a to­tal dis­tance of al­most 85m.

Even then it was far from over and Toner sent over an­other point to un­der­line that mes­sage. How­ever an­other free from Andy put four be­tween the sides and even though Down cor­ner back Conor O'Prey to send over a long range point in the dy­ing sec­onds it was to have no real af­fect on the out­come.

Casey and his men have a win un­der their belts and could go home to plan for their next match which will be against DCU at a home venue next Sun­day - most likely Bray again. The man­ager and his se­lec­tors Gerry Mur­ray, Brian Glee­son and Em­met O'Sul­li­van had to plan with­out reg­u­lars like Joe Murphy, Wayne O'Gor­man, Ea­mon Kerins, John Hen­der­son, Stephen Ch­ester Kelly, Enan Glynn, Liam Kennedy and Eoin O'Neill from last year's Christy Ring team but a num­ber of the young play­ers they tried out cer­tainly came up to scratch and gave the fair at­ten­dance of Wicklow sup­port­ers plenty of hope for the fu­ture.

The most in­ter­est­ing ex­per­i­ment of all that Casey tried out on the day was play­ing his top scorer but far from fit Jonathan O'Neill in goal in place of the in­jured Joe Murphy. He also caught out a num­ber of peo­ple by send­ing out reg­u­lar de­fender Jim Conors to lead the at­tack. To some at least it ap­peared that play­ing a com­plete novice like Mikie Lee in a full for­ward line that, if it lacked any­thing it was ex­pe­ri­ence, was an­other gam­ble.

It was a big ask for a young fel­low like Lee to take on sea­soned de­fend­ers at this time of year but he sur­vived well.

One in­ter­est­ing in­ter­lude was a Down point

Wicklow Se­nior hurl­ing man­ager Casey O’Brien urges his troops to fight to the fin­ish against Down.

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