WICK­LOW BOW OUT

14-man Mi­nor side beaten by Roy­als in Na­van

Bray People - - SPORT - BRENDAN LAWRENCE At Na­van

THE LOSS of Enda Donoghue to a red card at the start of the sec­ond half proved to be a blow from which Wick­low could not re­cover in the Le­in­ster Mi­nor hurl­ing cham­pi­onship in Na­van last Satur­day.

Leading by three points af­ter a free-rid­den open­ing half the Gar­den County lads emerged from the dress­ing rooms into the face of a swirling breeze at ground level and while they were cer­tainly fac­ing into a real bat­tle for the sec­ond pe­riod, the de­ci­sion by the ref­eree to show Donoghue a straight red card changed the com­plex­ion of the game com­pletely.

Meath seemed to grow in stature af­ter this de­ci­sion and even though the Wick­low lads bat­tled in­ces­santly and bravely the gaps be­gan to open up, and with Char­lie Bird (no re­la­tion we were told) putting in a su­perbly com­mand­ing role from cen­tre half back for the home side, the vis­i­tors were up against it for sure.

Play­ing with the breeze in the open­ing half the Wick­low lads took to the field in a cold but sunny Pairc Tail­teann with real am­bi­tion. The win­ners of this tie would go on to face the losers of Wex­ford v Dublin in the next round and, al­though the out­come of that clash might eas­ily be fore­told, the op­por­tu­nity would be wel­comed no doubt.

Meath got the per­fect start af­ter two min­utes though as Wick­low failed to get out of the start­ing blocks in the man­ner they might have liked.

Cor­ner for­ward Alex Walsh took a pass from Ro­nan Ryan and wal­loped the ball past Cor­mac Gerathy in the Wick­low goal. The im­pres­sive Josh Wall at half for­ward pointed the first of seven frees a mo­ment later and then Ross Ryan fired wide as the Wick­low lads were fin­ish­ing sec­ond to most balls around the field.

The vis­i­tors got off the mark in the fifth minute when Gle­nealy's Paul O'Brien slot­ted over the first of his eight frees af­ter Sean Ger­maine had been pulled back by Meath full back Luke Swaine. It was in­ter­est­ing to see Balt­in­glass listed as the home club of a Wick­low hurler on a GAA pro­gramme and Ger­maine per­se­vered all day at the pin­na­cle of the Wick­low at­tack.

O'Brien was on the mark for Wick­low again two min­utes later af­ter the busy Bill Moore­house was fouled and more tena­cious work by Ger­maine re­sulted in a free and O'Brien pulled Wick­low to within a point of the home side.

Wall pushed Meath out to a two-point lead af­ter Andrew Hughes picked up a yel­low card but then a won­der­ful ball from Bill Moore­house found Ger­maine in the square and the Balt­in­glass na­tive dis­patched it to the back of the net to give the tiny Wick­low sup­port plenty of rea­son to cheer af­ter 12 min­utes.

And if that wasn't good enough for the Gar­den County lads within 60 sec­onds young Ark­low Rocks star, Tier­nan Mel­lon rat­tled the Meath net af­ter mid­fielder Padraig Doyle had found Seanie Ger­maine with a nice pass and the full for­ward had linked up with Mel­lon and the Ark­low Rocks man made no mis­take.

Ger­maine had a wide sec­onds later as Wick­low be­gan to get on top with some fine free flow­ing hurl­ing. O'Brien pointed a free af­ter 14 min­utes to leave the score at 2-04 to 1-02 and then an­other.

Conal McCRea was the guilty of foul­ing Josh Wall and the half for­ward pointed his own free twice af­ter the ref­eree made him take it again.

In the Wick­low goals Cor­mac Gerathy was get­ting tremen­dous dis­tance in his puck outs and Wick­low were in a good po­si­tion at this stage in the game.

Meath had the ball in the back of the Wick­low net mo­ments later but the ref­eree had awarded a 21yard-free just prior to the ball be­ing struck. Up came Char­lie Bird to strike it but Aaron Kinsella was ex­cel­lent on the line and he saved the pow­er­ful shot. Bird pointed the re­sult­ing 65 af­ter 24 min­utes.

How­ever Meath's full back line were now start­ing to get the up­per­hand on their Wick­low coun­ter­parts. Wall slot­ted over a free to leave three points be­tween the sides and he would send one more free wide be­fore the half time whis­tle.

The same man would re­duce the Wick­low lead to two points with a free early in the sec­ond half and af­ter a Stephen Cruise foul on Ross Ryan on the 21yard-line the Meath free­taker would fur­ther re­duce that lead to justa sin­gle point af­ter five min­utes of the sec­ond half.

And then came the real turn­ing point. Gerathy's puck out landed at mid­field. O'Donoghue com­peted and the ball broke out to a Meath player. Again O'Donoghue com­peted and his hurl seemed a bit high but there didn't seem to be a ter­ri­ble amount in the ac­tion to any­one watch­ing, in­clud­ing the Meath sup­port­ers but West­meath ref­eree Al­fie Devine deemed the ac­tion wor­thy of a straight red card and off he sent O'Donoghue.

And now Meath came hard. Ryan lev­elled mat­ters with a score afer 10 min­utes of the sec­ond half. A Bird free sent the Meath men into the lead a mo­ment later. O'Brien replied with a free for Wick­low.

But Meath came again. Alex Walsh sent a rocket at Gerathy, the Gle­nealy saved bril­liantly but the re­bound came to sub­sti­tute Conor Kear­ney who fired it to the back of the net. The tide had well and truly turned. Ryan pointed from play to leave the score at 2-10 to 2-06 in favour of the home side.

Wick­low sent in Martin Gim­bert for Sean Maloney as Liam Carey fired over an­other point for the Roy­als af­ter 16 min­utes of the sec­ond pe­riod.

But back came Wick­low and mid­fielder Padraig Doyle goaled su­perbly. But Meath rat­tled off two quick points be­fore Bill Moore­house bombed over for the vis­i­tors.

But then Char­lie Bird who for this writer was the man of the match gath­ered one of the many balls that was fired down upon him in the sec­ond half and the ball found it's way to Ross Ryan and then to sub­sti­tute Mark Slevin who goaled af­ter 24 min­utes as the gaps started to ap­pear big time in the Wick­low de­fence.

Paul O'Brien added an­other point to Wick­low's tally with a very well taken free but Meath fin­ished with two more scores to leave it Meath 3-15 to Wick­low's 3-09. Meath now face the losers of Wex­ford and Dublin while Wick­low must wait un­til Au­gust to face Kerry in the All-Ire­land B Cham­pi­onship.

WICK­LOW

C Ger­aghty; A Kinsella, S Cruise, S Moloney; C McCrea, P Con­roy. E McCormack; A Hughes, P Doyle (1-0); A Ka­vanagh, T Mel­lon (10), E O'Donoghue; P O'Brien (0-8, 8 frees), S Ger­maine (1-0), B Moore­house (0-1). SUBS: SUBS: M Gim­bert for Moloney (46), C O'Do­herty for Ger­maine (55).

MEATH

S Quigley; N O'Sul­li­van, L Swaine, C Dempsey; D Bro­gan, C Bird (0-2, 65 and free), J Payne; L Mo­ran, L Mar­tyn; J Wall (0-7, 7 frees), Ro­nan Ryan (0-1), C Kear­ney (1-0); A Walsh (1-0), Ross Ryan (03), L Carey (0-1). SUBS: J Bird for O'Sul­li­van (16), M Slevin (1-1) for Mo­ran (46). VENUE: Na­van

REF­EREE: Al­fie Devine (West­meath)

The Wick­low Mi­nor hurlers who were de­feated by Meath in the Le­in­ster Mi­nor hurl­ing cham­pi­onship in Na­van last Satur­day.

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