WICKLOW BOW OUT
14-man Minor side beaten by Royals in 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.
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).
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.