NEARY TO THE BONE Le­in­ster League is of huge ben­e­fit to Wick­low hurl­ing clubs

Bray People - - SPORT - The Michael Neary view

LAST WED­NES­DAY evening I spent an en­joy­able cou­ple of hours in the highly im­pres­sive venue that is Bray Em­mets GAA Club.

The rea­son for my visit was the Le­in­ster Club Di­vi­sion 2 semi-fi­nal be­tween the host club Bray and Carnew and an op­por­tu­nity to run my eye over 14 or so county un­der-21 hurlers in­volved with both pan­els.

I have a spe­cial af­fil­i­a­tion with this com­pe­ti­tion as around six years ago both my­self and Lester Ryan came up with the idea to run such a league.

Aware of the limited num­ber of teams play­ing hurl­ing at var­i­ous adult grades it be­came an ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­nity for Wick­low clubs to play teams from other Le­in­ster coun­ties in a com­pet­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment.

At this time of the year with lo­cal com­pe­ti­tions on­go­ing and play­ers in­volved with county squads it has, at times, been dif­fi­cult for clubs to get their best teams out.

It has now be­come a very im­por­tant part of clubs' early sea­son prepa­ra­tion. The num­bers of clubs tak­ing part has re­mained con­sis­tent and in fact the Di­vi­sion 1 sec­tion this year now con­tains nearly all the top clubs in Le­in­ster and re­mains a very pres­ti­gious com­pe­ti­tion to win.

It is also an ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­nity for clubs to build links not just with their adult sec­tions but also ju­ve­nile sec­tions of clubs from out­side their own county. The vastly im­proved net­work of roads in Le­in­ster makes for easy ac­cess to play new teams.

In pre­dom­i­nantly foot­ball clubs some hurl­ing teams would not get a win­dow to play games un­til much later in the year if they didn't en­ter this com­pe­ti­tion.

I know, to my cost, how dif­fi­cult it can be to get chal­lenge games and once you say you are in­volved with a Wick­low club it can be even more of a hin­drance.

That's why the Le­in­ster League has been such a valu­able tool for Wick­low clubs as it pro­vides a win­dow for them to show out­side teams how ca­pa­ble they are and their de­vo­tion to the game.

This year Bray, St. Pat's and Kil­te­gan have qual­i­fied re­spec­tively for Di­vi­sion 2, 3 and 4 fi­nals. I pre­dict if these three clubs are in a po­si­tion to put out their strong­est teams they will each win their re­spec­tive di­vi­sion and in turn qual­ify to play in a higher di­vi­sion next year.

It is great to see Kil­te­gan back again hurl­ing reg­u­larly and these games should im­prove their per­for­mances in the SHC.

Over the years they have pro­duced some tremen­dous hurlers for both club and county. The fact that one of the best cen­tre-half for­wards I have ever wit­nessed and that Wick­low has ever pro­duced, John O'Toole, is still play­ing and scor­ing is a re­mark­able tes­ta­ment to the great man him­self.

With their ex­cel­lent Feile squad on the up and the great work be­ing done at un­der­age in the club hope­fully it won't be too long be­fore Kil­te­gan are back con­tend­ing for Se­nior hurl­ing ti­tles.

At last Wed­nes­day's game nei­ther Bray or Carnew were at full strength. Both man­age­ment teams used the match to try out new play­ers and/or re­ward play­ers who had helped them reach the semi­fi­nal.

This was an en­joy­able and en­ter­tain­ing game played in an ex­cel­lent spirit and well ref­er­eed by an out­side ref­eree (some­thing I am a big be­liever in).

Carnew had the su­pe­rior start to the game and scored two valu­able early goals, one an op­por­tunist strike from the newly pro­moted Se­nior player, Padraig Do­ran, and the sec­ond a long range free from Don Hyland which went all the way to the Bray net.

New man­ager, John Hen­der­son, will be dis­ap­pointed with the easy con­ces­sion of both goals and will be aware im­prove­ment is needed in this area. Carnew had the as­sis­tance of a size­able breeze and will be dis­ap­pointed to have thrown up seven or eight easy point scor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

In the first half John Hen­der­son Jnr. was a colos­sus at cen­tre-back. He was every­where, cov­er­ing the whole back­line, his first touch and strength were most im­pres­sive.

Christy Moore­house gave the best per­for­mance I have ever wit­nessed from him. Some­times Christy can be some­what in­con­sis­tent and doesn't per­form to his un­doubted abil­ity for a whole game but not this time.

His goal was the score of the night. He even suc­cess­fully took over the free-tak­ing du­ties when the usu­ally re­li­able Mickey Lee was hav­ing a rare off night.

Oth­ers to im­press me on the night for Bray were Jim Doyle, his younger brother Padraig and the speedy Mark Len­non. I en­vis­age Mark caus­ing huge prob­lems for lots of de­fend­ers this year.

Carnew will be dis­ap­pointed not to have won this game hav­ing been six points up in the sec­ond half es­pe­cially af­ter the in­tro­duc­tion of some of their more es­tab­lished play­ers Oisin Doyle, Sean Kinsella and Liam Kennedy.

Andrew Hughes and John Doyle will be pleased with their per­for­mances. TJ Hennessy had a very strong first half and con­verted an ex­cel­lent penalty when called upon but was less in­flu­en­tial in the sec­ond half.

Don Hyland's free-tak­ing and op­por­tunism from open play was ex­cel­lent and he was des­per­ately un­lucky to see a 20 yard pile driver miss the net by the small­est of mar­gins.

This game has cer­tainly whet the ap­petite for later this year and with the qual­ity of play­ers miss­ing from both teams on the night the stan­dard of play should be even higher when they meet again.

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