Bell tolls for Mi­nors

Poor third quar­ter proves fatal for Wick­low team

Bray People - - SPORT - KIERON KENNY at Aughrim

WICK­LOW 2-09 OF­FALY 1-13 A real roller-coaster of emo­tions for all in Aughrim last Wed­nes­day evening. In­cluded in that would be the de­cent sup­port that the Of­faly team brought with them for this Mi­nor foot­ball cham­pi­onship elim­i­na­tor.

Five points down two min­utes in to the sec­ond half the visi­tors would have been fear­ing the worst and with good cause.

Wick­low were look­ing like they had found the means to re­ally hurt the visi­tors and all looked good in the Garden.

The next 16 min­utes are where this game was won and lost, Of­faly scored an unan­swered 1-7 to pro­pel them­selves in to a 1-12 to 1-7 lead and all but seal their pas­sage to a home quar­ter-fi­nal with Wex­ford de­spite a spir­ited Wick­low in the clos­ing stages.

Just lately Le­ices­ter man­ager Clau­dio Ranieri re­vealed lately he of­ten called out “dilly ding, dilly dong” to awaken his play­ers when they looked like their per­for­mance lev­els were drop­ping be­low ac­cept­able lev­els, a few roars from the side-line and the stand got Of­faly moving again and they were a dif­fer­ent team. From where I was sit­ting on Wed­nes­day I can’t be sure if Of­faly manger Padraig Mur­ray called out this par­tic­u­lar mo­ti­va­tion call but what­ever hap­pened be­tween the 32nd minute and the 48th minute the bell cer­tainly rang for the Of­faly team and they put paid to Wick­low’s hopes for 2016 in Le­in­ster with a scin­til­lat­ing scor­ing burst that they couldn’t claw back but by God they tried.

Wick­low played very well at dif­fer­ent stages of the game but there wasn’t a con­sis­tency in their game and drop­ping off for that spell in the sec­ond half was piv­otal.

Both teams started as se­lected in the pro­gramme and Wick­low had first use of a strong breeze blow­ing to the town goal.

Conor Lyn­ham was wide with an easy enough free for Of­faly in the first minute. Wick­low swept for­ward af­ter Jack Bel­lamy won the kick out and Dan Kelly was harshly ad­judged to have over car­ried.

The same player picked up what could go down as the soft­est yel­low card ever dished out in Aughrim mo­ments later af­ter an in­nocu­ous foul was pun­ished by a ner­vous look­ing Laois ref­eree who wasn’t giv­ing the young­sters on ei­ther team much op­por­tu­nity of get­ting any sort of mo­men­tum go­ing.

Dar­ragh Fitzger­ald got the open­ing score of the game af­ter a jink­ing run in the third minute and Dan Kelly pointed a free in the sixth to dou­ble the Wick­low lead. Straight from the kick out Of­faly got off the mark with the lively Cian John­ston point­ing af­ter a sweet pass­ing move the length of the field.

Wick­low felt they should have had a free out for a foul on Tom Ma­her but it went to Of­faly in­stead and Wick­low mark­ing was slack as John­ston played it short to full for­ward Shane O’Brien who lev­elled mat­ters in the 14th minute at 0-2 apiece.

Of­faly were push­ing up on the Wick­low kick out and as a re­sult Mark Jack­son was strug­gling to find his man with the pres­sure they were ex­ert­ing, a Lyn­ham free put Of­faly ahead for the first time.

Saoirse Kearon won pos­ses­sion from the next kick out and soloed for­ward be­fore of­fload­ing to his Avon­dale team mate Conor Byrne who found the bot­tom corner of the net with a su­per fin­ish to re­ally ig­nite things.

The Of­faly man­age­ment acted fast and switched Dan Mol­loy in on Byrne with his pace a real threat to the Of­faly back line.

Wick­low vis­i­bly grew in con­fi­dence and Dan Kelly kicked a point off his left af­ter more good work by Bel­lamy.

The same com­bi­na­tion was at it again sec­onds later as Kelly was wide of the mark with maybe a slip pass to Dar­ragh Fitzger­ald prob­a­bly the bet­ter op­tion af­ter the Agb man had snook in­side the Of­faly cover. Aaron Cur­ran was dis­pos­sessed near the side-line and Of­faly got their first score in eight min­utes, 1-3 to 0-3.

An­other point from Shane O’Brien nar­rowed it even fur­ther be­fore a long range point from Jack McCall kept Wick­low tick­ing af­ter Cathal Kelle­her had worked hard to turn over an Of­faly player in pos­ses­sion.

Cian John­son pointed for Of­faly what was re­ally a goal chance be­fore Dar­ragh Fitzger­ald scored a car­bon copy of his open­ing point.

The first half scor­ing was fin­ished by the hard work­ing Cor­mac O’Shea who was clever enough to stay down as two Of­faly men con­tested the same ball and Wick­low re­tired to the dress­ing rooms lead­ing 1-6 to 0-5 and look­ing good.

Thomas Kearns who had an out­stand­ing game at corner back was try­ing re­ally hard to keep the Of­faly dan­ger men quiet with Tom Ma­her and Aaron Cur­ran also hav­ing their hands full.

An early Of­faly wide was fol­lowed by an­other Dan Kelly point, the Balt­in­glass player looks like he will be wear­ing the county jersey for many years to come on the strength of his mi­nor dis­plays in 2016.

Then the bell rang for the Of­faly men, Michael Mooney the big mid­fielder was left all alone as he pointed, John­son kicked over a beauty from play be­fore point­ing an­other free as Wick­low wilted.

Strug­gling to get ball around the mid­dle of the park and not tak­ing the few chances that were com­ing their way would prove costly.

Kelle­her and O’Shea both had wides off their left be­fore Wick­low gifted Of­faly the ball just un­der the stand, a spec­u­la­tive cross field pass seen John­son got in be­hind the Wick­low full-back line to find the net and Of­faly led 1-8 to 1-7.

Paul O’Rior­dan didn’t hang around and rang the changes, Ciaran O’Shea re­placed Aaron Cur­ran, Fin­tan O’Shea came in for Jack Cot­ter and the Eire Óg man had a re­ally good game get­ting on lots of ball and mak­ing things hap­pen in the clos­ing stages.

An­other John­son free stretched their lead as Wick­low strug­gled for any de­ci­sions from the ref­eree with the man­age­ment vis­i­bly un­happy with many of the judge­ments in the mid­dle pe­riod of that sec­ond half in par­tic­u­lar.

Mooney pointed again af­ter find­ing him­self all alone once more be­fore Ro­nan Hynes came up from wing back to kick Of­faly’s best score of the night and it was now 1-11 to 1-7 as Adam Boland re­placed Fitzger­ald who ap­peared to go down with cramp af­ter an all ac­tion dis­play. John­son pointed an­other free as their scor­ing burst fi­nally came to an end for the Of­faly men

Jack McCall got for­ward and shot for a point, his shot was drop­ping short and Jack Kelly was alive and alert, he gath­ered, his shot for goal was blocked by an Of­faly boot and Wick­low had a penalty.

Kelly showed nerves of steel as he sent the keeper the wrong way to get them right back in the game. Of­faly were guilty of try­ing to pass the ball out of their back line mo­ments later and good work by Cal Kelly forced a free which Kelly pointed and amaz­ingly af­ter look­ing dead and buried it was back to the min­i­mum with seven min­utes to play.

Ro­nan Hynes kicked an­other point for Of­faly to lift the siege be­fore Kelly once more found the range. Conor Byrne was wide with a dif­fi­cult free from out on the wing as Cian O’Fla­herty en­tered the ac­tion for Wick­low in place of Jack Kelly.

In­deed, mo­ments later O’Fla­herty was clearly fouled in front of the Of­faly posts but no free was given and more frus­tra­tion for the home crowd. Tom Ma­her caught a great high ball and Wick­low won three frees on the trot en­route to the Of­faly goal.

Of­faly are cer­tainly well versed in how to see out a game with some of their tac­tics in the clos­ing stages very cyn­i­cal as Wick­low sought to build mo­men­tum and on an­other night may have seen more than the one black card com­ing their way.

A Dan Kelly free from a dif­fi­cult an­gle was cleared away for a 45 as two min­utes of in­jury time were an­nounced. A high ball from Mark Jack­son in to the Of­faly goal mouth was flicked to­wards the Of­faly line pos­si­bly by Rob Kelly and looked very close to be­ing over the line be­fore Dar­ragh Nor­ris got back to clear it away. One um­pire looked as if he was about to award the goal while the other stood mo­tion­less and Wick­low were to suf­fer heart­break once more.

Not long af­ter the fi­nal whis­tle sounded and a si­lence fell over Aughrim but for the cheers of the mid­lan­ders who prob­a­bly did de­serve their win with Wick­low’s in­abil­ity to keep up their per­for­mance lev­els prov­ing costly.

Some good per­for­mances from Wick­low play­ers but all in­volved will be very dis­ap­pointed at not be­ing able to make home ad­van­tage count and af­ter a lot of ef­fort they de­part with­out a cham­pi­onship win.

While the ref­eree cer­tainly couldn’t be ac­cused of giv­ing any home town de­ci­sions and came in for crit­i­cism from the home sup­port the calls were mar­ginal.

Scor­ers: Dan Kelly (1-5, 1-0 pen, 3 fs), Conor Byrne (1-0), Dar­ragh Fitzger­ald (0-2), Jack McCall and Cor­mac O’Shea (0-1 each).

Of­faly: Cian John­son 1-4 (0-2fs), Conor Ly­nam 0-3 (1fs), Michael Mooney, Ro­nan Hynes 0-2 each, Cian O’Neill and Shane O’Brien 0-1 each.

Wick­low: Mark Jack­son (Balt­in­glass); Thomas Kearns (Ash­ford), Tom Ma­her (AGB), Aaron Cur­ran (Kil­bride); Jack McCall (Barn­dar­rig), Saoirse Kearon (Avon­dale), Jack Cot­ter (Bless­ing­ton); Jack Bel­lamy (Kil­coole), Cal Kelly (AGB); Cor­mac O’Shea (AGB), Conor Byrne (Avon­dale), Dar­ragh Fitzger­ald (AGB); Cathal Kelle­her (AGB), Dan Kelly (Balt­in­glass), Jack Kelly (St Pa­trick’s). Subs: Fin­tan O’Shea (Eire Óg) for Cot­ter (36), Ciaran O’Shea (AGB) Cur­ran (40), Adam Boland (Bless­ing­ton) for Fitzger­ald (inj, 44), Rob Kelly (Hol­ly­wood) for Bel­lamy (44), Cian O’Fla­herty (Eire Óg) for Kelle­her (54).

Of­faly - Barry Ro­han; Dar­ragh Nor­ris, Dy­lan Ka­vanagh, Jack Quinn; Ro­nan Hynes, Ste­fan Geoghe­gan, Dan Mol­loy; Michael Mooney, Shane Mol­loy; Eoin Far­rell, Cian O’Neill, An­drew De­laney; Cian John­son, Shane O’Brien, Conor Ly­nam. Subs: David Flem­ing for O’Neill (45min), Luke Man­gan Gavin for D Mol­loy (51min), David Bodsy for M Mooney (56min), Seanie Far­rell for J Quinn (58min), Robin Gal­braith for E Far­rell (62 BC).

Ref­eree: David Moore (Laois)

Wick­low’s Conor Byrne cel­e­brates af­ter scor­ing a goal against Of­faly in Aughrim.

Wick­low’s Dar­ragh Fitzger­ald shoots for the Of­faly posts.

Ro­nan Hynes fails to halt the progress of Wick­low’s Cor­mac O’Shea.

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