Wicklow are no match for decent Déise
London game now of huge importance
WATERFORD 1-17 WICKLOW 1-09
IF there’s a god in heaven now would be a good time for him or her to start cutting Johnny Magee and his Wicklow footballers a bit of slack.
With two defeats from two games in this year’s Division 4 campaign and with the horrible sight of the Garden County sitting on the bottom of the basement division, there is every possibility, given the London victory over Carlow last weekend, that this league campaign could be a complete disaster.
The three opening games would have been seen in years gone by as reasonable opportunities to collect six points before the visit of Wexford to Joule Park on March 5.
Alas, having produced a dire showing against Leitrim, and having been blitzed by a very promising looking Waterford, it is very likely that the ‘certain’ scalp of the Exiles is not looking anything near certain at this moment in time given the shocking start to the league campaign for Magee’s side.
Only a stone wouldn’t feel for this Wicklow outfit. It needs to be said that this squad of footballers are nowhere near as poor as their recent performances have shown. This is a side with potential and with players of serious talent littered all over the field.
Men like Rory Finn, Ross O’Brien, Anthony McLoughlin, Stephen Kelly, Mark Kenny, Seanie Furlong, Tommy Kelly and John McGrath have serious footballing talent. Mark Jackson is going to be one of the best goalkeepers in Leinster if he continues to improve. Ciaran Hyland has been there and done that and can still offer plenty to a defensive unit. Paul Cunningham is tigerish and composed. Jamie Snell can be one of the most tormenting markers at club level and has plenty to offer at inter-county level if it can be inspired.
Darren Hayden owes nothing to Wicklow football and fronts up every single time. Dean Healy can be a colossus. The young players like John Crowe and Eoin Murtagh and Mikey O’Connor and the rest are the players of the future but it is just not happening at this moment in time.
This is not a terrible Wicklow team. But there is something terrible happening here.
This is a Wicklow team who are clearly suffering.
Why that is is anybody’s guess but the bad run of form over the past three years has to be a factor.
The endless comments being churned out about the county not having the players and the players not being up to standard simply have to be a factor in the disappointing performances so far in 2017.
Language is important. Words are weapons. If the in control of football in Wicklow cast doubt on the ability of the players then those players will feel that and at some level those words and that sentiment will appear on the field of play.
If powerful figures in the county are read in the national media talking about opening transfer systems for ‘frustrated’ Dublin players to come and play for Wicklow, or if players with Wicklow parents are being openly sought in front of the whole GAA world, what does that say to the men mentioned above who lined out for Wicklow in Waterford last Saturday night and who have given savage effort to Wicklow football over the last number of years.
What effect does that type of language have on those players when a goal goes in against them after they have fought back to come within two points of the Deise in the second half and you’ve lost John McGrath (harshly in my opinion) and Dean Healy to black cards? It has to have an effect.
Those are obviously not the only reasons for this poor run of form and that run of form could be put to bed with a win against London and a big game against Wexford in Aughrim, but that turn of events will not transpire if the current levels of performance continue.
Waterford looked like a Division 2 side on Saturday night. They cut through the Wicklow midfield and defence with ease at times, spraying ball left, right and centre, and shutting Wicklow down the second they managed to reach the Waterford 45. They looked fitter and stronger than their Wicklow counterparts and they looked like a team on a mission.
Waterford had the wind in the opening half and they also had the passion and the plan because they opened up a 0-05 to 0-00 lead after eight minutes of play with points from Donie Breathnach, full-forward Joey Veale, Paul Whyte (2), and Conor Murray with a wide from Darren Hayden the only real threat from the visitors.
Wicklow gathered their thoughts at this stage and Rory Finn dropped an effort short to Stephen Enright while Seanie Furlong went wide from a free won by Anthony McLoughlin before Rory Finn showed serious determination to fire over Wicklow’s opening score of the night after 11 minutes.
This was a decent spell for Wicklow who were now managing to get the ball into Seanie Furlong and Tommy Kelly but Furlong dropped another ball short to Enright and the resulting Waterford attack drew a foul from John Crowe and Patrick Hurney popped over the free.
One man who wasn’t settling for this kind of performance was Rory Finn and the Kiltegan man showed his colleagues how it was done by firing over another beauty off his left after 17 minutes to make it 0-06 to 0-02 in favour of the home side.
A John McGrath wide was followed by a converted free from Seanie Furlong after a foul on Tommy Kelly but a strong burst from Waterford saw them rattle off five excellent points from the boots of Hurney (2), Veale, and Whyte (2) to leave Wicklow in the worrying position of 0-11 to 0-04 down as half-time rapidly approached.
Throw into the mix the black card for John McGrath whose arm was held by the Waterford defender as he went to ground and it was looking like a real horror show at this stage before a vocal home crowd.
But a high ball into the Waterford square saw Mark Kenny gather and unleash a shot and referee Sean Lonergan deemed the block by the Waterford defender to be a foot block and the penalty was awarded. Up stepped Seanie Furlong who fairly drilled it home past Enright to bring Wicklow right back into it at 0-11 to 1-04.
Wicklow battled hard from the restart but the glaring difficulty was that the inside line were unable to pose a real threat to the Waterford defence and the Garden county side were left with having to shoot from distance as Ross O’Brien did superbly off his left early on in the second period.
A Seanie Furlong free brought Wicklow back to within two points of the Waterford men but that was as good as it got for the visitors.
Waterford managed to reopen the gap between the sides thanks in no small part to some poor shotting from Wicklow and a horrible goal from Gavin Crotty after a very tasty Tommy Kelly point knocked the stuffing out of Wicklow and allowed the Deise men kick on to record a 1-17 to 1-09 victory which leaves them sitting pretty at the top of the table.
It’s a lean time in the history of Wicklow football and the London game has now become one of immense importance for all concerned.
Scorers - Waterford: P Whyte 0-6 (3fs), P Hurney 0-4 (2fs), G Crotty 1-0, D Breathnach, J Veale 0-2 each, C Murray, M Curry, B Looby 0-1 each.
Wicklow: S Furlong 1-3 (1-0 pen, 3fs), R Finn 0-2, T Kelly, A McLoughlin, R O’Brien, P Byrne 0-1 each.
Wicklow: Mark Jackson (Baltinglass); Ciarán Hyland (AGB), Paul Cunningham (St Judes, Dublin), Jamie Snell; Darren Hayden (Eire Óg), Dean Healy (Saint Patrick’s), John Crowe (St Patrick’s); Rory Finn (Kiltegan), Ross O’Brien (Rathnew); Anthony McLoughlin (Blessington), Stephen Kelly (Eire Óg), Mark Kenny (Ballymanus); Tommy Kelly (Saint Patrick’s), Seanie Furlong (Kiltegan), John McGrath (Baltinglass). Subs: Paddy Byrne for J McGrath (35, BC), Paul Cunningham for M Kenny (45), Marc Lennon for D Healy (50, BC), Brendan Kennedy for C Hyland (65).
Waterford: Stephen Enright; Brian Looby, Thomas O’Gorman, Tadhg Ó hUallacháin; James McGrath, Stephen Prendergast, Ray O’Ceallaigh; Tommy Prendergast, Michael Curry; Michael O’Halloran, Paul Whyte, Conor Murray; Donie Breathnach, Joey Veale, Patrick Hurney. Subs: Gavin Crotty for Murray (53), Liam Lawlor for Veale (56), Fearghal Ó Cuirrín for Hurney (60), Stephen Dalton for McGrath (65), Caoimhain Maguire for Whyte (70), Frank Galvin for Ó hUallacháin (70).
Referee: Sean Lonergan (TY)
Wicklow captain Stephen Kelly looks for a colleague during the NFL Division 4 game with Waterford.
The Wicklow players gather together ahead of the start of the Waterford game last Saturday evening.