Wicklow are no match for de­cent Déise

Lon­don game now of huge im­por­tance

Bray People - - SPORT - BREN­DAN LAWRENCE at Wa­ter­ford IT


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.

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