KEY MOVES SET GARDEN ON COURSE FOR VICTORY
Henderson switch had huge bearing
SEAMUS MURPHY’S charges emerged victorious from this entertaining Allianz NHL Division 2B fixture at Joule Park Aughrim against an impressive Mayo outfit.
A non playing injury to Danny Staunton forced Wicklow into one change prior to throw in with Wayne Kinsella taking up the midfield duties in his absence.
Operating into a generous breeze in the first half, Wicklow were first to register on the scoreboard with a fine point from Pádraig Doyle after good work from clubmate John Henderson.
Mayo responded quickly with a Padraig Hickey strike, who, wearing 11, was operating at the edge of the square.
The sides were to be level on three occasions in the opening quarter with Kenny Feeney for Mayo hugely influential at centre-forward.
Mayo hit the ascendency with 13 minutes gone and led 0-05 to 0-03 with Feeney looking to have the freedom of Aughrim and Wicklow struggling to shadow him as he deployed himself into a deep centre-forward role and directed proceedings from there.
Brian Hunt helped himself to a sublime score from corner-back, racing up field and slotting over, and when Feeney converted from play, Mayo were looking every bit the inform team.
Wicklow struggled to get to the pace of the game. Mayo’s hurling looked sharper, their touch was better and their ball rucking was providing key primary possession.
Andy O’Brien looked starved of possession but when moved to left half forward he slowly began to influence the game.
Anto Byrne split the posts from the new stand side to register a first white flag in 11 minutes for the home side.
O’Brien then won a free from nothing and Christy Moorehouse duly converted. It now stood 0-08 to 0-05 and when Gerry Connors struck with a lovely score over his shoulder, Wicklow were back in things after 26 minutes trailing by just two points.
Feeney then began to assert his prowess on the game with a sweet strike after good work by Mayo captain Cathal Freeman.
The Toureen clubman then set up both Hickey and Joseph McManus for points as Mayo extended their lead to four points with half-time looming.
With 36 minutes on the clock, Padraig Hickey collected a delivery from the Mayo defence and charged forward, passing expertly to Feeney who found McManus with a cheeky hand pass over his shoulder and McManus crashed the ball to the net leaving Mayo well in control.
Andy O’Brien answered from play to close the opening stanza. Half-time score 1-11 to 0–08 to the Connaught men.
Seamus Murphy rang the changes at half-time and Stephen Kelly appeared at left half-back in what was a welcome and timely return to the hurlers.
John Henderson started at centre-back with Warren Kavanagh moving to wing back and Eamonn Kearns to midfield and immediately Wicklow looked a stronger outfit.
Over the next 35 minutes Henderson put in a tour de force performance at six, curbing Feeney and launching several Wicklow attacks.
Mcloughlin pushed Mayo a further point clear on the restart but that was as good as it got for the Mayo men as Pádraig Doyle powered down the wing and finished with a superb point which was the catalyst for the Wicklow revival.
Anto Byrne and Feeney exhanged points and Andy O’Brien converted from play to leave five between them with 45 minutes gone.
Within three minutes that gap was three points and Wicklow caught fire.
Their intensity and tenacious tackling took hold and Kavanagh and Henderson were roaring into the fray with clearance after clearance.
An exchange of points left the score 1–15 to 0–15 with Ronan Keddy and Moorehouse adding to the Wicklow tally.
Jamie Byrne entered with 52 minutes on the clock and certainly made an impact.
The game was now at its pitch and Mayo found themselves bearing down on goal only for Martin O‘Brien to make a tremendous tackle in front of the Wicklow goal.
Minutes later Jamie Byrne lay on a pass to the hand of Doyle, who was bottled up but the ball spilled out to George O’Brien who finished to the Mayo net; All square in Aughrim.
Two minutes later a long Kavanagh clearance from the heart of the Wicklow defence rebounded off the upright and Pádraig Doyle was on hand to burst the Mayo net and put Wicklow in front for the first time since the opening 10 minutes, expert corner-forward play from Doyle.
The sparse attendance were treated to a frantic final few minutes as Mayo sought a goal to
salvage their journey.
The Wicklow defence stood resolute and when Christy Moorehouse won a throw ball and took off in front of the new stand his sublime left handed pass to Andy O’Brien, who was fouled, rounded off a stirring second half performance. Moorehouse converted and referee Gavin Quilty halted proceedings as Wicklow secured two vital league points.
Final score: Wicklow 2–17, Mayo 1-17.
Wicklow’s Pádraig Doyle flies above Mayo’s Cathal Freeman.
Mayo’s Kenny Feeney is challenged by Wicklow’s Martin O’Brien.