Bray People - - FRONT PAGE - BREN­DAN LAWRENCE Sports Ed­i­tor

FOR so long they’ve watched the county fi­nal from afar, but on Sun­day the foot­ballers of Bless­ing­ton will be cen­ter stage when they go into bat­tle with Rath­new in the Re­nault Se­nior Foot­ball Cham­pi­onship fi­nal in Joule Park, Aughrim, at 3pm.

It’s the lengthy ab­sence of the Blues from the big­gest day of the Wick­low club foot­balling cal­en­dar that makes this clash so in­trigu­ing and so very hard to call due to the num­ber of im­pon­der­ables at play.

How will Barry O’Dono­van’s men cope with county fi­nal day and all the bag­gage that comes with it? The noise, the pa­rade, the colour, the sense of oc­ca­sion, the grav­ity of it all? It might be easy to talk it away, but it’s a fac­tor and must be dealt with and pre­pared for by the Bless­ing­ton play­ers.

Is there a dan­ger that Harry Mur­phy’s men will un­der­es­ti­mate the po­ten­tial Bless­ing­ton have to spoil their am­bi­tions of bring­ing Mi­ley back to the vil­lage?

The book­ies have de­cided that Rath­new are very warm favourites at 1/2 while Bless­ing­ton are slightly more ap­peal­ing at 7/4 with 13/2 for the draw.

Key fac­tors in those cal­cu­la­tions have to be the long ab­sence from the de­cider for Bless­ing­ton and the gath­er­ing of mo­men­tum by the Rath­new men with the de­feat of Balt­in­glass be­ing the latest in a line of very tricky matches for Harry Mur­phy’s men.

This game is go­ing to be a tough bat­tle. Bless­ing­ton might have had the ‘eas­ier’ of the two semi-fi­nals but semi-fi­nals have to be won and they did just that. They also out­foxed a tal­ented St Pat’s side pre­vi­ously and that should also be re­mem­bered.

There are a bun­dle of mouth-wa­ter­ing tus­sles all over the field for this clash.

One of the stand­out foot­ballers from this year’s cham­pi­onship, Eoin Keogh, will prob­a­bly look to negate James Stafford’s in­put into this game in much the same way as he did to Dean Healy. If that col­li­sion of man­li­ness oc­curs then all eyes will be glued to the mid­dle third of the field.

It’s un­likely that Paul McLough­lin will be de­tailed to mark Leighton Glynn, ex­pect Barry Mur­phy to be handed that in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult task. Mur­phy is an ex­cel­lent foot­baller and he will need to be at his best to curb the in­flu­ence of a wizard like Leighton Glynn.

There’s an in­cred­i­bly in­ter­est­ing clash on the edge of the Bless­ing­ton square when Mark Doyle takes up his full-for­ward role against Stephen Bo­han. Doyle has the po­ten­tial to ruin any team’s day and Bo­han will be well aware of the threat of ‘Yaboah’.

Ex­pect a mighty bat­tle be­tween the Bless­ing­ton half-for­ward line and the Rath­new half-back line.

Barry O’Dono­van’s trans­for­ma­tion of his team from ear­lier in the cham­pi­onship and his de­ploy­ment of An­thony and Mick McLough­lin in the half-for­ward line along with the very im­pres­sive Michael Nu­gent has worked a treat for the Blues in their last few games.

How­ever, they now come up against a half-back line of War­ren Ka­vanagh, Ross O’Brien and the worka­holic Enan Glynn.

The dom­i­nant line in this bat­tle­ground will hold the the key to vic­tory or de­feat for ei­ther side.

An­other man who has been in su­perb form this year is Rath­new full-back Damien Power. Mind­ing the house he’s ul­tra re­li­able, and if he’s dragged out the field he turns into a foot­ball catch­ing ma­chine to com­pli­ment the mid­field mae­stros of James Stafford and the hard-work­ing and very ca­pa­ble Theo Smyth.

Power’s tus­sle with Cur­tis Geraghty will be one to keep an eye on. If Geraghty can nick a goal or two, Bless­ing­ton will ex­plode in con­fi­dence.

Pa­trick O’Con­nor will join Geraghty in the inside line with Kevin Han­lon likely to roam. O’Con­nor will be faced by the hu­man mag­net, Jamie Snell, and this is a bat­tle that will be worth the en­trance fee it­self.

Rath­new also boast four qual­ity foot­ballers in the shapes of Ed­die Doyle, Gra­ham Mer­ri­gan, Nicky Mer­nagh and Jody Mer­ri­gan and Bless­ing­ton will be hard pressed to han­dle the po­ten­tial of those play­ers. Doyle can be lethal from the frees, Jody Mer­ri­gan can rip you as­sun­der, Mer­nagh can cut you to shreds and Conor Kenny, De­clan Fen­nessy, Brian Car­roll and Kevin John Rogers and Co. will have to be ready for a huge bat­tle.

Ex­pect the re­li­able Peter Dig­nam to thwart a goal chance or two and ex­pect Stephen Kitt to play a key role on the line for Bless­ing­ton.

More im­por­tantly, ex­pect a mon­strous bat­tle with plenty of shocks and drama along the way.

BrayWan­der­ers man­ager Harry Kenny who is stand­ing down at the end of the sea­son. Photo: Bar­bara Flynn

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