Mi­nors earn an­other shot at Li­ly­whites

Keogh points dra­matic equaliser

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - SPORT - WICK­LOW 3-13 KIL­DARE 3-13

BREN­DAN LAWRENCE at St Con­leth’s Park

EV­ERY man, woman and child with even the slight­est hint of a con­nec­tion to Wick­low GAA should make it their busi­ness to be in Joule Park Aughrim this Fri­day evening at 7pm for the re­play of the Le­in­ster Mi­nor foot­ball cham­pi­onship clash of Wick­low and Meath.

Kevin O’Brien’s charges will be look­ing to go one step fur­ther and seal their place in the pro­vin­cial de­cider against Meath when they take to the field against the ca­pa­ble Li­ly­whites and a mas­sive home sup­port might just be the ex­tra man they need to get the job done.

The drawn game last Sun­day af­ter­noon in St Con­leth’s Park could be looked at in a mul­ti­tude of ways: glass half full, glass half empty, glass over­flow­ing or even glass start­ing to look like it needs a re­fill. Let me ex­plain.

Wick­low should have had the chance to wrap this game up at the end of nor­mal time when a late at­tack saw at least three fouls com­mit­ted on Wick­low play­ers as they bar­reled their way into the Kil­dare heart­land in one last at­tack but no free was given. Would they have de­served the late vic­tory? Ab­so­lutely.

Con­versely, Kil­dare could have had the game wrapped up in the first half as Wick­low strug­gled to con­tain their ex­cel­lent run­ning game and failed to make a mas­sive im­pact at the other end due to a con­tin­ual break­ing down of Wick­low at­tacks.

Kil­dare turned the Gar­den County over 32 times in the game on Sun­day and they kicked 15 wides and forced sev­eral ex­cel­lent saves from Ben Fen­nell. Did they leave it be­hind them? Prob­a­bly.

If Wick­low could use a big crowd in Joule Park Aughrim this Satur­day, they cer­tainly got that in St Con­leth’s Park last week­end. Gar­den County sup­port­ers out­num­bered their Li­ly­white coun­ter­parts in a big way with a big crowd tak­ing up home in the stand and a scat­ter­ing of sun­bathers en­joy­ing the game from the far ter­race.

The Wick­low team were ap­plauded off the field at full-time and at the end of ex­tra-time and were roared on through­out. Did that have an im­pact on their per­for­mance and their ut­ter com­mit­ment to the cause? Ab­so­lutely.

On the other hand, Kil­dare’s per­for­mance in ex­tra-time, save the last 90 sec­onds, was clin­i­cal. Two Aaron Kennedy goals looked to have all but ended Wick­low’s Le­in­ster cam­paign but from some­where deep in­side, per­haps at a depth from which few Wick­low teams have ever man­aged to go, and with that touch of good for­tune that has evaded Gar­den County teams more of­ten than not down through the years, Wick­low pulled it out of the bag and sur­vived to fight an­other day.

Will the Li­ly­whites bring that clin­i­cal at­tack and strong per­for­mance to Joule Park Aughrim? You can sing that.

A cause of some con­cern for Kevin O’Brien will be the fact that Wick­low only man­aged two points in the open­ing 24 min­utes, the first after two min­utes from Matthew Ging, the sec­ond from the same man 22 min­utes later.

In be­tween those two scores for the vis­i­tors, the home side rat­tled over six points as they laid siege on the Wick­low de­fence and cut off the sup­ply to dan­ger man Eoin Darcy at the other end.

But you can’t keep an at­tacker like Darcy quite for long. At 0-8 to 0-2 be­hind and with Wick­low badly need­ing some­thing big, Darcy won a long ball out in front of Kil­cock’s Sean Hill and rounded the Kil­dare full-back. He raced in on the Kil­dare goal and slot­ted it home to the bot­tom cor­ner of the John Ball’s net for what was es­sen­tially a life­line for Kevin O’Brien’s charges.

A Matthew Ging con­verted free looked to have cut the Kil­dare lead to two points but right at the death of the first half, cor­ner-for­ward and gen­eral thorn in the Wick­low side, Jack Smyth, from Car­bury, stuck the ball to the back of Ben Fen­nell’s net to sicken the Wick­low cause. Credit to the Wick­low sup­port­ers though, they ap­plauded their young men off the field after 30 min­utes of hon­est foot­ball.

If Kil­dare dom­i­nated the first half, Wick­low owned the sec­ond half. Points from John Keogh and Matthew Ging cut the Kil­dare lead to three points and then Wick­low were awarded a penalty which Eoin Darcy fired home with pure style and class to level mat­ters with 39 min­utes on the clock.

Ging, Sean Doody and two Eoin Darcy 45s left Wick­low win­ning the sec­ond half by 1-6 to 0-4 and they should have been given the chance to nick a late vic­tory after at least three fouls on Wick­low play­ers went un­pun­ished as they barged into the Kil­dare de­fence.

With legs and minds tir­ing in the swel­ter­ing heat of St Con­leth’s Park, ex­tra-time was al­ways go­ing to be a mas­sive task for both sides and it was Kil­dare who set­tled the quicker and they looked as though they had put the game to bed after a stun­ning 2-1 by the 76th minute with full-for­ward Aaron Kennedy grab­bing both goals.

Up to that point, Wick­low’s re­ply had been two Eoin Darcy frees and one from his Tinahely col­league Matthew Ging, but with only four min­utes re­main­ing Wick­low’s goose looked to be as good as cooked in the oven of St Con­leth’s Park.

But this Wick­low team have bot­tle. They have courage. They are fear­less. On­wards they marched, tak­ing hits and chal­lenges along the way. They say you cre­ate your own good for­tune if your men­tal­ity is whole­some and pos­i­tive and Eoghan Byrne’s seem­ingly poor ef­fort at a point landed won­der­fully in the back of the Kil­dare net when goal­keeper John Ball’s line of sight was blocked for an instant and the Li­ly­white’s lead was cut to one. Per­haps for­tune re­ally does favour the brave.

Only sec­onds re­mained for Wick­low to res­cue their Le­in­ster dreams from the fires of New­bridge. Kevin O’Brien’s men at­tacked but were re­pelled. Pos­ses­sion was lost but Kil­dare sent the free out over the side­line on the Wick­low 45. Back come Wick­low. Time up. Ref­eree’s watch looked at, whis­tle in mouth, here they come, last chance, one more drive, one more surge, once more unto the breach dear friends.

Chris Grimes to Eoghan Byrne, a sweep­ing ball from the Tinahely man off his left to Kevin Quinn on the stand side. Quinn has a man to beat, his legs sapping from a fe­ro­cious ef­fort over the course of the game. Beat him he does. His jersey is pulled on the Kil­dare 45. No free. On he goes, tack­led and ha­rassed with ev­ery step. He crosses the 21, legs taken from un­der him, down he goes, the whis­tle sounds, a free in for Wick­low.

One thing Wick­low do not lack is lead­ers. All over the field they have war­riors who are pre­pared to step up and take re­spon­si­bil­ity. John Keogh was the man of the mo­ment for this free kick. The Balt­in­glass man stooped down and lifted the O’Neill’s ball from the deck, looked up at the posts at the dress­ing room end of St Con­leth’s Park and pro­ceeded to swing the ball over the black spot. Ab­so­lute joy among the Wick­low sup­port­ers, re­lief wash­ing in waves around the New­bridge venue.

The fi­nal whis­tle sounded shortly af­ter­wards. Wick­low had got­ten out of jail. Kevin O’Brien said af­ter­wards that he wasn’t happy with the per­for­mance but that he was in­fin­itely proud of the play­ers and the par­ents for their vi­tal role in the jour­ney that has been this cam­paign for this won­der­ful squad of play­ers.

Kil­dare will come to Joule Park Aughrim be­liev­ing that they left a vic­tory be­hind them in St Con­leth’s Park. Wick­low will ar­rive at their home venue on Satur­day know­ing that if they play to their po­ten­tial, if they cut out the un­forced er­rors and if they play with the am­bi­tion and be­lief that they have on so many oc­ca­sions this year, that they can se­cure a place in the Le­in­ster de­cider against Meath and take an­other step on this won­der­ful voy­age.

Get down to Joule Park Aughrim this Fri­day and lend your voice to this tal­ented Wick­low team. Could it be a day you’ll never for­get? Ab­so­lutely!

Scor­ers – Wick­low: Eoin Darcy

2-5 (2 45, 3f), Matthew Ging 0-5 (4f), John Keogh 0-2 (1f), Sean Doody 0-1, Eoghan Byrne 1-0.

Kil­dare: Aaron Kennedy 2-2, Jack Smyth 1-2, Muiris Curtin 0-4 (3f), Alex Beirne 0-2, Sam Mor­ris­sey 0-1, Paddy Mc­Der­mott 0-1, Michael McGovern 0-1.

Kil­dare: John Ball; John Lynch, Sean Hill, Jack Hamil; Nick Jack­man, Kevin Kel­li­her, Paddy Mc­Der­mott; Liam Brod­er­ick, Marcus Kiely; Tom Browne, Alex Beirne, Michael McGovern; Muiris Curtin, Aaron Kennedy, Jack Smyth. Subs: Eoghan O’Haire for J Smyth (BC), Daniel Caulfield for N Jack­man, Drew Costello for L Brod­er­ick, Sean Englishby for M Curtin, Davy Higgins for M McGovern, Liam Brod­er­ick for M Kiely, Marcus Kiely for Brod­er­ick (Blood).

Wick­low: Ben Fen­nell; Fionn O’Car­roll, Sa­muel Kear­ney, Tom Mo­ran; Kevin Quinn, Oisin Cullen, Chris Grimes; Eoghan Byrne, Sean Doody; Alan Bar­rett, Craig Maguire, John Keogh; Matthew Ging, Eoin Darcy, Andy Fo­ley. Subs: Cil­lian McDon­ald for O Cullen, Shaun Cran­ley for C Maguire, John Doyle for A Fo­ley (inj), Jack Flem­ing Fo­ran for A Bar­rett, Oisin Cullen for F O’Car­roll, David Lawlor for J Doyle..

Ref­eree: Chris Dwyer (Of­faly)

Wick­low’s John Keogh shows nerves of steel to kick over the equal­is­ing point from a free.

Kevin Quinn of Wick­low tries to shake off the at­ten­tions of Michael McGovern of Kil­dare.

Liam Brod­er­ick of Kil­dare and Eoin Darcy of Wick­low bat­tle for the ball.

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