‘We have kept our heads down all year’ Mid­field will be key to win­ning this fi­nal

Wicklow People - - SPORT - Sports Re­porter

DEAN HEALY wants an­other cham­pi­onship medal in his pocket and an­other pic­ture on his mum’s man­tel­piece.

Healy won gold in his first ever fi­nal and marked the oc­ca­sion with a pic­ture of him­self and sis­ter Aimi – her­self hold­ing an U-14 tro­phy at the time – with their mum sand­wiched in-be­tween and Dean reck­ons it’s about time that there’s an up­grade in light of Aimi win­ning the in­ter­me­di­ate cham­pi­onship as cap­tain re­cently.

Since that glo­ri­ous day though, Healy ex­pe­ri­enced the heart­break of three de­feats in a row on county fi­nal day but the cap­tain reck­ons the team-mates that will sur­round him on Sun­day eclipse ev­ery other team he has played in.

‘I think the cur­rent panel of Pat’s play­ers there - from the last eight or nine years I’m in­volved - I think the qual­ity con­tained in this team is def­i­nitely the best. We prob­a­bly don’t have stand-out names like we did pre­vi­ously but all year the lads have been fo­cus­ing on the in­di­vid­ual games that we’ve been play­ing and we’ve got­ten over ev­ery task that we’ve faced so far. This is a county fi­nal but one thing Casey has been stress­ing all along is that it’s just an­other game to get our over­all goal that we set our­selves at the start of the year.

‘We sat down at the start of the year and set our­selves a num­ber of goals. To date, we’ve achieved ev­ery­thing that we set our­selves with the ex­cep­tion of win­ning the league. County fi­nals are big days and I’ve played in a num­ber of them but the young lads that have been in­tro­duced this year; there’s a cer­tain raw­ness that comes with young lads. I re­mem­ber be­ing 18 back in 2012 and I don’t think you take much of the oc­ca­sion in be­cause you just see it as a game more so than lads that have been around the block’.

Healy could be con­sid­ered a veteran at this stage in terms of his ex­pe­ri­ence and he as ex­pe­ri­enced many jousts with Sun­day’s op­po­nents.

‘We are play­ing Rathnew and they’ll know us bet­ter than a lot of teams would and we’ll know them bet­ter too just be­cause of prior en­gage­ments. Rathnew beat us in a fi­nal two/three years ago but the panel we have at the mo­ment; not a lot of them would have ex­pe­ri­enced that. It will be a big oc­ca­sion but I’m ex­tremely con­fi­dent that if we stick to what we’ve been do­ing, we’ll hope­fully come out the right side of it.

‘Rathnew will have just as much con­fi­dence as we have. At the start of the year and through­out the course of the cham­pi­onship Rathnew have been the ones tipped to win it so the pres­sure is on them. We’ve kept our heads down all year and got on with it and we’ll hope­fully come out the right side of it on Sun­day’.

Aimi has al­ready showed Dean the way by cap­tain­ing her side to glory. It’s now over to Dean to match his sis­ter’s hero­ics.

‘Me and Aimi are very close and it was great to see Pat’s come out the right side of it. I hope Aimi is com­ing in over the fence with her tro­phy to join Mi­ley for a fam­ily photo! I’m hop­ing to have an up­dated pic­ture for the mantle­piece’. MID­FIELD is where this game could well be won and lost on Sun­day af­ter­noon. When as­sess­ing a game of such huge im­por­tance it would be neg­li­gent to by­pass the bat­tles be­tween James Stafford and Dean Healy and Theo Smyth and John Crowe.

The St Pat’s cap­tain will be un­leashed on James Stafford in a bid to curb his nor­mally huge in­flu­ence on a game. Casey O’Brien will not want the Rathnew cap­tain pluck­ing balls out of the Aughrim sky on Sun­day, or if he does catch them, O’Brien won’t want him of­fload­ing those 50-yard mis­siles in front of Mark Doyle and Leighton Glynn, so Healy has to be the man for that job.

As well as try­ing to limit Stafford’s game, Healy will be only too keen to open up his own shoul­ders and drive for­ward into Vil­lage ter­ri­tory at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity which will give Stafford plenty to think about while fac­ing the wrong di­rec­tion.

Of course, cur­tail­ing James Stafford is eas­ier said than done and Dean Healy will have his work cut out over the course of the 60 min­utes of this game.

John Crowe will be charged with stay­ing with the mo­bile Theo Smyth and with driv­ing for­ward where pos­si­ble. Crowe and Conor Ffrench seem to have a very pos­i­tive part­ner­ship and Casey O’Brien will hope that these two piv­otal play­ers can ex­pe­ri­ence a great day in Joule Park on Sun­day.

Harry Mur­phy will trust in his mid­field part­ner­ship and with Jody Mer­ri­gan and Nicky Mer­nagh never far away from the trenches the Rathnew boss will feel that his side will emerge as win­ners from the mid­field bat­tle come Sun­day evening.

Is it fair to say that Rathnew have a stronger full-back line on pa­per than that of their close neigh­bours? Pos­si­bly. Damien Power’s de­par­ture from the field with an in­jury in the semi-fi­nal will be a ma­jor con­cern to the Rathnew faith­ful but it is ex­pected that the Vil­lage full-back will start on Sun­day and will be faced with the task of mind­ing Tommy Kelly. That’s go­ing to be one of the key bat­tles of the day and could be worth the ad­mis­sion price alone.

The prob­lem with say­ing that the Vil­lagers have a stronger full-back line is that you have to sug­gest that the Pat’s full-for­ward line might pose an equal if not slightly big­ger threat than that of the Rathnew at­tack.

Stephen Duffy is hav­ing an ex­cep­tional year with his roam­ing role and his ping­ing of de­li­ciously ac­cu­rate passes through the heart of ev­ery de­fence he meets. It wouldn’t sur­prise any­body to see JT Moore­house charged with ac­com­pa­ny­ing Duffy on his tour of Joule Park Aughrim given the re­spon­si­bil­ity he was af­forded in keep­ing tabs on AGB’s Dar­ragh Fitzger­ald in the semi-fi­nal.

Throw the sea­soned Paul Earls into the mix and you have a heady com­bi­na­tion that can hurt any de­fence but in Jamie Snell and Paul Mer­ri­gan Rathnew have two tight-mark­ing, com­pe­tent and fast de­fend­ers.

Changes on ei­ther team are likely. Will Harry Mur­phy in­tro­duce War­ren Ka­vanagh or Gra­ham Mer­ri­gan to the fray? Wil the fever­ish and en­er­getic Danny Staunton be re­tained in the half-for­ward line. He has done noth­ing to sug­gest he doesn’t de­serve the start.

Who does Casey O’Brien get to mark Nicky Mer­nagh? The roam­ing Rathnew half-for­ward had an im­mense sec­ond half for the Vil­lage and this could be the per­fect job for Si­mon Bouch­ier. O’Brien will not want to un­hitch Conor Ffrench from the cen­tre back role given his su­perb per­for­mances to date and his bat­tle with Jody Mer­ri­gan is go­ing to be one to savour. Will the height dif­fer­ence be a fac­tor or will Ffrench’s en­ergy and strength give him the ad­van­tage in this most promis­ing of clashes?

Ed­die Doyle as al­ways will pun­ish from frees and bring his cre­ativ­ity to open play while John Manley may well be faced with the en­er­getic Paul O’Brien who got on an un­hu­man amount of ball in the semi-fi­nal.

Does Shane Mur­ley pick up Leighton Glynn? Does Leighton Glynn stay in­side or roam free? How much truth is con­tained in the ru­mours of a groin in­jury to the dual star who sat out Gle­nealy’s semi-fi­nal vic­tory over St Pat’s on Sun­day.

As al­ways, Glynn will play a huge role in the fi­nal and he along with Mark Doyle will be charged with tor­ment­ing the St Pat’s full­back line.

Ross O’Brien has been a solid sol­dier for Harry Mur­phy all sea­son while Paudge McWal­ter of­fers sta­bil­ity and con­fi­dence to Casey O’Brien’s side.

An­other re­ally in­ter­est­ing as­pect to the St Pat’s team is that of Ciaran McGet­ti­gan. He ex­celled against a weary Hol­ly­wood side and of­fers pace and ac­cu­racy from open play and brings a goal threat to the do­main of Peter Dig­nam. How ef­fec­tive will McGet­ti­gan be when faced with the Rathnew rear­guard?

Casey O’Brien has Pat’s com­ing in hun­gry and fo­cused. There’s been lit­tle razzmatazz or build up emerg­ing from the Wick­low town camp. It’s been quiet and steady all cham­pi­onship. St Pat‘s are car­ry­ing the hurt of three fi­nal de­feats into Joule Park Aughrim.

Rathnew are Rathnew. County fi­nal days are their nat­u­ral habi­tat. They rel­ish the big day and the hunt for Mi­ley and they must start as favourites.

There are so many key bat­tles all over the field that to pre­dict a win­ner from this game would be dan­ger­ous in the ex­treme.

A draw wouldn’t sur­prise any­one, but given their record and their tal­ent, the Mi­ley could well be re­turn­ing in the Vil­lage come Sun­day evening.

Dean Healy in ac­tion against Ciaran Kilkenny of Dublin in this year’s Le­in­ster Cham­pi­onship clash at Port­laoise. Healy will lead Pat’s out in the county fi­nal against neigh­bours Rathnew on Sun­day.

Dean Healy bat­tles with Rathnew’s Jody Mer­ri­gan in the county fi­nal of 2015.

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