A WORRYING TREND
Wicklow fall to Carlow as scores prove hard to find
CARLOW WICKLOW 1-17 0-12
WHILE there was very little cause for optimism as the tiny Wicklow support departed Netwatch Cullen Park last Saturday night having watched the county footballers slump to a 1-17 to 0-12 defeat at the hands of a thriving Carlow side, it’s important to break the game into two halves when examining what went wrong for John Evans’ side.
It can’t be a big surprise that Carlow got the better of Wicklow given the county’s trajectories in recent years. Turlough O’Brien’s men are in a different place to Wicklow at this moment in time and for myriad of reasons.
However, Wicklow did show improvements in certain areas last weekend following the Laois game, but there has been no improvement, nor does there look like there will be or can be, in the scoring department, and that is the most crucial element of their downfall.
Laois won 12 of Wicklow’s kickouts in Joule Park, Aughrim. Carlow won two. Work was obviously done on that aspect of the game in the intervening period and it helped Wicklow to a not unhealthy position of trailing the home side by a single point at 0-05 to 0-04 with 20 minutes on the clock.
Ironically, despite the kick outs being the most improved area for Wicklow, it was a short kick out to Jamie Snell from Mark Jackson that saw Snell slip and allow Carlow gather with the ball being fed out to Paul Broderick and the ball was in the back of the net. 22 minutes gone, 1-06 to 0-04.
In fairness to Wicklow, the heads didn’t drop, and they battled on to go in at the break trailing by 1-08 to 0-07 and you felt that if John Evans’ side could get in for a goal there was no telling what might happen. Worryingly though, Carlow were so abrasive all over the field and so enthusiastic for the fight and with Wicklow not really showing any potential from play aside from the few excellent efforts from out the field, deep down it was hard to see where the scores were going to come from beyond placed balls.
Carlow started better in the second half, Eoghan Ruth popping over a great score seconds after Mark Jackson prevented the home side grabbing their second goal when he got the foot to Jordan Morrissey’s effort after corner-back Conor Lawlor had cut through Wicklow with a searing run from midfield.
Pressure from Dean Healy won Wicklow a 45 after Eoin Murtagh had thwarted the excellent Sean Gannon as he rampaged down on goal at the other end moments earlier.
Mark Jackson was summoned from the goals and something very interesting happened as he made his way up to the 45. Gannon followed Jackson on his run up and shouted at the Baltinglass man all the way despite Jamie Snell’s attempts to prevent him. Jackson went wide from the 45 and Gannon had another few words to offer as the Wicklow goalkeeper made his way back to goals.
If Mark Jackson is to take the majority of Wicklow frees and 45s then he is going to have to be protected - if not by the officials, then by his own players. The game was still very much in the melting pot at this stage and when Ross O’Brien lifted over a beauty of a score moments later it could have been 1-09 to 0-09 instead of 1-09 to 0-08.
At this stage Carlow had switched Paul Broderick with Sean Gannon and lovely intelligent forward play from Gannon got him out in front of Jamie Snell to collect a ball from deep and he turned and lofted over a fine point.
Things took a turn for the worst for the visitors then when John McGrath picked up what looked to be a very harsh black card from Leitrim referee Eamon O’Grady on the advice of his linesman. O’Grady did Wicklow no favours in this game it should be noted and added to the sense of real frustration felt by the small Wicklow following that made the journey over.
John Evans rang the changes at this stage, introducing Padraig O’Toole for Conor Healy and then Mark Kenny for McGrath. Pat Burke had entered the fray for Brendan Kennedy in the opening half.
From here, Carlow pushed on relentlessly. Broderick (two) and Darragh Foley from frees were answered by a superb John Crowe effort with 16 gone in the second half.
Two minutes later it was curtains for Wicklow as Dean Healy saw red for a clumsy tackle on Brendan Murphy on the stand side. As tough as the task looked with 15 on 15, it was impossible with a man down.
Carlow fired over some majestic scores for the remainder of the game while Wicklow were kept going through Darren Hayden and Mark Jackson, but there was never any hope of anything but a comprehensive Carlow victory.
There’s no other way to say it other than that Wicklow are in a very poor place at the moment. There is no threat up front. Deploying James Stafford on the edge of the square is made futile by the lack of support for the Rathnew man when a rare high ball is pumped in long. Likewise with Seanie Furlong.
Wicklow are over-reliant on drawing fouls within Mark Jackson’s range. Mistakes are killing the team at key moments in games and when questions are asked there seems to be a deep lack of confidence within the psyche of the squad and no real strong foundation to fall back on.
Positives for Wicklow were, as always, the performance of Mark Jackson, while Eoin Murtagh looked very capable in his sweeping role despite a lack of time functioning within that demanding position.
The Dunlavin man showed courage to claim several 50-50 balls over the course of this game. Theo Smyth worked hard, Ross O’Brien likewise while Darren Hayden chipped in with three scores and his usual selfless shift
Carlow’s goal came from a mistake and although they cut through Wicklow twice in the second half, the full-back line worked hard all night.
Second from bottom today with two draws from five games, all Wicklow have left to play for against Limerick and Leitrim is pride. Two wins would give John Evans’ men a real boost as they begin their preparations for the championship. Settling on a system and a starting 15 and finding a way of working scores are the massive challenges facing the Wicklow management, with the nightmare scenario of a rock bottom finish looking very possible at this stage.
Scorers - Carlow: Paul Broderick 1-7 (5f), Darragh Foley 0-3 (1f), Sean Murphy 0-2, Jordan Morrissey, Brendan Murphy, Eoghan Ruth, Sean Gannon, Daniel St Ledger (f) 0-1 each.
Wicklow: Mark Jackson 0-5, (4f,
Wides: Wicklow 7 (4), Carlow 8 (5)
Kickouts won: Wicklow 22, Carlow 13 (own); Wicklow 5, Carlow 2 (others).
Frees: Wicklow 15, Carlow 22 Cards: Wicklow: two yellows, one black, one red; Carlow: one yellow.
Turnovers: Wicklow 10, Carlow 15.
Breaks won: Wicklow 11, Carlow 10.
Goal chances: Wicklow 1, Carlow 3.
Marks: Wicklow 4, Carlow 3. 45s: Wicklow 2, Carlow 0. Steps: Wicklow 1, Carlow 1. Dropped Short: Wicklow 1, Carlow 1.
Jordan Morrissey point (.50) Darragh Foley point (4.30) 1 ‘45’), Darren Hayden 0-4, (3f), James Stafford, Ross O’Brien, John Crowe 0-1 each.
Robbie Molloy; Chris Crowley, Shane Redmond, Conor Lawlor; Jordan Morrissey, Daniel St Ledger, Ciaran Moran; Brendan Murphy, Sean Murphy; Sean Gannon, Darragh Foley, Eoghan Ruth; Paul Broderick, Darragh O’Brien, John Murphy. Subs: Mark Rennick for Crowley (55min); Diarmuid Walsh for O’Brien (58min); Cian Lawler for Broderick (58min); Benny Kavanagh for Morrissey (59min); Jamie Clarke for B Murphy (65min); Mark Furey for Ruth (70+2).
Mark Jackson; Brendan Kennedy, Jamie Snell, Paul Merrigan; Eoin Murtagh, Dean Healy, Ross O’Brien; Rory Finn, James Stafford; Conor Healy, Darren Hayden, John Crowe; Theo Smyth, Seanie Furlong, John McGrath. Subs: Pat Burke for Kennedy (30min); Padraig O’Toole for Healy (43min), Mark Kenny for McGrath (BC, 46); David Boothman for Stafford (63min); Gearoid Murphy for Furlong (63min); Saoirse Kearon for Merrigan (70+2) Eamon O’Grady (Leitrim)
Mark Jackson point (45) (6.20) Brendan Murphy point (7) Paul Broderick point (f) (9.30) James Stafford point (10) Darren Hayden point (f) (14) Paul Broderick point (17) Darren Hayden point (f) (20) Sean Murphy point (21) Paul Broderick goal (21) Paul Broderick point (f) (24) Darren Hayden point (25) Mark Jackson poiint (f) (28) Darragh Foley point (34) Mark Jackson point (f) (35) Eoghan Ruth point (36) Ross O’Brien point (41) Sean Gannon point (42) Paul Broderick point (f) (45) Darragh Foley point (f) (48) Paul Broderick point (f) (49) John Crowe point (50) Daniel St Ledger point (f) (55) Paul Broderick point (57) Paul Broderick point (58) Darren Hayden point (f) (60) Sean Murphy point (65) Mark Jackson point (f) (68) Mark Jackson point (70)
Wicklow’s Dean Healy gets away from Carlow’s Sean Murphy in Netwatch Cullen Park. Photos: Joe Byrne
John McGrath feels the pressure from Carlow’s Brendan Murphy.
Wicklow’s Conor Healy fires off a shot as Sean Gannon closes in.