Long­ford next up for Gar­den

Le­in­ster semi-fi­nal bat­tle awaits

Bray People - - SPORT -

WICK­LOW’S ladies footballers will again take to the field next Sun­day at 2pm when they will do bat­tle with Long­ford in the Le­in­ster Ladies In­ter­me­di­ate Cham­pi­onship semi-fi­nal.

While the venue has not been con­firmed as yet, the drama will be played out at a Long­ford venue. Long­ford will come into this semi-fi­nal with­out a com­pet­i­tive match since the na­tional foot­ball league - they op­er­ated at the higher Di­vi­sion 3 but had a tough cam­paign through­out - so the ad­van­tage in this re­gard rests with Wick­low.

Wick­low have played their na­tional foot­ball fi­nal against Louth at the start of May while they also played and de­feated a strongly fan­cied Meath squad in Roundwood as re­cently as last Sun­day week. Th­ese matches will surely stand to a Wick­low side whose im­prove­ment in 2018 has been re­mark­able. The Wick­low side is a finely balanced mix of youth and ex­pe­ri­ence and it is a com­bi­na­tion which has served the county so well this sea­son.

Blessington’s net­min­der Kim Con­nors has de­vel­oped into a strong keeper while her de­fence, mar­shalled at full-back by Baltinglass’s Sarah Jane Win­der and by Sarah Ho­gan at the cen­tre-back have been strong in all as­pects of their de­fen­sive du­ties.

Lorna Fus­cia­rdi too has shown she has lost none of her steel and her com­pan­ion in the half-back line, Alana Con­roy from Bray, has shown a ma­tu­rity beyond her years.

How­ever, it is in mid­field that I feel this match will hinge. If Sinead McGet­ti­gan, who is hav­ing her best sea­son in the blue and gold of Wick­low, gets par­ity with Long­ford’s tal­ented Jac­inta Brady then I feel that a base can be formed for a sup­ply of ball to a for­ward di­vi­sion who are not over re­liant on any one for­ward but rather have been work­ing well as a unit.

In young Marie Kealy, Wick­low have a for­ward who has com­bined well with Mead­hbh Deeney and Laura Ho­gan while the re­turn of Claire Walsh has given a huge im­pe­tus to the squad.

The strength of the squad has been ev­i­dent through­out the sea­son and while it is a small squad it is laden with ex­pe­ri­ence and tal­ent.

This squad ethos was never more ev­i­dent than in the quar­ter-fi­nal against Meath when it was the in­tro­duc­tion of Kil­bride’s Walsh and the St Pa­trick’s speed­ster Saoirse O’Reilly which even­tu­ally turned the tide in the Gar­den County’s favour.

How­ever, this Long­ford side are also not with­out their own match win­ners. Their ter­ri­ble twin strike force of Sarah Tierney and Mairead Far­rell will cer­tainly test the Wick­low rear­guard - as they did in last year’s Lidl NFL Di­vi­sion 4 fi­nal.

Wick­low how­ever would have been fore­warned of their threat and would surely have made prepa­ra­tions for deal­ing with this dy­namic duo.

Al­lied to their for­ward threat in Leanne Keegan, the Long­ford side pos­sess a full-back of huge abil­ity and she along with her fel­low de­fend­ers will strive to con­tain Wick­low’s for­ward unit while also pro­vid­ing the platform to drive Long­ford for­ward to vic­tory.

Of course, a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact dur­ing all the Wick­low games thus far in 2018 has been the amaz­ing sup­port given to the Gar­den side. Hope­fully this sup­port will be gath­ered again this Sun­day for what prom­ises to be an event­ful and ex­cit­ing semi-fi­nal.

I feel that the ben­e­fit of the win over Meath, to­gether with their un­beaten run in 2018 should stand to the Wick­low side and it is that run to­gether with the fact that Wick­low had such a tough match against the Roy­als while Long­ford have been com­pet­i­tively in­ac­tive for a pe­riod of time that may be the dif­fer­ence in a match be­tween two sides who have al­ways served up tight com­pet­i­tive games over the past few sea­sons.

The Wick­low man­age­ment of Mick O’Rourke, Mick Ka­vanagh, Emer Miley and Caitri­ona McK­eon will cer­tainly leave no stone un­turned in their en­deav­ours to guide their team to­wards a Le­in­ster fi­nal and in that we should lend all the sup­port pos­si­ble to en­sure that the at­mos­phere is as elec­tric as it was for their re­cent matches against Louth and Meath.

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