Harsh sending off ruins hurlers’ day
KILDARE WICKLOW 3-20 0-10
FOLLOWING on from earlier round defeats at the hands of Westmeath and Antrim, Wicklow travelled to Newbridge to take on the hurlers of Kildare for the third round of the Bord na Mona Kehoe Cup on Sunday last.
This had the potential to be a very difficult game for Wicklow as they were taking on last year’s Christy Ring Cup winners lining out with up to eight relatively new players.
Right from the start Wicklow really got stuck into the game and it was very heartening to see the excellent organisation that was on display throughout the full and half-back lines.
John Henderson, Peter Keane and Warren Kavanagh mopped up much of the early pressure.
The return of Danny Staunton to the midfield was proving very beneficial and he was responsible for some excellent distribution to the forwards which resulted in points fro Gary Hughes and Seanie Germaine, the latter score coming from a free after Eoin McCormack was fouled on the 21.
Kildare finally got off the mark in the fifth minute with a fine effort from Conor Dowling and this was soon followed by a pointed free from Brian Byrne which levelled the game.
Wicklow should have increased their lead but a total of six first half wides and some poor shot selection was hampering progress.
Seanie Germaine had a guilt edged chance to goal on the ninth minute but unfortunately he came up against an in form Mark Doyle in the Kildare goal.
Danny Staunton managed to win the resultant clearance and he sent over a beauty from forty yards.
Kildare hit a purple patch and for the next ten minutes they laid siege to the Wicklow lines.
Tormentor in chief was Sean Christiansen who took two points with Reece Gavin and Brian Byrne getting in on the act the latter score coming from a free.
Wicklow did have chances during this period but once again some wayward shooting and Padraig Doyle was most unfortunate when his flick on a high dropping ball scraped the outside of the Kildare upright.
Things could have been worse had not Wicklow’s keeper Conor McNally reacted quickly to smother a goal -bound effort from Bernard Deay with 25 minutes on the clock. Wicklow not hit some form as they worked to chip away at Kildare’s three-point lead.
Padraig Doyle and Luke Evans got two well worked points before Brian Byrne put over two pointed frees either side of another excellent Danny Staunton effort.
Seanie Germaine closed out the half with a point from a 65 to leave just one point between the sides with Kildare leading 0-8 Wicklow 0-7.
Overall, the Wicklow management must have been pleased with the half and one could see a very noticeable organisation in the back line which was no wonder with the experience and leadership been shown by Kelly, Henderson, Kavanagh and Keane.
The second half saw the introduction of Christy Moorhouse who replaced Luke Evans and Wicklow were showing a lot of early determination and promise.
It was not long before the game was level and a great combination move between Seanie Germaine, Eoin McCormack and Ronan Keddy finally set up Hughes who split the posts.
Almost immediately, Wicklow were on the attack again when Moorhouse won a nice ball under pressure and his quick flick to Doyle sent the big half-forward barrelling down on goal.
In fairness, Doyle did everything correctly as he batted his shot into the ground in front of the Kildare keeper but once again Kildare’s Mark Doyle was up to the challenge as he somehow got a touch to deny the score.
Eight minutes into the half and with the sides level it looked like Wicklow had a realistic chance in this game.
However, disaster struck when following what appeared to be little more than a group bout of pulling and dragging with no actual punch being thrown, Stephen Kelly was shown what appeared a very harsh red card.
The effect was almost immediate. Kildare began to turn the screw with a goal and two points in the next four minutes.
Wicklow fought hard to regain composure but could not muster the scores needed and it was Kildare that added two more points before Eoin McCormack pointed on the 26th minute of the half.
Kildare would go to register two goals and seven points in the last seven minutes of the game with Wicklow securing a final point from Jonathan O’Neill.
A cruel ending to the game but Wicklow will take many positives from this series.
Firstly, Eamonn Scallan has assembled a keen group of athletes who are very clearly coming together as a tight unit.
The blooding of new young players has been a bonus and as we go forward to a very competitive league this experience will prove crucial.
We are also looking at some experienced players returning from injury which will add considerable weight to the panel.
Next up is Warwickshire on January 26 in the NHL Division 2B.