Gaels expecting tough challenge from Bray side
NRTH WW GAELS
WHEN North Wicklow Gaels meet Bray Emmets in the Minor ‘A’ Hurling Championship final this weekend, it will represent a multi-year project for the Kilcoole/Éire Óg/St. Patrick’s amalgamated team.
Whereas, a few years ago, it was sometimes the case where the different groups of players from the different clubs would have separated themselves into their individual groups, now, it is one united group of players with the same ambitions.
‘The very, very first training session, you could’ve walked onto the field in Kilcoole and find anyone who was Éire Óg and who was Kilcoole, they were yards away from each other,’ said Karl Cooke, North Wicklow Gaels manager.
‘It literally was as simple as put bibs on some lads and some on others and getting to the drills. We had quite a decent strength and conditioning program for
them, so they are all tired together. They were all kind of focused on what they were doing, rather than focus on who they were or where they came from. Everyone was in it together.
‘I think what helped us a lot was that we organised a lot of challenges matches, and we
entered the Leinster league; there is a kind of cross-border league in Leinster. The more games they played together, the more they became a team.’
When discussing their opponents for this weekend, Bray Emmets, Cooke is quick to be complimentary of the work that
is being done by Michael Roddy and his management team, while insisting that past results will have no bearing on what happens when the two teams lock horns this weekend.
The last time Bray and North Wicklow Gaels crossed paths was at the end of August, when
the Gaels swept Emmets aside in a 25-point, 7-11 to 1-4 drubbing, although Cooke said that that game will have no impact on their own preparation.
‘This season’s game is a bit of an odd one, to be honest with you. It came towards the end of the season, they were missing a few people, but look back over our previous meetings with them, there has barely been a puck between us.
‘I wouldn’t read a lot into the game we played them this year. They’re good side.
‘They’re always trying to play the game very well. They’re very good at hooking and blocking, in particular.
‘They’re very accurate in blocking, so we have to move it a bit quicker and smarter.
‘I’m completely treating [the last game] as an outlier, to be honest with you. They were missing their goalkeeper, they had a few lads on the sideline in boots and crutches. If we took our goalkeeper out and a few key players, it’s a completely different set-up.
‘They came very strong at the end of the season. That win over Michael Dwyer’s was a very good win for them. If they are capable of doing that to Dwyer’s, they’re capable of doing that to anyone. It’s only right that we ignore that blip in the championship.’