One more goal and Wick­low would be in a semi-fi­nal

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - SPORT - CHRISTY RING CUP

WICK­LOW Se­nior hurl­ing man­ager Ea­mon Scal­lon took his troops north of the border for the fifth time this year in league and cham­pi­onship when they made the long jour­ney to face arch ri­vals Derry in the fi­nal round of the Christy Ring Cup.

Fol­low­ing their Divi­sion 2 league suc­cess, it was no se­cret that Ea­mon Scal­lon and his se­lec­tors, Tomas Darcy and John Keogh, were anx­ious to make an im­pact in the Ring Cup; Wick­low have suf­fered de­feats in both semi-fi­nals and fi­nals un­der the guid­ance of for­mer man­agers Casey O’Brien and Sea­mus Mur­phy.

This year’s Christy Ring Cup com­pe­ti­tion has once again proved to very com­pet­i­tive. In the open­ing round, the men from the Gar­den County scored a vic­tory over Done­gal. Round 2 saw Wick­low play hosts to Down in Aughrim which proved to a high-scor­ing game be­fore the Mourne men carved out a 2-25 to 2-19 vic­tory.

On Satur­day af­ter­noon it was the turn of Wick­low and Derry to go face each other in what was a cru­cial game for both coun­ties to keep their Ring cup hopes alive.

Wick­low showed four changes from the start­ing 15 against Down last time out with saw Andy O’Brien Michael Boland, Enda Dono­hoe and Peter Keane re­place the in­jured War­ren Ka­vanagh, Eoghan Byrne exam tied, Ro­nan Keddy and Eoin McCor­mack.

Games be­tween these coun­ties have al­ways be­ing keenly con­tested and, on this oc­ca­sion, it was no dif­fer­ent, with two com­mit­ted teams do­ing bat­tle in a game that saw many fine in­di­vid­u­als dis­plays, many great bat­tles around the field, and both goal­keep­ers mak­ing vi­tal saves at var­i­ous mo­ments.

Some ex­cel­lent scores were recorded from both free­tak­ers - Enda Donohue and Richie Mullen - while both teams were guilty of some bad shoot­ing dur­ing the course of the game, but the tempo of the game kept the spec­ta­tors on their toes right to the end.

En­ter­ing the game Derry had a slight ad­van­tage with a bet­ter scor­ing dif­fer­ence which meant Wick­low had to score at least a six-point vic­tory to re­main on track for one of the semi-fi­nal berths.

After what was an­other com­mit­ted per­for­mance from Ea­monn Scallan’s men, they scored a wor­thy three-point vic­tory in what was their third vic­tory over the men from the Sper­rin Moun­tains in league and cham­pi­onship this year but, alas, ex­ited the Christy Ring Cup.

There’s no doubt that the mar­gin of vic­tory could have be­ing much more on the day as the vis­i­tors were left to rue at least three missed goal chances which in­cluded a first half penalty. On the other hand, the home side were also guilty of sev­eral chances they failed to con­vert from frees and play.

Fol­low­ing the fi­nal whis­tle and even though Wick­low won the game, the re­sult proved to be dis­ap­point­ing as they failed to meet the tar­get re­quired to make the knock­out stages and in the end it was Derry and Down, who scored a con­vinc­ing win over Done­gal, who ad­vanced to the semi-fi­nals where Derry will face Meath while Down will do bat­tle with the sur­prise pack­age of the com­pe­ti­tion, Roscom­mon.

The home set the pace from the throw in and were re­warded with early point from full-for­ward Se McGuigan and fol­lowed up with a pointed free from Conor Do­herty to leave the hosts lead­ing by two points after four min­utes.

A quick re­sponse from Wick­low saw a move in­volv­ing three play­ers end with corner-for­ward Gary Hughes land­ing the first of his two points for the day.

Wick­low kept the pres­sure on but were un­able to break down some solid de­fend­ing by Mee­haul McGrath at num­ber six. Scallan’s men had two wides at this time mainly due to a tight-marking de­fence. Ger­ard Bradley and Daniel Staunton ex­changed a point each both from play to leave Derry lead­ing by 0-3 to 0-2 after 12.

The first goal chance ar­rived then when full-for­ward Andy O’Brien rounded his marker, but his rasp­ing shot brought a bril­liant save out of Derry goal­keeper Sean Kelly and the chance was lost.

Derry upped the tempo and took the game to the vis­i­tors but could only record five wides in a row mainly due to some solid de­fend­ing by Wick­low.

With play flow­ing from end to end, Wick­low won a line ball and fol­low­ing good work by Danny Staunton and Ea­mon Kearns, Andy O’Brien won pos­ses­sion and the Pat’s man won his side a penalty after be­ing fouled in the square.

Bray’s Christy Moore­house stepped up to take the penalty, but his rasp­ing shot pro­duced an­other bril­liant save from Sean Kelly and an­other chance for a green flag was lost.

Enda Dono­hoe and Se McGuigan ex­changed a point each in the after­math of the penalty miss to leave Derry lead­ing by 0-4 to 0-3 after 18 min­utes in the open­ing half.

Carnew’s Dono­hoe added two points to Wick­low’s tally soon after, one from play and one from a free after a foul on Michael Boland as the Bray man headed for goal, but Derry re­sponded well, and a Liam Him­phy brought the sides level at 0-5 apiece after 25 min­utes.

Wick­low hit a golden spell at this stage as they dom­i­nated in most sec­tors around the field which re­sulted in a long de­liv­ery from Gary Byrne find­ing his club mate Gary Hughes who landed his sec­ond point. This score in­spired his team mates as they re­sponded in good fash­ion with Ea­monn Kearns, Enda Dono­hoe, and Andy O’Brien scor­ing a point each from play while Derry re­sponded with a point from Ger­ard Bradley to leave Scallan’s men up by 0-9 to 0-6 at the break.

Wick­low con­tin­ued to dom­i­nate after the restart. Michael Boland split the home de­fence and was re­warded with a point from play, and after good work by Christy Moore­house and Danny Staunton, Andy O’Brien scored a point from play to give Wick­low a four-point cush­ion five min­utes into the sec­ond half.

These scores lifted the en­tire team, but they failed to con­vert their dom­i­nance as they recorded three wides in row through Danny Staunton, Christy Moore­house and Michael Boland.

After a brief melee 10 min­utes into the sec­ond half over at the side line, Wick­low’s Michael Boland and Derry’s Dara Curtin were both shown red cards by the ref­eree.

Derry’s top scorer Richie Mul­lan scored a point from play which brought a quick re­sponse from Wicklo. Good work by mid­fielder Jack Doyle saw Andy O’Brien land a point from play which left Wick­low with a five-point lead on a score line of 0-12 to 0-7 after 14 min­utes of the sec­ond half.

At this stage the home team set about re­duc­ing the deficit with free­taker Rob­bie Mul­lan scor­ing two points from placed balls while Se McGuigan also landed a point from play.

Wick­low re­sponded with an Enda Dono­hoe con­verted free but the vis­i­tors’ lead was cut to three, 0-13 to 0-10, after 20 min­utes into the sec­ond half.

Derry were now on top. Three points from play, from Rob­bie Mul­lon (2) and sub­sti­tute Tieran McHugh, brought the sides level once more at 0-13 each, but not for the first time in the game Derry recorded some bad wides from frees and gen­eral play which will be a mat­ter of con­cern for their man­ager go­ing for­ward to the semi-fi­nal.

Wick­low re­ceived a ma­jor boost fol­low­ing their next at­tack when Enda Dono­hoe bagged the only goal of the match, and then both sides traded a point each be­fore two points from placed balls from Rob­bie Mul­lon re­duced the deficit to a sin­gle point with two min­utes left on the clock.

One last ef­fort from the win­ners saw a late surge for a goal but Andy O’Brien’s ef­fort was miss hit and cleared off the goal line. After good work by sub­sti­tutes Ro­nan Keddy and Luke Evans, O’Brien gained pos­ses­sion and won a free which he pointed to close the scor­ing which left Wick­low wor­thy win­ners in their third vic­tory over Derry this year.

The fi­nal whis­tle saw a de­jected Wick­low team and of­fi­cials leave the field of play after los­ing out in such a cruel way and not qual­i­fy­ing for the knock­out stages. The fi­nal league table saw Down plus 19, Derry plus 9, and Wick­low plus 3.

The Wick­low Se­nior hurlers ahead of their Christy Rig Cup clash with Derry in Owen­beg last week­end.

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