O’Toole grabs late win­ner for Wick­low

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - SPORT - MICKHAGAN

A DE­PLETED Wick­low side made the trip to Tul­lam­ore on Satur­day last for the open­ing round of the All-Ire­land Un­der-20 ‘B’ Hurl­ing cham­pi­onship (Richie McEl­lig­ott Cup) which was played in ex­cel­lent con­di­tions at O’Connor Park.

Manager Garry Laf­fan was short at least ten play­ers due to hol­i­days in­juries and lo­cal cham­pi­onships, how­ever the panel that made them­selves avail­able de­serve credit for making the jour­ney at such short no­tice; a squad that in­cluded county Se­nior play­ers, Bryan Kear­ney, Eoghan Byrne, Cian Staunton, Jonathan O’Neill Jnr, Gary Hughes and dual player Padraig O’Toole, who formed the back bone of the squad.

The game proved to be an evenly matched contest which saw both teams committed to the task with never more than three points be­tween the sides at any time, which saw 15 play­ers fig­ure on the score sheet, some ex­cel­lent de­fend­ing and many great bat­tles around the field that saw the game go right down to the wire, but it was the Wick­low who clinched vic­tory deep into in­jury time.

In the past, Wick­low teams al­ways fared well in this com­pe­ti­tion and were suc­cess­ful un­der manager Jonathan O’Neill Se­nior in 2014 when they beat old ri­vals Meath in the de­cider. Two years later, Wick­low also con­tested the fi­nal un­der the guidance of Michael Neary, but the Gar­den County had no joy as Kerry proved too strong on that oc­ca­sion.

On this oc­ca­sion the de­pleted Wick­low squad rose to the task that lay ahead as Garry Laf­fan’s troops emerged vic­to­ri­ous with a one –point win­ning margin in what was a keenly con­tested game that was played in a sport­ing man­ner be­fore a hand­ful of Wick­low sup­port­ers to leave the Gar­den County lads ad­vanc­ing to a quar­ter-fi­nal clash against old ri­vals Kerry next week­end at a venue to be de­cided.

The open­ing few min­utes pro­duced two wides each be­fore Kil­te­gan’s Padraig O’Toole showed his abil­ity by split­ting the Mayo de­fence and slot­ting over a point. This brought a quick re­sponse from the men from the west, and fol­low­ing an at­tack up the field, wing for­ward Liam Mof­fett landed a point to bring the sides at one point each after six min­utes in the open­ing half.

Some fine at­tack­ing play by the even­tual win­ners un­folded but they were un­able to break down a solid Mayo de­fence in which cen­tre back John Ger­aghty was prom­i­nent. Wick­low kept plug­ging away as they brought the game to their op­po­nents once more but were guilty of some bad shoot­ing in which they recorded three wides inarow.

The pres­sure on the Mayo de­fence soon yielded re­sults. Wick­low went on to record two ex­cel­lent points from cen­tre for­ward Gary Hughes, one from a free fol­low­ing a foul on Fionn Fur­long, to leave Laf­fan’s side lead­ing on a score of 0-3 to 0-1 after 12 min­utes.

At this stage the Mayo men set about re­duc­ing the deficit as they upped the tempo and went in search of much-needed scores; mid­fielder Cor­mac Phillips landed a point from a free, Wick­low cen­tre back Padraig O’Toole was show­ing his abil­ity and won a free which saw Gary Hughes shoot wide and, fol­low­ing an­other at­tack, Jonathan O’Neill landed a sec­ond wide which could have proved costly in the end.

Fol­low­ing a Mayo at­tack, mid­fielder Ai­dan Mor­ris­roe split the Wick­low de­fence to shoot a point and level the game at 0-3 each.

Cen­tre for­ward Luke Hur­ley brought a bril­liant save from Wick­low cap­tain Cian Staunton which in­spired his team mates and fol­low­ing a move in­volv­ing sev­eral play­ers re­sulted in Ian Clancy scor­ing a point while an­other at­tack saw Eoghan Byrne get his name on the score sheet which gave Gary Laf­fan’s men a two­point cush­ion at 0-5 to 0-3 after 16 min­utes.

Not for the first time in the game, Mayo re­sponded, Cor­mac Phillips grab­bing two points from frees.

Play flowed from end to end with Luke Hur­ley and MacDara O Mid­heach ex­chang­ing a point each but it was the Mayo men that edged a point ahead soon after when Eoin De­laney pointed a free.

Wick­low re­sponded well and fol­low­ing a good move Eoghan Byrne sent a long ball for­ward which saw Jonathan O’Neill win pos­ses­sion and he showed his abil­ity to land a point from play to bring the teams level once more at 0-7 each after 25 min­utes.

Mayo fin­ished the stronger of the half which saw them land a point each through Luke Hur­ley and Liam Lavin and could have had more scores were it not for some solid de­fend­ing by the Wick­low de­fence which saw the half-time score read 0-9 to 0-7 in favour of Mayo.

The sec­ond half saw the Mayo men first out of the traps but not for the first time in the game Cian Staunton pro­duced an ex­cel­lent save to foil a goal be­fore alert mid­fielder Ai­den Mor­ris­roe tapped over a point to give his side a three­p­oint cush­ion four min­utes into the sec­ond half.

Once again the Wick­low men re­sponded su­perbly and showed great char­ac­ter as they kept bat­tling away and fol­low­ing a move in­volv­ing sev­eral play­ers, it was Jonathan O’Neill who wac­thed as his shot was bril­liantly saved out for a 65. Alas, Wick­low were off tar­get with their shoot­ing, but after both sides recorded a wide each, up stepped O’Neill to land an im­por­tant score with a point from play to re­duce the deficit to 0-10 to 0-8.

A point each from play were traded through James Gal­lagher and Padraig O’Toole and with both de­fences on top scores were scarce for the next six min­utes.

Soon after, and for the only time in the game, Mayo full-for­ward Paddy Lyons es­caped from a tight-mark­ing Bryan Kear­ney to land a point and give his side a three-point lead at 0-12 to 0-9 at the end of the third quar­ter.

From a Wick­low point of view the turn­ing point fi­nally ar­rived when a move that was started in their own de­fence and fol­low­ing good work by Eoghan Byrne saw a long ball find Jonathan O’Neill who gained pos­ses­sion and rounded his op­po­nent to score the only goal of the game to bring the sides level once more at 0-12 to 1-9.

Wick­low con­tin­ued to keep the pres­sure on.

Gary Hughes split the de­fence to win a free and MacDara O Mideach landed the point from the free to edge Wick­low in front.

This brought a quick re­sponse from the west side as James Gal­lagher brought the sides level again to make it 1-10 to 0-13 with ten min­utes re­main­ing and all to play for.

But with the win­ners show­ing greater hunger, they were re­warded with a point from a hard-work­ing Padraig O’Toole while an­other at­tack saw Gary Hughes split the Mayo de­fence but the Gle­nealy man was pe­nalised for over-car­ry­ing which re­sulted in a free out which gave the Mayo side a chance to surge for­ward and fol­low­ing solid de­fend­ing by the win­ners de­fence in which Bryan Kear­ney was out­stand­ing, fi­nally sec­ond-half sub­sti­tute Ciaran Doherty brought the sides level once more on a score of 1-11 to 0-14.

The re­main­der of this encounter kept the small band of sup­porter on their toes as both teams ex­changed a point each and it looked like ex­tra-time was on the cards.

Mayo went in search of the win­ner but were foiled by solid full-back Kear­ney who lead by ex­am­ple from start to fin­ish. The Kil­te­gan de­fender surged his way for­ward be­fore giv­ing a per­fect pass to his club col­league Padraig O’Toole who slot­ted over the win­ning point to give Wick­low a de­served vic­tory in what was a good all-round team per­for­mance.

Scor­ers - Wick­low: Jonathan O’Neill 1-2, Padraig O’Toole 0-4, Gary Hughes 0-2 (1f), Ian Clancy 0-2, MacDara O Mid­heach 0-2 (1f), Eoghan Byrne 0-1.

Mayo: James Gal­lagher 0-3, Cor­mac Phillips 0-3 (2f), Liam Hur­ley 0-2 (1f), Eoin De­laney 0-2 (1f), Paddy Lyons 0-1, Ciaran Doherty 0-1, Liam Mof­fett 0-1, Liam Lavin 0-1, Ai­dan Mor­ris­roe 0-1.

The Wick­low side who came out on top against Mayo.

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