St Pat’s are too hot to han­dle for Balto

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - SPORT - BREN­DAN LAWRENCE at Aughrim


WHAT a re­mark­able turn­around in for­tunes over the course of a few short months. Ear­lier this year on Fe­bru­ary 9 in Dun­bur Park, Sean O’Brien’s Baltinglas­s handed out a hid­ing to Casey O’Brien’s St Pat’s with a fi­nal score of 3-12 to 0-7 in the SFL Divi­sion 1 game as the Slaneyside­rs en­joyed their march to the league crown, fin­ish­ing six points ahead of the de­fend­ing Miley Cup cham­pi­ons.

On Sun­day evening in Aughrim, O’Brien’s men turned the ta­bles com­pletely as they out­played the 2016 cham­pi­ons, stran­gling them in the sec­ond half by keep­ing them to a sin­gle point from a free and a late penalty strike from sub­sti­tute Stephen Heaslip and main­tain­ing their seem­ingly un­stop­pable drive to a sec­ond Se­nior cham­pi­onship crown on the trot.

What’s most im­pres­sive about this Pat’s unit is that there are very few weak points through which club teams in Wick­low can take ad­van­tage of. They are re­mark­ably united in their play and ap­proach. They seem to be to­tally in tune, all roles un­der­stood, all plays re­hearsed and em­ployed ruth­lessly, voices heard when voices need to be heard and an abun­dance of tal­ent to call upon should one of the start­ing 15 need chang­ing. Casey O’Brien won’t thank any­one for say­ing any­thing like this, but it is very dif­fi­cult to see who can top­ple them, although Bless­ing­ton on Satur­day will be a fas­ci­nat­ing bat­tle and one that both teams will learn hugely from.

It’s Keat­ing Tro­phy time for Baltinglas­s and what a dis­as­trous cham­pi­onship cam­paign it has been for Sean O’Brien’s team. From a team that looked in fine fet­tle they have now suf­fered four de­feats on the trot and face a bat­tle with Éire Óg Grey­stones to avoid fin­ish­ing bot­tom of the group. They should have more than enough class and abil­ity to avoid any dan­ger of rel­e­ga­tion but a dras­tic drop in con­fi­dence and form can be very hard to halt.

Scor­ing just two points in a half of foot­ball is not a won­der­ful re­turn for the reign­ing county cham­pi­ons but Casey O’Brien’s side raised two green flags in the open­ing 30 as well and that is how they went in lead­ing by 2-2 to 0-6 at the break.

They also had to con­tend with Billy Cullen play­ing the role of a sweeper and try­ing to cut out the sup­ply to the lethal Tommy Kelly and to some ex­tent Baltinglas­s did curb the at­tacker’s threat although he still fin­ished with 1-3 from play.

That’s the prob­lem for teams who are go­ing to come up against Pat’s from here on in. You can pull out all the stops to pre­vent Tommy Kelly from run­ning amok or Stephen Duffy con­duct­ing af­fairs like an am­bling ghost or Paudge McWal­ter prov­ing as sub­lime a foot­baller as he has ever been or Dean Healy from bull­doz­ing through the heart of your de­fence or any other of the umpteen at­tack­ing threats that Pat’s bring to the ta­ble but you also have to score your­self and on Sun­day evening in front of a very dis­ap­point­ing crowd in Aughrim that was ul­ti­mate dif­fer­ence be­tween the sides – Pat’s in­evitably found ways to pen­e­trate a gal­lant Baltinglas­s de­fence but Sean O’Brien’s men died a death at the other end, es­pe­cially in the sec­ond half.

A rocket from the floor to the back of Mark Jack­son’s net af­ter a Tommy Kelly free dropped short got Pat’s off to a su­per start and they were 1-2 to no score af­ter eight thanks to points from the im­pres­sive McWal­ter and a pointed free from Kelly who had Ian Sheerin for com­pany.

Baltinglas­s were strug­gling in front of the posts and had two wides on the board be­fore Johnny Keogh popped over their open­ing score from a free af­ter 13.

John McGrath ex­ploded to life at the end of the first quar­ter with a stun­ning ef­fort af­ter pluck­ing the ball from the sky, turn­ing neatly and fir­ing over.

An­other Johnny Keogh pointed free was sand­wiched in be­tween two wides for Pat’s be­fore Tommy Kelly got on the end of a move in­volv­ing the re­cently re­turned Conor Ffrench and Luca Ram­per­saud to fire home to the bot­tom cor­ner of the Baltinglas­s net to make it 2-2 to 0-3.

Baltinglas­s bat­tled hard to be fair and closed the gap to two by the half-time whis­tle thanks to points from Johnny Keogh (free), Adam McHugh and Kevin Mur­phy but it was abun­dantly clear that they were strug­gling to break down the Pat’s sys­tem that in­volved 13 play­ers drop­ping back if re­quired be­fore break­ing at pace.

Baltinglas­s boss Sean O’Brien was heard urg­ing his play­ers to get in their op­po­nents’ faces and that they were be­ing too nice but the prob­lem is that the phys­i­cal shape of the Pat’s panel is so im­pres­sive and so ob­vi­ous that the rough and tum­ble days are over and un­less you can match their fe­roc­ity and their sheer phys­i­cal force then you are in for a tough shift at the coal­face.

The sec­ond half was a dif­fi­cult one from a Baltinglas­s point of view. They didn’t score un­til the 51st minute, that a free from John Keogh, at which point it was 2-7 to 0-7 with Tommy Kelly (2), the very im­pres­sive Conor O’Brien and Stephen Duffy from a free push­ing Pat’s out to that six-point lead.

Casey O’Brien rang the changes from here on in and they had noth­ing only a pos­i­tive ef­fect on the team, with Stephen Duffy (free), John Crowe, Ciaran McGet­ti­gan and Tommy Kelly all get­ting on the score­sheet be­fore Stephen Heaslip fired home a late penalty for Baltinglas­s to bring a tor­rid evening to an end for the west side.

Scor­ers – St Pa­trick’s: Tommy Kelly 1-4 (1f), Stephen Duffy 1-3 (3f), Paudge McWal­ter 0-1, John Crowe 0-1, Ciaran McGet­ti­gan 0-1, Conor O’Brien 0-1.

Baltinglas­s: Johnny Keogh 0-4 (4f), Stephen Heaslip 1-0 (p) John McGrath 0-1, Adam McHugh 0-1, Kevin Mur­phy 0-1.

ST PA­TRICK’S: Shane Doyle; Shane Mur­ley, Niall Don­nelly, Wayne Doyle; Jonathan De­lahunt, Conor Ffrench, Pa­trick O’Keane; Dean Healy, John Crowe; Luca Ram­per­saud, Pa­trick McWal­ter, Ai­dan Dunne; Conor O’Brien, Stephen Duffy, Thomas Kelly. Subs: Ciaran McGet­ti­gan for J De­lahunt (40), Paul O’Brien for L Ram­per­saud (39), Jor­dan Pet­ti­grew for C O’Brien (55), Padraig Hig­gins

BALTINGLAS­S: Mark Jack­son; Dar­ragh Doyle, Ian Sheerin, Tom Burke; John Mur­ray, Pat Burke, Paddy Kir­wan; Kevin Mur­phy, Peadar Burke; Johnny Keogh, John McGrath, Daniel Kelly; Jor­dan Deans, Adam McHugh, Billy Cullen. Subs: Chris Heaslip for Dan Kelly (25), Sean O’Brien for J Deans (37), Stephen Heaslip for J Mur­ray (51).

REF­EREE: Eu­gene O’Brien (Aughrim)

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