St Pat’s are too hot to handle for Balto
ST PATRICK’S 2-11 BALTINGLASS 1-7
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)