Scene set for huge tactical war
SUNDAY’S Lightning Protection Ireland Wicklow Senior Hurling Championship final between defending champions Glenealy and Paul Carley’s Bray Emmets has all the makings of an absolute cracker on Sunday at 3.30pm in Aughrim.
With a win for Bray Emmets over Glenealy in the league section already under their belts and with things looking very healthy up Old Conna way, the pressure would seem to be at the door of the threein-a-row chasing Glenealy but no better team that Garry Laffan’s side to deal with any and all pressures and to come out smiling broadly on the other side.
Hurling fans can expect a fascinating battle all over the field in this clash but probably the most interesting area is that of midfield.
Glenealy stalwart Jonathon O’Neill Snr produced a special performance against Carnew in the semi-final and on Sunday there is little doubting that he will yet again dictate how Glenealy perform through his role of sitting in front of his half-back line and bossing the game with the natural skill and immense hurling intelligence that he possesses in abundance.
You’d expect Bray Emmets to start Luke Maloney and Diarmuid Masterson in the middle while the busy and tormenting Paul O’Brien will accompany ‘Bosco’ Snr.
What we have there are four very different hurlers all colliding in the middle of a massive battle and how each side approaches that area will be key to the winning and losing of this game.
It’s likely that Luke Maloney will follow ‘Bosco’ and try and thwart or negate his monstrous influence on the game and Maloney could be just the man to come close to that given his man-marking abilities and his hurling prowess.
It can’t be Diarmuid Masterson as the Bray midfielder appreciates the freedom too much to be tied to such a restrictive role but if it is Luke Maloney then you have Paul O’Brien and Diarmuid Masterson setting off exploring the far reaches of the county grounds.
The area most people will be wanting to focus on is the Glenealy defence, richly populated with talented hurlers as it is. Does Leighton Glynn start at centre back again? Do they start Warren Kavanagh and Danny Staunton in the full-back line as they did in the semi-final or do they push Warren to midfield to follow Masterson? If the talented Kavanagh stays, then expect him to mark Christy Moorehouse and Danny Staunton to mind the house, but if Christy veers towards the 45-yard line then it’s Gary Byrne v Christy Moorehouse all day long.
Glenealy won’t be losing too much sleep over the Bray attack in the sense that they will feel more than capable of holding them relatively tightly but Michael Boland, Davy Maloney and Eoin McCormack can wreak havoc on a side if they are not playing at the top of their game so any sleepiness is going to be punished ruthlessly.
The key man for Bray Emmets is the hurling supremo John Henderson at centre back. Matthew Traynor started there on Jack Doyle in the semi-final and picked off three points because Jack Doyle played similar to John Henderson to a degree in that he tried to protect his full-back line. Traynor could be the handful that Glenealy need Henderson to have to stop him exerting that huge influence on the game.
Or, and it’s a big or, could we see Leighton Glynn being pushed forward to occupy the talented Henderson with Warren Kavanagh moving to centre back.
Simlarly to Glenealy, the Bray Emmets full-back line will back themselves to deal with the significant threat of Gary Hughes, Jonathon O’Neill Jnr and Alan Driver. Peter Walsh, Karl Lacey, and Sean Maloney will feel they are more than capable of handling whatever the Glenealy inside line can bring and with Cian Lohan and Daire Henderson ahead of them they will feel well supported.
There are untold possibilities to how this game is going to pan out. The October wind in the county ground will play a huge part as always. Will whatever captain wins the toss play with it or against it and how will they each set up whether they be facing it or running with it at their backs?
These are the questions that will occupy the minds of the management teams and hurlers of both camps. For the spectators, we just have to hope the day comes quick so that we can watch it all unfold and enjoy the drama of county hurling final day.
Who will win the title this Sunday afternoon?
Alan Driver accepts the cup from Martin Fitzgerald last year.