WICKLOW DUBLIN: DUBLIN manager Jim Gavin won't be sharing Ciaran Kilkenny with county hurling boss Anthony Daly. Kilkenny, who caused a stir last week by deciding to stay at home instead of returning to Australian Rules side Hawthorn after the Christmas break, has told Gavin he is making the senior footballers his priority once his club Castleknock finish their run in the All-Ireland JFC competition.
The 19-year-old dual star would be an asset to the hurlers but has assured Gavin of his football ambitions.
The manager was made aware of Kilkenny's decision to quit Australia in advance of the announcement and has spoken to the youngster. 'I heard the word 'compromise' being used and it's not a case of compromising. It's a case of players making their priorities and his priority at the moment, he said, is football,' Gavin said.
'He is keen to play some U-21 hurling as well and I have no issue with that. I don't dictate to players what they should do. 'I set out my vision for them and to achieve those goals that I have, there are certain things that need to be done. So, it's not a case of compromise, it's a case of priorities and his priority at this moment is football.' Gavin's own priority will be to assess the performances of Dublin hopefuls who didn't get up to the level required against Wicklow.
With two wins and qualification for the semi-final of the O'Byrne Cup secure – Dublin play Louth next Sunday – it was a case of opportunity knocks for players. How many took it? 'One or two did, to be blunt about it,' was Gavin's assessment. 'It was an interesting insight to some of them.' In theory it was a meaningless match, with Dublin already in the last four and Wicklow out of contention, but happily somebody forgot to tell the players.
The outcome on a chilly day and a heavy pitch was a game with some rip and a bit of roaring as the experimental Dublin side tried to impress Gavin, while Wicklow boss Harry Murphy wanted his men to depart the pre-season competition with a pep in their step.
Wicklow suffered early pressure in the first half but regained their poise and led by 1-9 to 0-6 at half-time. They then faced a barrage of Dublin attacks in the second period, and scored only two more points, but emerged with a morale-boosting win. The Garden County deserve extra credit as they were reduced to 14 men following Paul Cunningham's dismissal for a second yellow card offence in the 53rd minute. Dublin opened brightly and had six points on the board after 21 minutes – three from Paul Hudson (two frees) and one each by Declan O'Mahony, Robbie McCarthy and Gary Sweeney.
Wicklow packed the midfield, with James Stafford and Anthony McLoughlin asserting control. Paul Earls, former Mayo player Austin O'Malley (two frees), and McLoughlin brought Wicklow's total to four points by the 22nd minute, but from then until halftime the visitors prospered while the Dubs floundered. Wicklow's O'Malley smashed over a terrific point from play just 45 metres out, then Brendan McCrea equalised at 0-6 each with 27 minutes gone.
The all-important goal arrived a minute later. O'Malley had a goalbound shot blocked by Dubs 'keeper Vincent Whelan of St Maur's, but Earls struck the rebound into the net. Earls tacked on another score, as did Dean Healy and O'Malley to give Wicklow a six-point halftime lead.
Gavin brought on four subs for the start of the second half – Diarmuid Connolly, Paddy Andrews, Jack McCaffrey and Ger Brennan – and later on gave Emmett O'Conghaile some game time. The changes helped stabilise the Dubs, but chance after chance was missed before Connolly finally got a 49th-minute score. From then to the end, the Blues gouged out only another three points compared to Wicklow's two, by McLoughlin and Rory Finn, which got Wicklow safely home. 'My lads all worked very hard and any time you come here and get a result you're happy,' said Wicklow boss Murphy.