A WEEK on from the drawn Minor 'A' hurling championship final, Glenealy and Bray Emmets met again in Pearse Park, Arklow, to decide the destination of the Tom Cooney Cup for 2012.
While the game was played in drizzly rain, it was nowhere near the terrible conditions of a week ago. Great credit must be given to the ground staff who had transformed the pitch to as near perfect condition as could be expected at this time of year.
Right from the start Bray looked a hungry team and they managed to take an early lead when Cathal O Dúlacháin pointed within the first minute. Bray pressed again and with points from Eoin McCormack and Marc Lennon they swept into a three-point lead.
Glenealy were trying hard to get a foothold in the game and were thrown a lifeline when Jamie Byrne sent a high ball to the Bray Square. Ryan Tynan could only parry the shot but Glenealy poacher in chief Gavin Weir was on hand to punish the mistake and fire the ball to the back of the net.
Despite this setback Bray refused to yield superiority. Lennon had a golden chance to restore their three-point lead but was adjudged to have palmed the ball to the back of the Glenealy net. The Bray attackers were beginning to click, and Cian O'Byrne pushed their noses ahead with two welltaken frees.
Glenealy responded to the challenge as Danny Staunton won the puck-out and passed crisply to Weir on the wing. Spotting the unmarked Stephen Cruise on the far side of the field, Weir measured his diagonal pass to perfection to leave Cruise with the simple task of popping the ball over the bar to leave the minimum between the sides.
Moments later the tenacious play of Jamie Byrne drew the sides level again. Once again the game swung to the other end, and when Diarmuid Masterson sent in a high ball to the Glenealy square the quick-thinking Jim Doyle was on hand to flick it o the back of the net.
Again Glenealy attacked and it was Staunton who was causing all the problems for the defense, drawing a free on the half way line which Weir duly dispatched. The move of the game came in the 23rd minute when Luke Maloney cleared the ball upfield to Lennon who handpassed to Masterson on the overlapping run.
Skipping by the defence, Masterson sent O'Byrne free and his shot from 20 yards went straight to the back of the Glenealy net. To their great credit Glenealy responded immediately with two points from Weir, but it was Masterson who had the last say of the half when he fired over from a '65 to leave the half-time score Bray Emmets 2-6, Glenealy 1-5.
In truth, nobody really expected the second-half to be played to anything like the intensity of the first, but boy were we wrong. Masterson opened the scoring with a long-range free and it looked like Bray were on the way to glory.
Despite the strong challenge of O Dúlacháin, Emmet Byrne won the puck-out and picked out Weir with a great ball. Weir's shot was blocked but only as far as Paul O'Brien who lobbed the ball to the back of the net past the despairing dive of Ryan Tynan.
With only two points between the sides, Glenealy threw everything into attack. Bray were further hampered with the loss of their centre-back, Enda O Maoilmhúaidh, who, despite suffering with a virus all week, had given every ounce of energy to the cause.
Temporarily unsettled, Bray conceded two closein frees which Weir gratefully converted to tie up the game once again. The Bray management made a few vital positional changes which steadied the ship and saw Diarmuid Masterson taking increased control around the middle of the park.
Masterson picked out Ishmael Mnesa with a brilliant pass and when Mnesa was fouled on the 14yard line up stepped Cian O'Byrne to re-take the lead. Cian Kelly did manage to find Staunton in space and when he was fouled it was Weir again who levelled the game.
This respite was shortlived and it was man of the match Masterson who was the architect. Receiving a clearance from Seán Maloney, he broke two tackles and flicked the ball to Eoin McCormack who fired over what was to be the winning score.
Glenealy never gave up and deserve great credit for their persistence. Luke Maloney was bossing the half-back line and backed up by the ever-reliable Daire Henderson at full-back, the Glenealy lads finally ran out of time. With the final whistle the Tom Cooney Cup was heading to the north-east of the county.
Although his beloved Glenealy had lost, the team had done themselves proud in a fine sporting game that was fitting to the memory of Tom Cooney, one of Wicklow's greatest dual players. With many of his family members in attendance, his son, Tom, presented the cup to Bray captain Luke Maloney.
It was really no surprise to all who know him that Luke proved once again that he is not just a leader on the field but also a thorough gentleman off it. Beginning his speech, he wished Glenealy Secretary Sheila Driver a speedy recovery from her recent illness and pointed out Sheila is rightfully regarded as a legend of Wicklow hurling.
He heaped praise on the Glenealy lads, thanking them for their part in a great final. New Coiste na nOg Chairman, Dave Murray, presented the People Newspaper Group man of the match award to Diarmuid Masterson of Bray Emmets.
Jim Doyle, Daire Lohan, Cathal O Dúlacháin, Diarmuid Masterson, Cian O'Byrne, Luke Maloney, Enda O Maoilmhúaidh, Peter Conroy, Daire Henderson, Ben McCormack, Eoin McCormack, Ryan Tynan, Ishmael Mnesa, Seán Maloney, Pádraig Doyle, Hugh Armstrong, Donnacha O Mídheach, Matthew Thompson, Shane Anders, Shane Lohan, Marc Lennon, David Byrne.
Emmet Byrne, Jamie Byrne, Aaron Nugent, Gavin Weir, Daniel Staunton, Conor Linnane, Cian Kelly, Paul Ellis, David Dowling, James Manley, Neil O'Gorman, Stephen Cruise, Cormac Geraghty, Dean O'Gorman, Paul O'Brien, Owen Connolly, Adam Cooney, Ryan Esmonde, David Ward, John O'Halloran, Ronan Manley, James Mernagh, Colin Reynolds. VENUE: Pearse Park, Arklow. REFEREE: Declan Peppard.