Do not take Mayo lightly
Christy Ring Cup Second Round
Wicklow v. Mayo
One thing you have to say about Casey O'Brien and his back room team this year, they have not enjoyed very much luck. Injuries to key players like Eamonn Kearns, Ronan Keddy, 'Chester' Joe Murphy, Graham Keogh and Geoffrey Bermingham has made forward planning difficult, to say the least.
They had moved up to a higher grade in the league where they were sure to find the going tough. Then they had difficult away matches; Derry for starters with a team that was way below strength; Kerry in Tralee; Laois in O'Moore park .
Then another trip to Derry for the first round of the Ring Cup; an unusual, to say the least, type of sending off and a defeat by a single point.
The home draw against Mayo is the first break Casey has got this year - could it be a sign that our luck is turning?
Mayo will be no push over, make no mistake about that; According to Jackie Napier they have got three players on special permission, two from the strong Castlegar Club in Galway.
One of them, Padriag O'Flynn partnered the great Keith Higgins at midfield against Kildare last Sunday and both scored two points.
It is reported that Wicklow will be appealing Gary Byrne's sending off so we will not know how that goes until much later in the week but otherwise Wicklow should be at full strength.
The fact that John Henderson came on in the Derry match and showed no ill effects from his injury is a bonus.
'Bosco's' hand injury affected his free taking last Saturday and if he was back to his usual form it could make all the difference; Andy O'Brien is likely to be on from the start this time
and that could also help.
We take Mayo lightly at our peril but if Casey can get heads right then Wicklow should win this one.
Wicklow and Mayo met in a quarter-final of the Christy Ring Cup back in July 2008 and just like now Wicklow had home venue and were looking forward to a win that would see them through to the semi-final of the competition.
John Mitchell was at the helm and had his team well prepared for battle. Even then the hurlers had a slight preference for the Arklow venue but because Mick O'Dwyer's footballers were defending their Murphy Cup title against Waterford in Aughrim on the Sunday and to make it a really great day for the supporters of both codes, it was agreed that the hurling would be run as a double header with the football match.
Everything in the Garden was looking rosy that day; a big crowd turned up to cheer on both teams and the schoolboys of both codes were given special attention.
The hurling match went on first with the football match to follow. The hurling match was a real cracker, great Galway star of the past Pete Finnerty had Mayo flying and even though Don Hyland had only recently joined John Mitchell's panel, they were in for a tough battle. Mitchell knew well the task he had on hand.
The sides had met in the league and Wicklow had scraped home by 1-16 to 0-17. With Hyland, Ronan Keddy and Joe Murphy in top form Wicklow led by 0-5 to 0-3 at the end of the first quarter in the Ring Cup match but that lead was down to a single point 0-8 to 0-7 at half time.
A Mayo sucker punch was landed in the 51st minute when corner forward Adrian Freeman slammed home a goal from a cross by dual star Keith Higgins, the game was wide open. Mayo forged ahead but a mighty point by Geoffrey Bermingham almost on the stroke of the hour brought the sides level - Wicklow 1-16 to Mayo's 2-13.
It remained a tight game in added time with the result still in doubt right up to the final whistle but the Mayo men edged ahead to win by 3-18 to 1-22.
So a warning there for Casey and his men to expect nothing easy on this occasion and for the record the Wicklow team lined out as follows: Wicklow: Keith Barnes, Mark Collins, Stephen Chester Kelly, Geoffrey Bermingham (0-1), Eoin O'Neill, Colm Ryan, Eamonn Kearns, Jonathan O'Neill (0-8), Ronan Keddy (0-3), Seanie Kinsella (1-0), Joe Murphy (0-3), Adrian Shanahan, Timmy Collins (0-2), Eamonn Furlong (0-1), Don Hyland (0-4).
Wicklow brought in three subs, John Connors, Denis Moran and Liam Kennedy. Scorers for Mayo were Keith Higgins 0-9; Adrian Freemen 1-2; Stephen Broderick 1-2, Derek McCann 1-0; Derek McConnell 0-3; Eoin Maddigan 0-1.