THE GARDA METROPOLITAN pulled off a hit and run to possibly end Wicklow's Oscar Traynor dreams before they had even begun.
The county squad, made up entirely of Rathnew AFC players, were the vastly superior side throughout the contest but were unable to convert their possession into goals, something the visitors certainly could not be accused of.
Wicklow battered the Garda from pillar to post in the first period but still found themselves trailing at the break due to Aiden Clarke's 36th minute volley.
Things continued in the same vein after the restart but then defender Brian Kelly dealt Wicklow a further blow when he nodded home from a corner to double his side's lead.
And Wicklow's fate was sealed six minutes from time when striker Brian Kelly added a fortuitous third.
Wicklow substitute Jody Merrigan gave the score line a fairer reflection when he pulled a goal back in the 86th minute but unfortunately for the Garden County men; it was too little, too late at that stage.
Owing to the fact that no manager put himself forward for the Wicklow manager position, it was left to Rathnew AFC to take up the reins as they stepped in to act as the county team for the season. It was therefore inevitable that last Wednesday's opening Oscar Traynor group six clash between Wicklow and the Garda Metropolitan would take place at Shamrock Park. The hosts' (in every sense of the word) cohesion and teamwork was evident from kick-off as they bossed proceedings early on.
Paul Merrigan picked out Jay Taylor and the striker rounded Garda goalkeeper Dermot Crowley only for a linesman's flag to stop him in his tracks.
Crowley looked susceptible to testing crosses and also to the missile throw-ins of Ken Doyle. After one such throw had been cleared back to Doyle, the winger whipped the ball back into the danger zone and the Garda somehow survived as Wicklow bodies flung themselves at the ball.
The diminutive Jay Taylor could have given Wicklow the lead but for a last ditch tackle by the Garda's five man defence and four minutes later Taylor and co. found themselves losing after Brian Kelly had found Aiden Clarke and he rifled home a volley into the bottom corner of the previously untested Cathal Moody's net.
Philip Murphy and Paul Merrigan both went close to bagging a goal for their side prior to the break but neither were able to do so.
Moody almost handed the Garda a 0-2 lead on 50 minutes when he saw his clearance charged down by Clarke but the shot-stopper recovered in time to shove the ball out of harm's way and behind for a corner kick. The home side dealt efficiently with that corner but they failed to repeat that feat in the 69th minute when Clarke's flag kick was glanced on at the near post by centre half Brian Kelly and despite taking a deflection off a Wicklow body, the ball found its way into the back of the net.
Nicky Mernagh thought he'd halved the deficit just four minutes later. Colin Jameson drove in a cross from the left that Mernagh burst onto and the midfielder tamed the ball before finding the corner but referee Paul O'Brien deemed that Mernagh's control of the ball had involved a hand and the goal was chalked off.
Things then went from bad worse for the Rathnew men as they shipped another goal on 84 minutes. Alan Marshall sent over a cross from the right, captain Damien Quirke drilled it towards goal and the ball hit the unsuspecting striker Brian Kelly before flying past Moody.
Jody Merrigan finally gave the home support something to smile about when he latched onto a poor back header with four minutes to be spare and the striker expertly curled his effort into the far corner after cutting inside his marker.
Top Form: Ciaran Kavanagh (Garda).