Sport Gaelic Football

Monday 1 May 2017

Keogh hoping success will finally bloom in Garden

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

It's a record that would depress all but the cheeriest, but then Wicklow football supporters have always been an optimistic lot.

None more so than County Board president Peter Keogh, who has been following the county's footballers and hurlers for 75 years. If he was from Kerry, he would have celebrated 25 All-Ireland senior triumphs in that period.

Indeed, if he was from any county except Fermanagh, he would have enjoyed the thrill of watching his county win at least one All-Ireland and/or senior provincial title in football or hurling.

Unfortunately for Wicklow football, success has been largely confined to occasional one-off upsets and, of course, a win in the Tommy Murphy Cup final in 2007. They will play their 140th Leinster championship game in Portlaoise on Sunday having won only 33 so far, while the closest they have ever come to senior provincial glory was in 1897 when they lost the final to Dublin, whom they have never beaten in the championship.

One of Wicklow's best days came three years ago when they beat Kildare in the Leinster quarter-final in what was their first Leinster championship win in Croke Park. It's a result they are hoping to repeat on Sunday.

"Kildare have been improving over the past few years, but if our lads get their game together they have a right good chance. They know what it's like to beat Kildare," said Keogh.

Instilling confidence in a county with a poor championship record is always a difficult task, even for such an inspirational figure as Mick O'Dwyer, but considerable progress has been made. Keogh points out that since 2007, Wicklow have won two and drawn one of their opening four games in the Leinster championship -- a much improved return on previous years.

"Micko has done a great job, but he can only get out of Wicklow what's in it," added Keogh. "One of our biggest problems over the years has been a lack of confidence, but then you have to be winning regularly to get that."

Keogh believes that possibly the best Wicklow team of all was in the 1950s. They ran eventual All-Ireland champions Meath to a point in a Leinster tie in 1954 and, three years later, recorded their only ever championship win over the Royals before losing to Dublin.

Fifty-four years later, Wicklow are still awaiting a first Leinster title, but the quest continues with as much enthusiasm as ever.

"You have to keep believing your time will come. That's what will coax Wicklow people to Portlaoise on Sunday and hopefully the team will rise to the occasion."

Irish Independent

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