Wednesday 20 February 2019

Big blow for Wicklow as Exiles shine

Allianz NFL Division 4: London 1-16 Wicklow 0-10

Wicklow’s Kevin Murphy puts pressure on London’s Mark Gottsche
Wicklow’s Kevin Murphy puts pressure on London’s Mark Gottsche

Kevin Stapleton

There was no overseas hospitality for the Wicklow footballers for 70 minutes on Sunday as Ciaran Deely's charges overpowered their guests from start to finish.

Playing a quick expansive brand of football with tenacious tackling, their football at times was a joy to watch for an enthusiastic home crowd.

Wicklow were looking for a precious victory on the road in this Division 4 campaign having let victory slip from their grasp in their opening game against Waterford in Joule Park, Aughrim, the previous Sunday.

The opening five minutes in Ruislip were played at a fierce pace with both defences being tested immediately, but it was corner-forward Ryan Elliott who opened the scoring on the day with a fine score off his left boot.

Wicklow responded through a score from captain Seanie Furlong and it looked like we were in for a treat.

The next ten minutes however, exemplified the brand of football London were playing.

Defending like tigers, the home side turned over so many Wicklow attacks and were able to spray passes to a lethal trio in their forward line who made hay when they got their chances.

Liam Gavaghan the London centre forward was the best player on display with 1-7 for his days work restored London's lead straight from the kickout which was followed up by Fergal McMahon and Mark Gottsche.

Wicklow were guilty of dropping a number of balls short into the keeper's hands and were playing against a breeze in the opening half.

Kiltegan's Padraig O'Toole, making his first start for the Senior team, was targeted a lot in opening period for kick-outs and gathered a lot of possession and was unlucky to see his action cut short in the opening half.

Mark Jackson reduced the gap to two on 16 minutes but four points in five minutes pushed London out of touching distance very quickly.

Rory Finn and Dan Keane restored some hope but the decisive blow came in the 26th minute.

A lovely jink from Ryan Elliott released Gavaghan who took on Mark Jackson and fired home despite the best efforts of the Baltinglass man.

They almost had a second with their next score but Jackson was able to turn almost the exact same move over the crossbar to prevent a Fergal McMahon goal.

Ryan Elliott pushed London into a 1-10 to 0-4 on the 35th minute which was responded to by Seanie Furlong but the Wicklow task was looking bleak with the performance London had produced in the opening 35.

With a strong cross field breeze slightly favouring Wicklow in the second half, frees from Gearoid Murphy and Seanie Furlong brought the gap to six.

The London management team were very alert to make any changes when Wicklow got a foothold, with several defenders storming Wicklow's big players, with an example being the lack of space they afforded Dean Healy to produce any of his trademark runs.

Two frees from Gavaghan restored order for the London side before a barren spell of stalemate football followed with little or no meaningful efforts occouring.

The key statistic from this encounter is the turnover count with London doubling the Wicklow tally and producing many scoring chances for the home side.

During this spell, London were able to extinguish any attacks Wicklow could muster.

To freshen the Wicklow attack, Eamon Wolfe was introduced but the St Pat's clubman's cameo was swift as he received a red card shortly after his introduction following a tangling with the London full-back.

This left the difficult task much steeper for Wicklow, but the damage was already done at this stage.

Four points in the final ten minutes put a nice reflection on the scoreboard for London with three of the best performers on the day all firing over with Elliott, Adrian Moyles and Gavaghan on target.

A free from Seanie kept Wicklow ticking over before we received a glimpse of the potential of Avondale's corner-forward Conor Byrne who rounded his man but his shot at goal was too high and sailed over.

This is a very experimental period at present, with a mixture of the older guard taking younger lads under their wing and there is no doubt that this is going to take time.

Wicklow handed out a number of league debuts to young and inexperienced players over the last two weeks and three of those were to teenagers.

This is a major boost to Wicklow long term after a barren spell of retirements and there is no doubt that we have seen glimpses of what is to come.

Scorers - London: Liam Gavaghan 1-07 (4f), Ryan Elliott 0-04; Fergal McMahon 0-03, Adrian Moyles 0-01, Mark Gottsche 0-01. Wicklow: Seanie Furlong 0-05 (4f), Gearoid Murphy 0-01 (f), Mark Jackson 0-01 (f), Conor Byrne 0-01, Rory Finn 0-01, Dan Keane 0-01.

Wicklow: Mark Jackson; Ciaran Hyland, Jamie Snell, Paul Merrigan; Pat Burke, Dean Healy, Ross O'Brien; Rory Finn, James Stafford; Padraig O'Toole, Kevin Murphy, Darren Hayden; Gearoid Murphy, Seanie Furlong, Dan Keane. Subs: David Boothman for P O'Toole, Theo Smyth for P Burke (both 27 mins), Conor Byrne for D Keane (H/T), Saoirse Kearon for Kevin Byrne (47 mins), Eamon Wolfe for Gearoid Murphy (51 mins), Eoin Murtagh for Ross O'Brien (66 mins).

London: Gavin McEvoy; Phillip Butler, Ryan Jones, Patrick Begley; Colin Dunne, Shane McManus, Adrian Moyles; Anthony McDermott, James Moran; Marcus Mangan, Liam Gavaghan, Tom Waters; Ryan Elliott, Mark Gottsche, Fergal McMahon. Subs: David Carrabine for C Dunne (43 mins), Martin Carroll for S McManus (54 mins), Micheal Walsh for R Jones (55 mins), John Daly for P Begley (61mins), Eoin Murray for A Moyles (63min).

Bray People