Dubs prove too strong for Wicklow
Wicklow 1-9 Dublin 0-20
Wicklow GAA's hopes of their Minor footballers matching or bettering their Leinster semi-final appearance last year were ended by a well-oiled Dublin outfit in the provincial quarter-final in Aughrim last weekend.
After Kevin O'Brien's charges brought Kildare to a replay last year in the Leinster semi-final, a wave of optimism and enthusiasm swept over the county throughout the winter months and through a group stage where, in hindsight, all the signs that Wicklow were vulnerable in key areas were there to be seen.
Having toppled the Dubs in the group stages in Parnell Park last year, it was going to take an almighty effort from this young Wicklow side to repeat that feat in knock-out football and although the home side did enjoy a surge in the second half where missed chances might have asked more questions of this Dublin side, anything other than a win for the visitors would have been a seismic shock.
Key to the victory for Dublin was the performance of their full-back line in blunting the Wicklow attack. A full-forward line that had troubled Kildare, crushed Kilkenny and tormented Louth were made completely redundant by a stunning performance from Conor Tyrrell, Ben Millist and Conor Archer. Matthew Ging and Eoin Doyle were reduced to bystanders for the majority of this game, from as early as the first ball in which Tyrrell reached ahead of Ging and the tone was set: you were getting nothing easy here.
The improvements in conditioning, confidence and ability within the Wicklow Minor camp have been undeniable and hugely welcome to the Wicklow GAA supporters who turned up in reasonable numbers to support the footballers against the Dubs last weekend. And there are many positives to be taken from the campaign despite the defeat, with many of the panel certain to feature for Wicklow for many years into the future as the county seek to improve their lot in the footballing world through the hard work and dedication of the likes of Kevin O'Brien and all the coaches within the Garden County Academy.
It can't be denied, however, that this defeat must seem like a serious blow to those ambitions for improvement. Wicklow had no real answer for Dublin's physicality and prowess. Granted Eoin Doyle received zero protection from the officials for the hands-on treatment he received from Millist but a man of Kevin O'Brien's experience will know that class forwards like Doyle and Ging are going to be on the receiving end of tough marking and that it is a test they must pass to make it to the next level.
Wicklow were turned over 29 times in this game, 19 in the first half, 10 in the second and by comparison inflicted 17 on Dublin, eight in the first half, nine in the second. Wicklow won 12 frees to Dublin's eight, won 11 of their own kick outs compared to Dublin's eight and won eight of Dublin's while coughing up just eight of their own to the rampant visitors who were impressive without being outstanding. Both sides recorded six wides apiece.
Dublin's 0-12 to 0-3 lead at the break is a blunt but honest stat in terms of that opening half where despite a gallant effort by the home side, Dublin just turned the screw again and again.
The tale of two defences can be highlighted in the lead up to the opening score from a Dublin free. The excellent Shane Daly sends a long ball up to Eoin Doyle on the bank side. The Rathnew man is under ferocious pressure from Millist who produces a tight-marking performance that needed to be seen to be appreciated.
Doyle does superbly well to hold off the Ballinateer St Johns man but is unable to get past him due to his physicality and closeness and the ball is turned over. Dublin attack, long ball, breaks, won by Fionn Murray, stand side. He sends a neat ball into Luke Swan with Sam Kearney glued to his side. Swan does amazingly well to maintain possession on the ground and get to his feet. Kearney tackles strongly and voraciously but illegally according to Laois referee Seamus Mulhare and Dublin get the free which the stunningly accurate Fionn Murray slices between the posts. First blood to the Dubs.
Wicklow are by no means the poor relations here. They get plenty of possession, but they can't use it in the same incisive manner that the Dubs do. Immediately after the first score by the visitors in a move that took three touches of the ball, Wicklow win their own kickout and six moves later Bradley Hickey thumps the ball well wide due to having no options head of him because of a well packed Dublin defence.
Shane Daly gets Wicklow off the mark after five minutes with his trusty left after good work from Matthew Ging and the Tinahely man fires Wicklow ahead moments later after shaking free from the shackles of Conor Tyrrell for a few seconds at least before walloping over a marvelous score into the Rednagh Hill end before, perhaps unwisely, letting Tyrrell know what had just happened in no uncertain terms as they returned to their position.
It would be 10 minutes later before Kevin O'Brien's men would score again, that a point from Shane Daly to reduce the Dublin lead to 0-5 to 0-3 after the visitors had surged ahead.
That would be Wicklow's last score of the half as Jim Lehane's side romped out to a 0-12 to 0-3 lead at the break. The home side did have a shot dropped short by Shane Daly, an effort come back off the upright by Joe Prendergast and a wide from Matthew Ging but Dublin's middle third started to really dominate with Sean Kinsella looking very comfortable at centre half forward. Points from Fionn Murray (two, one free), Robbie Bolger, Alex Rogers (two), and Ryan O'Dwyer (two) opened up that nine-point gap and left Kevin O'Brien and his management team with a serious migraine ahead of the second half.
Changes were inevitable and changes in the attack were unavoidable. In came Eoin O'Neill and Conor Fulham to replace Jordan Brady and Jack Kirwan but Dublin's dominance on the scoreboard continued with points from Rogers (two) and Fionn Murray to leave Wicklow with a mountain to climb at 0-15 to 0-3.
Joe Prendergast started the recovery with a fine score as Dublin started to ring the changes and Lehane's side was still finding it far too easy to score as midfielder Luke Murphy Guinane popped over a nice effort to return the margin to 12 with 11 gone in the second half.
Dunlavin's Mikey O'Rourke replaced Eoin Doyle after 13 minutes and Matthew Ging slotted a free and then a point from play to leave 10 between the sides after 18 of the second half.
Wicklow needed goals and they needed them quick. And they got one through Joe Prendergast to finally give the sizable home support something to cheer about.
Wicklow full-back Sam Kearney then picked up an injury that is reported to be a broken arm and he was replaced by Tom Keogh with nine to go in a cruel blow to not only Wicklow but the Bray man himself after he picked up an injury against Kildare in the first game before battling back to take his place at the heart of the Wicklow defence and putting in a huge shift against the lethal Luke Swan.
Then Wicklow won a penalty. Matthew Ging was fouled by Alex Watson in the Dublin square and after consulting with his umpire Seamus Mulhare pointed to the spot. A delay in getting to take the spot kick didn't help Ging and he sent his effort low to Hugh O'Sullivan's right but the Ballyboden St Enda's man got down and blocked it out but only as far as Arun Daly Danne who returned it to Ging who lashed the ball in the direction of the bottom corner only for the outstanding Conor Tyrrell to make a diving save and thwart what would have been a godsend of a goal for Wicklow.
Credit to Wicklow they spent every last ounce of what they had in the remainder of this game and they might have had a goal had Shane Daly not been forced on to his right boot right in front of goal and driven it over the crossbar when a major looked likely.
Had those goal chances gone in Wicklow would have led Dublin but the cruel truth is they didn't, and a quick salvo of three points left the visitors winners on a score of 0-20 to 1-9.
Dublin march on to the Leinster semi-final. Wicklow return to the drawing board.
Scorers - Dublin: Fionn Murray 0-5 (2f, 1 45), Alex Rogers 0-4, Ryan O'Dwyer 0-3 (2f), Luke Curran 0-2, Jack Lundy 0-1 (f), Sean Kinsella 0-1, Robbie Bolger 0-1, Luke Murphy Guinane 0-1, Ross Keogh 0-1, Luke Swan 0-1.
Wicklow: Joe Prendergast 1-1, Shane Daly 0-4, Matthew Ging 0-3 (1f), Bradley Hickey 0-1.
Wicklow: Andy Nolan; Daniel Healy, Sam Kearney, Jordan Brady; Daniel Cooney, Tom Moran, Cillian McDonald; Arun Daly Danne, Luka Harney; Joe Prendergast, Shane Daly, Bradley Hhickey; Eoin Doyle, Jack Kirwan, Matthew Ging. Subs: Eoin O'Neill for J Kirwan (H/T), Conor Fulham for J Brady (H/T), Thade Shanahan for D Cooney (36), Mikey O'Rourke for E Doyle (43), Tom Keogh for A Daly Danne (49), Keith Burke for B Hickey (60).
Dublin: Hugh O'Sullivan; Conor Tyrrell, Ben Millist, Conor Archer; Jack Lundy, Senan Forker, Kieran Conroy; Luke Murphy Guinane, David O'Dowd; Ryan O'Dwyer, Sean Kinsella, Fionn Murray; Robbie Bolger, Luke Swan, Alex Rogers. Subs: Tom Brennan for S Kinsella (36), Ross Keogh for R O'Dwyer (38), Luke Curran for R Bolger (44), Harry Colclough for L Murphy Guinane (60).
Referee: Seamus Mulhare (Laois)