Blessington batter below-par Bray
Blessington 6-17 Bray Emmets 1-8
What a difference ten months can make. September 2016, Bray Emmets have dethroned the three in a row kings in a county quarter-final and are tipped by many to make the senior final.
Blessington beaten by a better St. Pat's team in the semi-final thanks to two early second half goals when the game was on a knife edge.
July 2017, Blessington lose out narrowly in a tough battle with Kiltegan in the opening fixture of the Senior Championship while Bray lose in a surprise result to Tinahely.
Game 2 pits the two big guns together. Surely, this will be a battle of the year. Two wounded sluggers looking for retribution. The weather is perfect, the attendance is shocking.
Blessington burst out of the traps early in this game. In the first ten minutes, they register six points and had a goal-bound effort saved by Paul O'Keefe.
The westerners fielded a midfield pairing that dovetailed immensely and with Anthony McLoughlin an aerial threat, they thwarted a lot of Bray kick outs leaving the Bray side struggling to gain any possession and pin them into their own half.
Gavin Dowling registered the first score for the northerners with their first shot on eleven minutes and this was followed up by two more from Niall McGraynor and Eoin McCormack with the latter a lovely score involving Marc Lennon and Niall McGraynor.
Blessington struck their first major of the night on twenty three minutes with the impressive Curtis Geraghty linking with Anthony McLoughlin to square to Michael Nugent to palm home.
However, Bray responded almost immediately after a purple patch in the second quarter.
From a Blessington kick out the ball was broken into the centre of the pitch and great work through the hands allows Diarmuid Masterson to fire home through Stephen Kitt's legs.
With twenty six minutes on the clock, we had a kick of the ball in the difference at 1-8 to 1-5 to Blessington. Eoin Keogh took off on one of his trademark runs through the middle with no Bray player getting a hand on him or meeting him he fired a shot that was blocked superbly by Philip Haughton but O'Keefe had moved in the Bray goal to try stop it also but got caught flat-footed.
The ball ricocheted into Keogh's hands miraculously and he tapped the ball home to open a six point gap. From the resulting kick out, Blessington earned themselves a free that was dispatched by Anthony McLoughlin leaving the half time score at 2-9 to 1-5.
Buoyed by their late goal, Blessington burst out of the traps in the second half.
Again, they pinned Bray into their own half and had excellent over lapping runs from Keogh, Stephen Bohan and Kevin Hanlon adding injection to their attacks.
Keogh seemed to be everywhere in this game and played one of his better games for his beloved club in the Aughrim sun. Anthony McLoughlin too was having an excellent game for his club and he found a major next to his name in the 13th minute of the half with strong supporting run towards the goal and a neat 1-2 with Nugent allowed the county footballer the time to palm the ball into the net.
The next goal came moments later, referee Robert Whelan was not happy with the Bray kick out and awarded a throw ball on the 21.
Bray's players were slow to react to the danger when McLoughlin fielded the ball and fed an on rushing Patrick O'Connor who slotted home with ease.
The Blessington tails were up at this stage and added some more points with the pick of them coming from Barry Finan that came from a sweeping move after an interception in their full back line. Jordan Nolan added the fifth goal in the same fashion as two of their earlier goals with a 1-2 involving Eddie Boylan allowing Nolan a palm in from a yard.
Curtis Geraghty won the resulting kick out and fed Boylan who himself played a 1-2 with Nolan and tapped home.
Blessington took the two valuable points and played well in fairness to the team with subs making valuable inputs with their introduction.
The main negative aspect this reporter has with this fixture was the crowd. Ten minutes into the game during a break there were approximately 85 in attendance. Yes, Bray have lost players to emigration and J1's etc but surely the size of that town can have a playing pool with players of the same standard to fill the void.
Hurling is thriving in Bray with many dual players. I am sometimes amazed at why there is only two clubs in such a massive town. I admire the effort that the team are putting in but they are not being rewarded with the support of their locals and I also include Blessington in this for a large population and such a small crowd. Is the pricing of games the issue? Would Wicklow be better served charging a weekend / monthly championship ticket? Is the distance the issue? Players want to play in the county grounds in Joule Park. It is the best in the county. Clubs in Mayo/Kerry for example have no issue travelling hours to games. Until, these two great clubs are being fully supported, the GAA in Wicklow is in grave trouble.
Blessington Scorers - Anthony McLoughlin, Patrick O'Connor (1-2 each), Eoin Keogh , Eddie Boylan (1-1 each), Michael O'Connor, Curtis Geraghty (0-3 each), Michael Nugent, Jordan Nolan (1-0 each), Bryan Carroll (0-2), Kevin Hanlon, Paul McLoughlin, Barry Finan (0-1 each).
Bray Scorers - Diarmuid Masterson (1-1), Conor O'Doherty, Niall Gaffney, Liam Benville, Gavin Dowling, Marc Lennon, Niall McGraynor, and Eoin McCormack (0-1 each).
Blessington: Stephen Kitt, Barry Murphy, Mick McLoughlin, Stephen Bohan, Kevin Hanlon, Paul McLoughlin, Eddie Ryan, Kevin John Rogers, Eoin Keogh, Anthony McLoughlin, Patrick O'Connor, Bryan Carroll, Michael Nugent, Curtis Geraghty, Michael O'Connor. Subs: Barry Finan for B Carroll, Eddie Boylan for M O'Connor, Jordan Nolan for Nugent, Nugent for Rogers (black card)
Bray: Paul O'Keefe, Mark Linehan, Ishmael Mnensa, Philip Haughton, Conor O'Doherty, Ben McCormack, Des Kelly, Niall Gaffney, Liam Benville, Gavin Dowling, Marc Lennon, Niall McGraynor, Adam Dixon, Diarmuid Masterson, Eoin McCormack. Subs: Shane Lohan for Kelly (black card), Andrew Reynolds for Linehan, Conn Benville for Haughton, Tadgh Dornan for O'Doherty.
Referee: Robert Whelan.