Monday 27 May 2019

Dream over for gallant Wicklow

Kildare 2-12 Wicklow 1-13

Tom Moran of Wicklow and Eoghan O’Haire of Kildare in a race for possession
Tom Moran of Wicklow and Eoghan O’Haire of Kildare in a race for possession
Eoghan Byrne of Wicklow is challenged by Kildare’s Liam Broderick

Richard Clune

The dream is over. For now. These lads will be back.

The story of the Wicklow GAA summer, an U-17 team that reached a Leinster semi-final with wins of Westmeath, Dublin and Meath, an U-17 team that came back from four points down with two minutes left to salvage a draw against Kildare, an U-17 team that has given hope of a blossoming future for the Garden County, has finally come to an end.

And yet, they have given the people of Wicklow a chance to support their team in expectation, something far too infrequent.

When was the last time a Wicklow match was delayed by ten minutes to let all the supporters arrive?

When was the last time the Gardai had to stop people turning left in Aughrim because the car park is full?

When was the last time the county grounds turned into a sea of blue and yellow to see their team in a Leinster semi-final?

Perhaps the greatest sense of how far this team has come is the overriding feeling after the game was disappointment at the loss rather than any happiness or pride for getting this far.

Wicklow could easily have won this game, their inaccuracy the major difference between the teams. Wicklow kicked thirteen wides. Kildare kicked six. Wicklow dropped two balls short. Kildare didn't.

It's difficult to look beyond that because Wicklow did everything else they were supposed to do.

They started well, holding Kildare scoreless for seventeen minutes after the concession of two early points in the opening twenty minutes. When they reeled off three points in three minutes Wicklow replied with two in two minutes.

Whenever Kildare scored a few points Wicklow always had an answer and dominated the next few moments.

They just had too many wides to make those periods pay and open a substantial lead.

Wicklow led by a goal after ten minutes, Matthew Ging scored two lovely points off his magical left foot while Eoin Darcy latched onto a ball and volleyed it past John Ball for the goal. Ging added a third on the quarter hour mark to make it 1-03 to 2 points.

The Wicklow defence have been excellent throughout the year and they continued to show their ability by dealing with the Kildare attack, either winning the ball in front of their man or taking it off them with fine tackling.

Briefly, however, the Kildare attack, specifically corner forward Jack Smith, gained an upper hand.

He was fouled for a free and kicked two in a row to bring Kildare back within a point in the 22nd minute.

That spurred Wicklow into action and Eoin Darcy was fouled for a free on the 45 which Ging converted.

Then Darcy fed John Keogh for a goal chance that was saved. Darcy pointed the 45 to put a goal between the teams again.

Kildare struck for a goal to equalise against the run of play.

Midfielder Marcus Kiely was given too much space in the middle of the field and his pass found Sam Morrissey who fisted the ball over Ben Fennell's head into the net.

Darcy, Ging and Smith each scored a point in the final few moments of the half and Wicklow led by 1-07 to 1-06 at half-time.

Kildare introduced Muiris Curtin in the second half and he made an immediate difference.

The Rathangan man had a point to prove having been in the starting line up for the first game and he scored 1-02 in seven minutes to put Kildare into the driving seat. Ging and Smith also traded points and Kildare led by 2-09 to 1-08 after 40 minutes.

Some teams may have folded but this Wicklow team doesn't do that.

They assumed control of the game again, pushing forward and creating all of the scoring opportunities.

Of their six shots though, only one went over the bar while four went wide and the other dropped short.

John Ball also produced an exceptional save to deny Shaun Cranley, a save many thought worthy of the World Cup. A goal there would have levelled the game.

Credit must be given to the Kildare defence who isolated Darcy against two defenders, one stood beside him while the other was a few yards in front.

The midfield and half back line also retreated slightly deeper, not giving Wicklow any space to create a scoring opportunity or forcing them into a low percentage chance.

As the game entered the final ten minutes Kildare kept the scoreboard ticking over, just about keeping their nose in front and opening a five-point lead.

Wicklow came back however and Ging had a glorious chance late in the game, lashing the ball inches the wrong side of the bar for a point rather than a goal. John Keogh and David Lawlor kicked two late points.

It's the end for this minor team. But given these guys are the first graduates of the Garden County Academy hopefully it's only the end of the beginning for a colourful future in Wicklow.

Scorers - Kildare: Muiris Curtin 1-02; Sam Morrissey (f) 1-01; Jack Smith 0-04; Eoghan O'Haire 0-02; Alex Beirne, Nick Jackman, Liam Broderick 0-01 each.

Wicklow: Matthew Ging (2f) 0-08; Eoin Darcy (1 45) 1-02; Cillian McDonald, David Lawlor, John Keogh (f) 0-01 each.

Kildare: John Ball; John Lynch, Sean Hill, Jack Hamill; Nick Jackman, Kevin Kelleher, Paddy McDermott; Liam Broderick, Marcus Kiely; Sam Morrissey, Alex Beirne, Michael McGovern; Eoghan O'Haire, Aaron Kennedy, Jack Smith. Subs: Dan Caulfield for Nick Jackman (26 mins); Muiris Curtin for Michael McGovern (HT); Padraig Behan for Jack Smith (52 mins); Drew Costello for Eoghan O'Haire (61 mins).

Wicklow: Ben Fennell; Fionn O'Carroll, Sam Kearney, Tom Moran; Kevin Quinn, Christopher Grimes, Oisin Cullen; Eoghan Byrne, Sean Doody; Cillian McDonald, Craig Maguire, Jack Fleming Foran; Matthew Ging, Eoin Darcy, John Keogh. Subs: Shaun Cranley for Jack Fleming Foran (HT); David Maloney for Craig Maguire (52 mins); David Lawlor for Oisin Cullen (58 mins).

Referee: Barry Tierney (Dublin).

Bray People