Tuesday 23 January 2018

U-21s ready for biggest battle yet

Wicklow facing Kerry

It's September and Wicklow are in an All-Ireland final. You could get used to this!

On Saturday, the Wicklow under-21 hurlers will look to bring home a second 'B' title in three years when the take to the field in Semple Stadium in Thurles to face Kerry in the All-Ireland decider at 1pm.

The Garden county lads have taken care of the challenges of Roscommon and Kildare along the way and now face their biggest test yet in the Kingdom outfit.

With fine hurlers all over the field and with Seamus Murphy as manager and Michael Neary as coach there will be no stone left unturned in their bid for All-Ireland glory.

Murphy says a good start is vital.

'We know we have to start better than the last two matches," he said. "It's something we've spoken about as a team and we can't afford to do the same on Saturday. In fairness we showed great heart and composure to drag back those deficits and get over the winning line, particularly against Kildare, but this will be top level, cup final hurling and a few bursts of scores in the game can make all the difference so it's crucial that we stay in the game early on.'

The Rathnure man has high praise for his soldiers ahead of the decider.

'The boys know that there is a chance of an All-Ireland title there for the taking so the attitude and application that everyone has put in as been first class to be fair. A lot of these fellas have a chance to go on and play Senior hurling for Wicklow as well so they're trying to impress us on a few fronts I suppose which just adds to the motivation of it all and everyone is hungry to be named in that 24 or 26-man panel."

Wicklow will be without the services of Bray Emmet's man Eoin McCormack but are hopeful to have Carnew defender Andy Hughes back for the final.

"We have four or five lads that are either out of the game or are 50-50 to make it but at the end of the day to win an All-Ireland you need a strong panel and we'll certainly have lads rearing to go and step in and do a job.

'Andy Hughes is just coming back from injury but played for Carnew at the weekend so we'd be hopeful he'd be okay to play but unfortunately Eoin McCormack won't be. He got an innocuous enough looking injury which we thought was just a dead lag but unfortunately, he's been ruled out for two months. Like I said though I have huge faith in this panel and there is a number of guys capable of stepping in and doing a job,' he added.

Leading the Wicklow team out on to the hallowed turf of Semple Stadium will be Bray's Pádraig Doyle who says that the Garden county side will need to keep their composure and prepare for a huge battle.

'No matter what happens on Saturday I think that it's important that we keep our composure and play our own game. Kerry are a very good side and there's a reason a lot of their lads have won Minor All-Irelands but having said that we feel we have a serious team ourselves and that if we show up on any given day with our A game it will take a very good team to stop us.

'It's going to be a huge battle. Everyone just has to worry about winning their own mini battles and helping out the lads next to them and I know for sure that no one will sherk or shy away from anything and everyone will be giving it their all,' he said.

Seamus Murphy says that his young and talented side from all over Wicklow need as much support as possible on the big day.

'Thurles is the holy grail of hurling so for these lads to get the chance to run out there and battle for an All-Ireland is really exciting for us all. The lads now have a real chance to go and make history and bring a second under-21 All-Ireland back home to Wicklow.

'They're a talented and terrific bunch of lads and it would be great to see as many hurling people of Wicklow there to cheer us on and hopefully help us over the line'.

Bray People

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