All Wicklow roads lead to Croke Park as Garden County footballers to face Sligo

Can Podge O’Toole add silverware to promotion joy?

Captain Padraig O'Toole and County Chairman Damien Byrne from Kiltegan after the Waterford v Wicklow final round of the Allianz Division 4 Football League at Fraher Field, Dungarvan.

Brendan LawrenceWicklow People

Wicklow captain Podge O’Toole will lead the Wicklow Senior footballers out onto the beautiful Croke Park pitch this Saturday evening for their Allianz NFL Division 4 final, hoping to add some precious silverware to the promotion joy he and his colleagues expeerienced in Fraher Field last Sunday afternoon.

In his first year as captain, O’Toole has helped his side weather the early uncertainty that followed the disappointing defeat to Saturday’s opponents and drove onwards to wonderful wins over London, Laois and Leitrim.

The athletic and hugely powerful Kiltegan man leads by fine example, toiling hard in the trenches and offering plenty in defence and attack when the needs arise.

Saturday saw another towering performance, a wicked point and promotion to Division 3 for O’Toole, days don’t get a whole lot better than that for the Wicklow captain.

“Yeah, a great day, it doesn’t get much better than that. The other result went our way as well. All we could do was concentrate on coming down here and getting our own business and as Oisin said during the week, the rest would look after itself, and thankfully it did, and we’re playing Division 3 again next year,” said the proud Kiltegan man.

Nothing other than a tough encounter was ever on the cards for O’Toole and his Wicklow colleagues as they set off for Fraher Field. They knew what was coming, and they were ready.

“It was dogged stuff. I’ve only played in Fraher Field once, but the last time we were here it was a one-point win. You never get anything easy off them. And I think after last year’s championship game they were definitely going to give us that game. It definitely wasn’t easy.

“They bar the 45 and then try to break on you, and you just have to be patient, and it probably wasn’t as easy on the eye as you have liked but a result is a result,” he said.

Wicklow’s league journey has been one of hills and valleys, the latter being traversed in the drawn game against Carlow and the defeat to Sligo but since then it’s been highs all the way, almost.

“A draw against Carlow and a loss against Sligo, I think things were down, and that’s when a good group sticks together, and grind through it. Then we managed to get three huge wins on the bounce. We bet London, Laois and Leitrim. It would have been nice to have backed it up last week and to have it in our own hands but that’s sport too. Things just didn’t go our way.

“It was brilliant just to come down and focus on our own business, get that done and it’s great that we’re up,” he said.

Focusing on matters outside of the game at hand probably cost Wicklow in Chadwicks Wexford Park but O’Toole says Oisin McConville wasn’t allowing the same mistake be made twice.

“You’re always going to be thinking about different things, but Oisin really stressed during the week that there’s nothing else in your head only today and that was it. I think that was probably the mistake we made last week, and I think we had learned our lesson and we were ready to go today. Even from the warm up, you could tell the intensity was right,” said Podge.

And what about the Armagh man? What impact has he made on the group that might not be visible to the outside world?

He’s a spoofer,” joked the Wicklow captain. “Ah no, he’s brilliant, really good. He just brings the lads together.

“I think this year we’ve really gelled as a group.

“That’s so important in team sport that there’s tightness amongst the groups and that you can trust the lads because when you go into battle for 70 minutes that’s when you them to stand up. That’s really came this year. There’s been a real blend and a gel, and we’re delighted that he’s brought that, as well as everything else,” he said.

This weekend the dual star will hopefully get the chance to walk the steps and collect some precious silverware. What does the captaincy of his county mean to a man steeped in the GAA.

“It’s only a small part of it. You need 15 leaders. I was delighted to get that news, but we need to kick on and we everybody leading the line over the next couple of weeks especially going into some tough championship games, we’re going to need 26 leaders,” he added.