Reid it and weep! Jack seals sweet victory for Wicklow U20s over Offaly in Leinster football championship

Dunlavin substitute the hero of the hour for Alan Costello’s men

The Wicklow Under-20 footballers ahead of their Leinster championship clash with Offaly at Faithful Fields on Tuesday evening.

Brendan LawrenceWicklow People

Leinster U20

Offaly 1-10

Wicklow 2-8

A late point from Dunlavin’s Jack Reid gave Alan Costello’s Wicklow Under-20 footballers a really special victory in the Eirgrid Under-20 football championship in Faithful Fields on Tuesday night.

Going into the half-time break leading by 2-6 to 1-3 after a superb second quarter, the Garden County side were put to the pin of their collars by a side populated with some quality footballers, most notably Jamie Guing who almost singlehandedly dragged Offaly back into contention with a mixture of frees, 45s and from play.

But Wicklow were not to be stopped on this breezy night in Offaly. Huge showings from Knockananna’s Adam Kinsella, who was tasked with the horrendously difficult task of hampering Cormac Egan, James Boland, Dan Cooney, Jack Kirwan, the outstanding Joe Prendergast, Matt Nolan, JP Nolan, Conor Fee and the unstoppable Tim Harrington kept Wicklow driving back after every Offaly score.

And although Wicklow would only register two points in that half against the wind, their collective effort all over the field, boosted as it was by the introduction of some wonderful substitutes such as Sean Doyle, Páidi Kavanagh, Cian Deering, Mark Murtagh and Jack Reid, was enough to see them over the line once Jack Reid popped up and had the courage and presence of mind to fire over the winning score only moments after Guing had levelled the game from a deliciously struck 45.

After the defeat to Dublin on the opening round, victory in the Faithful Field was vital for Wicklow, and the reaction of the players, the management team and the very decent Garden County following who made the two-hour trip up on a Tuesday evening showed exactly what this win meant.

Sometimes it’s said that a match is a game of two halves but in the case of the opening 30 minutes of this Leinster Under-20 clash it was very much a case of two halves of the one half, with Offaly bossing the opening 15 or 20 minutes and the Faithful men will know they would have put the game to bed were it not for the superb goalkeeping skills of Blessington’s Jack Sargent.

Wicklow started relatively brightly, an early pointed free from Tommy Keogh, but the threat of Cormac Egan, named on the panel only moments before the throw-in, became clear from early on despite the best efforts of Knockananna’s Adam Kinsella to keep a tight rein on the Offaly star.

The home side’s first goal chance arrived after seven minutes. Wicklow lost possession out the field and the ball fell to Jamie Guing slipped his low effort just wide of the Wicklow post.

But the goal threat was real and very obvious, and they raised the green flag less than 60 seconds later when Egan danced supremely through the Wicklow full-back line to lash home past Sargent.

A pointed free from Geordi O’Meara followed, accompanied by one of the most unique free-taking routines ever seen in the GAA, after 10 but Bray’s Tim Harrington kept Wicklow in touch with a stunningly beautiful point off his left that drifted high and dropped over the bar as the half-forward followed up his quality shift against the Dubs with yet another solid 30 minutes at Faithful Fields.

Adam Kinsella seemed to be harshly penalised for some super defending on Egan moments later and Jamie Guing drifted over a beauty off the ground with his left and when he added another with 17 gone things were looking bleak with the home side leading 1-3 to 0-2.

But Wicklow gathered their thoughts and started to back themselves, Liam O’Neill, Dan Cooney, Jack Kirwan, Joe Prendergast and JP Nolan all starting to make impacts.

O’Neill off his left and JP Nolan from a free pulled Wicklow to within two but Offaly should have had their third major after 21 when full-forward Sean Conway saw his effort saved superbly by Sargent in the Wicklow goal.

An excellent score from Tommy Keogh was followed by the switching of Liam O’Neill from centre-back with centre-forward Matt Nolan and whether as a result of that or not, Wicklow powered on with a wonderful goal from Joe Prendergast and a well-struck penalty by Tommy Keogh after Joe Prendergast was fouled In the Offaly square.

Adam Kinsella's brilliant defensive skills were on show shortly afterwards when he thwarted Egan and JP Nolan made it 2-6 to 1-3 after 32 before turning and punching the air with delight.

Offaly launched one more attack before the half-time whistle, but Jack Sargent capped a tremendous first-half showing by punching the ball clear like a gladiator in the Offaly night.

Wicklow held on to their opponents in the second half and although guilty of some poor wides in the white heat of championship battle, their bravery and quality shone through and sends them on a collision course with Louth in the Wee County next week.

Stars of the show for Wicklow were the absolutely superb Jack Sargent in goals who most certainly kept Wicklow in this game, Adam Byrne who was unfortunate to pick up a black and a subsequent red, Luke O’Brien, Tommy Keogh and Connor Fee to name just a few.

Onwards for this quality outfit. They deserve a good following next week. If the game against Louth is anything like this one in Faithful Fields, it will be an absolute belter.

Wicklow: Jack Sargent (Blessington); Adam Byrne (Rathnew), Luke O’Brien (Blessington), Adam Kinsella (Knockananna); James Boland (Kiltegan), Liam O’Neill (0-1) (Coolkenno), Austin Brennan (Blessington); Dan Cooney (Blessington), Jack Kirwan (Baltinglass); Joe Prendergast (1-0) (Éire Óg Greystones), Matt Nolan (An Tóchar), Tim Harrington (0-1) (Bray Emmets); Conor Fee (An Tóchar), Tommy Keogh (1-2, 1f, 1 pen) (Baltinglass), JP Nolan (0-3, 2f) (An Tóchar). Subs: Sean Doyle for T Keogh (47), Cian Deering for A Brennan (51), Páidi Kavanagh for T Harrington (51), Mark Murtagh for L O’Neill (56), Jack Reid (0-1) for C Fee (60+2).

Offaly: David Dunican; Daire McDaid, Diarmuid Finneran, Tom Hyland; Cormac Egan (1-0), Cathal Ryan, Luke Bourke; John Furlong, Harry Plunkett; Georgi O’Meara (0-1, f), Niall Furlong, Pauric Robins; Dylan Byrne, Sean Conway, Jamie Guing (0-9, 4f, 2m, 1 45).