'Dales off to a flyer
GAA: SFL Division 1A - Avondale 2-7 Kilmacanogue 1-8
A classic goal poachers' major from Avondale's Conor Byrne proved decisive as Davy Burke's men secured the opening points of the SFL Division 1A league with this narrow victory over a competent looking Kilmacanogue in a bitterly cold Rathdrum last Friday night.
With Galway native Burke not available on the night, the Avondale men were in the capable hands of Pat Baker and the rest of the management team and they had their work cut out to oversee this victory against a Mark King side that was full or running and ambition with Simon Doyle, Niall Meldon and the Callaghans proving very effective throughout.
A low-scoring opening half doesn't give an accurate reflection on the nip and tuck quality of the game. Kilmac spurned at least three goal chances in that first half and put the fear of God in the Avondale defence on numerous occasions.
'Winter football at its finest,' was how Avondale midfielder Barry Sheehan's described the encounter.
'Bit of hard training for the last three or four weeks, Kilmac likewise, dirty evening for it, heavy pitch, it was always going to be a low-scoring affair, you're always happy to get a win at this time of the year, it's the effort more so than the football on display, no rewards for fancy football in February,' he said.
Goals were key in this game, both scored and missed. Kilmac could have had about five, only managed one in between the two that Avondale scored, and on a heavy pitch an extra goal is always going to be a major bonus.
'That was it, yeah. We did a nice bit of training, we had been doing a bit of ball handling but the pitch is so heavy, you can move well for five or 10 minutes and then it turned into playing in a ploughed field to be honest, and they were a bit stronger, they outmuscled us to a degree for 20 or 25 minutes, and then 10 minutes into the second half some of the younger lads stepped up and got used to the physicality of league football I think. You earn your crust on a winter's night like that,' said Barry.
Barry Sheehan says Davy Burke is settling in well but that it doesn't matter who is over you, it's about the effort.
'He's settling in, a lot of work to do. It's like everyone else, it doesn't matter who you have in charge of you, it's about hard work, and I think every club in Wicklow will have the same aspirations this year, but numbers are ok so far, we'd like to have more back, but everybody is in the same boat. We'll give it a lash for another year,' he said.
A 0-4 to 0-3 half-time lead for Kilmac didn't do their efforts justice in this game - it might easily have been 3-4 had they taken their chances in front of goal.
An ealy goal in the second half for Ross Ward was exactly what the doctor ordered for Avondale and although Kilmac would battle back to retake the lead thanks to a wicked Josh O'Callaghan goal, the issue would be decided by Conor Byrne with a goal at one end and Brian Burke with a superb save at the other.
'Overall, happy enough with the performance,' said Kilmac manager Mark King after the game. 'A bit unfortunate, they got a fortuitous goal there at the end, came off the post, we didn't react quick enough and it was sort of toe-poked into the back of the net, that was the winning of the game really.
'Young Sam O'Callaghan was showing well in there, he was winning a lot of ball, we're sort of working on that, I suppose, trying to get it in quicker. It worked well tonight, they just didn't convert their chances. The conditions were tough, these young, light, fast forwards, the heavy ground, slippy ball. I thought he (Sam O'Calaghan) was unlucky for a couple of frees he could of got, on another day he might have got them. I thought he was getting a lot of hardship there and not much protection,' he added.
'In fairness to the referee, I think he did a fairly resonable job on it with the conditions, there weren't a huge amount of frees and there was nothing cyncial or dirty in the match, it was a good game of football for the night that was in it.
'We would (take positives), we knew it going to be tough coming down to Avondale, in fairness, they're a Senior championship side, good tradition, but at the same time there are no handy games in this division, if you look at it, you have Bray's first team, Greystones, Newtown, we've a good few local derbies as well.
'The good thing about it this year (with the leagues), I'm delighted they have gone to home and away, it gives people more competitive games.
'There's a lot of football to be played yet,' he added.
Scorers - Avondale: Conor Byrne 1-4, Ross Ward 1-0, Oisin McGraynor 0-2 (1f), Donal McGraynor 0-1.
Kilmacanogue: Josh O'Callaghan 1-1 (f), Andrew Molloy 0-2, Niall Meldon 0-2, Aaron Creavin 0-1, Michael Whelan 0-1, Craig O'Neill 0-1.
Avondale: Brian Burke; Patrick Kinsella, Shane Beevor, Simon Cullen; Liam Kinsella, Eoin Baker, Zach Cullen; Barry Sheehan, Ian McDonald; Jack Manley, Oisin McGraynor (0-02) Dean Gahan; Ross Ward (1-00), Aonghus O Briain and Conor Byrne(1-04). Subs: Saoirse Kearon, Anthony Byrne, Donal McGraynor(0-01) Kevin Fitzpatrick, Ross Merry, Kieran Penn and Conor Sheehan.
Kilmacanogue: Niall King; Donal Tuohy, Paddy O'Donnell, Micheal Masterson; Gavan Burke, Cian Rafferty, Luke O'Callaghan; Niall Meldon, Robert Conan; Andrew Molloy, Michael Whelan, Simon Doyle; Aaron Creavin, Sam O'Callaghan, Josh O'Callaghan. Subs: Stephen Morgan, Ben O'Callaghan, Craig O'Neill.
Referee: Brendan Furlong (Tinahely)