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Friday 17 August 2018

Agonising defeat for Wicklow

Offaly 1-13 Wicklow 0-14

Sean Doody of Wicklow strides forward, with Offaly’s Cathal Donoghue in hot pursuit
Sean Doody of Wicklow strides forward, with Offaly’s Cathal Donoghue in hot pursuit

Richard Clune

Mikey Cunningham's goal in the 45th minute was the difference between these sides on the scoreboard and in general.

Offaly had one goal chance and they took it, Wicklow had three goal chances and took none.

Wicklow have every right to feel like they let this game slip through their fingers.

Kevin O'Brien has moulded his charges into a very impressive team, one that is full of skill and enjoyable to watch.

They set up defensively. When Offaly had the ball Andy Foley, who wore 15 but operated at centre back, drifted back as a sweeper with his teammates also drifting back to pick up his man. When Wicklow had the ball the players pushed up into an orthodox set up.

They started the much better team, racking up a six point to two lead after twelve minutes.

Straight from the throw in they attacked and team captain Sean Doody pointed from distance.

Daniel Lowry replied for Offaly but then Wicklow totally and utterly dominated the game, the ball didn't pass into the Wicklow half for almost ten minutes.

Kevin Quinn began the match really well at wing back, attacking at every opportunity and linking up with corner forward Matthew Ging.

Quinn was fouled for Wicklow's next two scores, two Ging frees.

The first was from near the side line on the 14 metre line and the second was when Quinn was bearing down on goal and fouled just outside the large parallelogram.

In between the two scores Eoin Darcy blazed a glorious goal chance wide but he made up for it with two lovely points from play.

Even though Wicklow dominated the opening twelve minutes, by the 20th minute Offaly levelled the game at six points each.

They repeatedly made hay by running at the Wicklow defence and once they got past the Wicklow half back line they had a clear shot at the goalposts. Foley hung too far back as a sweeper, almost on his own 14 metre line, and couldn't put in a challenge on a player kicking from around the D.

Later in the half Wicklow rectified this and found a way to suffocate the Offaly attack.

Wicklow got the better of the last ten minutes of the first half and led by two points, 10-8, in added time. They were then given a hammer blow however when Foley was sent off on the stroke of half time for a retaliatory strike.

It was difficult to see how Wicklow could cope with the loss of such an important player but they started the second half like the first, with a point from the throw in. Substitute Shane Daly was on the end of the move this time and moments later Matthew Ging converted a free he himself won to put Wicklow four points ahead.

The inevitable Offaly comeback quickly materialised though and they used the extra man to exert a full court press on the Wicklow kick out from which they mined four points on the trot to equalise by the 42nd minute.

John Keogh did score a free to push Wicklow back in front by the minimum but then Offaly struck for a goal. Jack Bryant glided in along the end line and flashed the ball across goal to the waiting Mikey Cunningham who dribbled the ball into the net. Eoin Darcy had another goal chance to immediately respond for Wicklow but goalkeeper Sean O'Toole was equal to the challenge.

Bryant quickly added a point and Offaly led by a goal with thirteen minutes to go.

Wicklow never gave up however and kept plugging away. Offaly defenders flung themselves to block Shane Daly's goal bound shot, on another day the referee could have given a penalty for a foot block. Daly had another shot for a point four minutes later waved wide that was debateable and could have been different if Hawk Eye was available.

Wicklow had a couple of more chances but they were only rewarded with a consolation John Keogh free to cut the final deficit to two points.

It's another close defeat for a Wicklow team. Where have you heard that before?

These players will have four more chances to change that, though. In two weeks they travel to Louth and then welcome Westmeath. Manager Kevin O'Brien is confident his team can pull off results against these teams before Dublin and Meath await.

On the evidence of this game he's got a point and it would be well worth your time to watch this Wicklow Minor team play.

Scorers - Offaly: Mikey Cunningham 1-01; Jack Bryant 0-03; Morgan Tynan, Sean Courtney, Daniel Lowry 0-02 each; Rory Egan (f), Ed Cullen, Aaron Kellaghan 0-01 each.

Wicklow: John Keogh, Matthew Ging 0-03f each; Sean Cranley, Eoin Darcy 0-02 each; Kevin Quinn, Sean Doody, Alan Barrett, Shane Daly 0-01 each.

Offaly: Sean O'Toole; Aaron Brazil, Kieran Dolan, Briain Nolan; Ed Cullen, Rory Egan, Harry Balsiger; Cathal Donoghue, Morgan Tynan; Peter Bennett, Sean Courtney, Mikey Cunningham; Jack Bryant, Daniel Lowry, Aaron Kellaghan. Subs: Luke Egan for Peter Bennett (12 mins); Lee Pearson for Aaron Brazil (45 mins); Cormac Delaney for Aaron Kellaghan (50 mins); Barry Coffey for Jack Bryant (55 mins).

Wicklow: Niall Gaffney; Fionn O'Carroll, David Lawlor, Cian McHugh; Kevin Quinn, Oisin Cullen, Gavin Fogarty; Sean Doody, Eoghan Byrne; Sean Cranley, Jack Keogh, Alan Barrett; Matthew Ging, Eoin Darcy, Andy Foley. Subs: Christopher Grimes for Cian McHugh, Shane Daly for Shaun Cranley (both HT); Tom Moran for Fionn O'Carroll (45 mins); Ruairi Tomkins for Matthew Ging (53 mins); Craig Maguire for Oisin Cullen (57 mins).

Referee: Alan Coyne (Westmeath)

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