Kavanagh on fire
GAA Celtic Challenge: Wicklow Blue 2-16 Meath 1-13
Inspired by a five-star display from midfielder Eoin Kavanagh, Wicklow Blue minor hurlers made it three wins out of three matches in their Celtic Challenge campaign at Bray Emmets on Wednesday evening.
Right from the throw-in, the highly pacey and extremely industrious Kavanagh made a massive impact in his sector of the field, winning an abundance of possession and invariably using the sliotar to telling effect.
Only three minutes had elapsed on the clock when the Carnew Emmets man set up corner-forward PJ O'Connor for Wicklow's second point, and he himself made an impression on the scoreboard twice in the opening half.
And for good measure, both of the white flags he raised were hit from way out the field, his 19th minute contribution being delivered from a central location about 70 metres out, and his 25th minute delivery being unleashed from approximately 60 metres out on the left wing.
Kavanagh's brace of scores helped the Garden County to what looked like a reasonably comfortable lead of 1-10 to 0-4 at the half-time break, but Meath, who had lost to Westmeath but beat Kildare, came much more into the contest in the second half.
And that wasn't a scenario ignored by Wicklow manager Jonathan Tallon when he reviewed the quality of his side's performance in the wake of the final whistle being blown by Dublin referee Anton Keating.
"I was very satisfield with the way we played in the first half, but I couldn't say the same about our second half performance," reflected Tallon, whose charges had come up trumps against Westmeath and Carlow in their two previous outings, and next face Kildare, at Newbridge's Hawkfield.
"The fact that Meath outscored us by 1-9 to 1-6 in the second half is understandably something that we are not happy with, and unfortunately we just did not play with the same urgency and intensity that we had shown in the first half.
"But on the credit side, it's very welcome that the players are a very mature bunch of lads, and, without the team-management having to mention it to them, the first thing they said when they came into the dressing-room was that our second half performance was just not good enough.
"As well, it's encouraging that we kept our winning run going and hopefully that pattern will be continued in our game against Kildare to keep alive our hopes of getting promoted to Division Three of the competition."
In a comment about the quality of the opposing side's performance, Meath manager Sean Callinan said: "It's good to see Wicklow hurling is in a healthy state and they certainly played very well in the first half, and, of course, they had beaten Westmeath whom we had lost to.
"In the first half we were standing too much off the Wicklow lads, but thankfully we made a much better fist of things in the second half, and the game would have been tighter but for an excellent save by the Wicklow goalkeeper (Meitheal Cleary) from Jack Meagher in the second half."
Wicklow had totted up 1-4 before the Royal County shot their first point on eight minutes, centre-forward Owen Young supplying the pass from which corner-forward Torna Mulconry beat Meath goalkeeper Jack Fagan with a blistering shot to the right corner of the net.
And six minutes into the second half, Kavanagh's midfielder partner, Jake O'Kelly, though under severe pressure, floated in a high ball which O'Connor pulled on to register the home side's second goal.
With 10 minutes left, netminder Cleary foiled Meagher with his brilliant stop, but the Meath man had some consolation just before the final whistle when he raised his side's green flag from a penalty, leaving six points between the sides at the finish.
SCORERS - Wicklow Blue: PJ O'Connor 1-5 (0-2f), T Mulconry 1-2, John Toomey 0-4, Eoin Kavanagh 0-2, John Young, Jake O'Kelly, Owen Young (f) 0-1 each. Meath: Rory Fagan 0-5 (3f), Jack Meagher 1-1 (1-0 pen), Oisin Bright 0-2, Harry Smyth, Kevin Mulligan, Martin Campbell, Matthew Cully, Sean Mulligan 0-1 each.
WICKLOW BLUE: Meitheal Cleary; John Young, Oisin Brogan, Darren Reilly; Brandon Ryan, Shane Browne, Adam Bushe; Eoin Kavanagh, Jake O'Kelly; John Toomey, Owen Young, James McGing; Torna Mulconry, Liam Somers, P J O'Connor. Subs: Ben Burke for Brogan (13), Jack Reid for John Young (44), John Young for McGing (55).
MEATH: Jack Fagan; Joseph Egan, Eoin Donegan, Harry Cottrell; Oisin Bright, Drew Hamilton, Brian Donnelly; Jack Meagher, Matthew Cully; Shaun Donnelly, Sean Mulligan, Harry Smyth; Kevin Mulligan, Martin Campbell, Liam Callanan.
REFEREE: Anton Keating (Setanta, Dublin).