Wednesday 26 September 2018

Winning start is key, says Murphy

Manager doesn't want to be playing catch-up

Wicklow Senior hurling boss Seamus Murphy hopes to guide his charges to victory in their opening Christy Ring Cup clash with Mayo
Wicklow Senior hurling boss Seamus Murphy hopes to guide his charges to victory in their opening Christy Ring Cup clash with Mayo

Daniel Gorman

Eclipsing 2017's semi-final appearance is Seamus Murphy's Christy Ring Cup ambition but he knows it could all go up in smoke if his charges fail to conquer the first hurdle on Saturday.

Murphy's men welcome Mayo to Joule Park on Saturday and although the new four-team group format means the writing wouldn't be on the wall after one defeat, Murphy doesn't fancy the idea of going to Roscommon with the remainder of their season hanging by a thread.

Wicklow were fortunate in the sense that they were handed two home draws and against the two better sides.

Mayo, champions of Division 2B and Kildare, relegated to Division 2B this term will both visit the Garden County, while Wicklow will be hoping to travel west with a win already on the board when they take on Roscommon, who managed just two victories in Division 3A.

Wicklow will have to do their external homework on Kildare and Roscommon but saw first-hand how Mayo - who narrowly avoided relegation last year - operate as the Connacht men inflicted defeat on Wicklow in February.

"You have to give it a small bit of attention (the league defeat) at the back of your mind but we beat them last year in Aughrim as well.

"This year in the league they got the better of us but that's the league and things have changed since then. The league is obviously important at that time but the Christy Ring is different again.

"In the match against Mayo this year in the league, we were surprised by the support. Mayo are primarily a football county but it was great to see such great support so obviously they had that in their corner and it seemed to keep them going. Hopefully we get the same against them on Saturday."

Although on paper Wicklow appear superior to Roscommon due to their respective league positions and their confidence should also hand them an advantage against a demoralised Kildare side but Murphy knows anything can happen between a referee's first whistle and his last.

The Wexford man will be making the most of his panel across the three games and is still undecided on the team he'll entrust with downing Mayo.

"I think the Christy Ring Cup - there are more teams in it that on any given day can beat each other.

"I think it's all about who turns up and who gets the bit of luck. Injuries will always be a concern but I think the team that's willing to play and sticks together - they'll have every chance. We've had quite a few injuries and fellas are doing their best to recover but we're missing out on them training or playing in challenge games.

"We've still to look at a few positions and we'll look back at our league performances and look at how lads are going.

"This is a whole new competition to the league though so it's very important to have a panel. We'll be playing three games in four weeks and if you pick up any knocks in those matches you need to have players ready to come in.

"You can't be expecting the same 15 lads to get you through the three games so you really do need to have a strong panel and I feel that we do."

With over two months since the last competitive thwack of a sliotar, it will be interesting to see how much gusto Wicklow bring to the table from the start. Murphy believes they cannot afford a slow start or they could face a quick exit.

"It's awful important especially when you look at how we came out of the league - we're not coming out of it as well as we did last year.

"We contested the league final last year and then we won our group matches in the Christy Ring and played Meath in the final but only played well in patches.

"This year, our last league fixture was a bit of a dead-rubber and the weather obviously disrupted our training plans and you can play challenge matches on top of challenge matches but they wouldn't compare to the real thing and besides, we couldn't get a pitch in the country to play on.

"Other counties have had this difficulty too though I'm sure.

"Winning the first match is key - especially in a four team group. It's huge because you don't get ground to make up for it if you lose.

"You're leaving yourself having to win the rest of them and that's not a situation you want to be in when you're away to Roscommon and at home to Kildare. If we lose to Mayo, the Christy Ring could be over within a few weeks. If we were beaten in Roscommon that could be it. Any one of those teams can get a result against you - you can't take anybody for granted."

Murphy issued a rallying call to Wicklow supporters to make the journey to Aughrim and cheer on Wicklow in what they hope will be the first part of a five-chapter success story. If he can find the right support off the field, he knows he has the right men on it for the battle.

"The lads are around long enough and the panel has enough experience and the bit of youth as well and they'll stand up to the challenge and we'll have a reasonable chance against anyone."

Wicklow People