Healy hoping to hit Kildare hard and fast
You watch Dean Healy thunder through the middle of the field, put his body on the line in a tackle, screw over a delicious point or bellow encouragement at his players in the heat of battle and the career of chartered accountant just doesn't seem to match the warrior on the field. But that's exactly what the Wicklow captain qualified as earlier this year and it's almost as bizarre as when you discovered that General Maximus Decimus Meridius was actually a farmer prior to his army days and that unfortunate disagreement with the bauld Commodus.
Healy will lead his warriors into battle in Carlow's coliseum of Netwatch Cullen Park, a venue the Pat's man likes as 'it's big but plays small' and it is on that green sward that Wicklow will attempt what would be an even bigger shock than Turlough O'Brien's men flooring the Lilywhites just 12 short months ago: beating Kildare in championship for the first time since 2008 on that magical day in Croke Park.
The fourth-place finisher in Division 2 (three wins, three defeats, one draw) versus the fifth-place finisher in Division 4 (three wins, four defeats) is the reality of the form going into this Leinster championship clash.
On paper there can only be one winner come Saturday evening. But that's on paper.
Dean Healy understands the task at hand. He knows Wicklow will have to have a very good day at the office to get a victory over the neighbours to the north and he says the camp is in a good place aside from injuries picked up in what was a very busy club month in Wicklow.
'Going very well. We trained last night (Friday), very positive, and we train again tomorrow (Sunday) and I suppose we'll be de-loading next week. We've done a lot of work, a lot of work. In fairness to the preparation that's gone into it, from the video analysis that we're doing, to the training provided, it's been second to none,' he told the Wicklow People in the gym at the St Patrick's GAA Club in Dunbur Park.
'We know it's a big task. In fairness to Kildare, they probably fancy themselves as top two or three in Leinster, and probably justifiably so, you saw last year with their run in the Super 8s. Look, we'll respect them, but we certainly won't fear them.
'As I've said and I've highlighted this on a number of occasions, we've a lot of young fellas in the panel that are really pushing on. We're probably a little bit unfortunate that one or two of them have picked up injuries over the club month, which is unfortunate.
'They have (been playing club matches later this season than other seasons). April for any player is tough. I'm probably a bit fortunate in that when I come back to the club (St Pat's), they like to look after me as well, whereas others have to go back and put in a slog. Now I enjoy going back in and doing it myself, but the body can only take so much. When you're coming back for the club month and you're expected to play three or four fixtures in a few weeks, I know it is beneficial for the club but in the overall general context of things I don't think it suits the county player.
'Like, we're arriving to training (Wicklow) and we don't know who's going to be fit from the week prior, who has taken knocks. It's probably unfortunate but over the month three or four lads have probably picked up concussion. With how that is and how that's treated nowadays, you're talking anywhere from four to eight weeks to recover from that.
'Training has gone well. We've had a handful of practice matches that were very positive. We had a bit of a weekend away down in Waterford where we got a bit of work done as well. Very good for the bonding.
Shocking Kildare early is key for Wicklow on Saturday evening. Putting doubts in their minds is vital. If Kildare get a run on John Evans' side early who knows where it might end with attacking flair in the form of Jimmy Hyland, Kevin Flynn, and Paddy Brophy.
'We're hoping to hit them hard, full-stop. They're a well prepped side. They're a physically big dominant team, two big men in the middle of the park in Moolick (Tommy) and Feely (Kevin). Feely, I actually played a bit of college football with him. He's a serious athlete. Listen, we've identified one or two things that will probably go in our favour, but we know that we have to have a reallly good day. But I like Netwatch Cullen Park, it's a big field but it plays small, it's tight, and we're going to try get in around them,' said the Wicklow captain.
If the last couple of seasons have shown anything about Wicklow it's that the Garden County footballers can come off the back of a poor league and turn in a superb championship showing. I offer the close call against Meath in Pairc Tailteann as evidence of that. Granted, defeat was the end result, but the performance was admirable and impressive after a nightmarish league. Wicklow will need an even bigger performance come Saturday.
'We were probably unfortunate. I remember a couple of years ago, Johnny Magee's first year, playing Meath down in Pairc Tailteann, if we had a free-taker that day we were probably walking away with a win. We lost every game that year (in the league) and came into that game on the back of it.
'This is a special panel and it is close and I'm really confident that we will put our best foot forward,' he said.
'A quick start (is vital). We need to really put doubt in Kildare's minds early on. You saw what Carlow done to them last year. I think that goes out of our favour in the sense that they've experienced the first-round loss when they shouldn't have been bet, so I imagine all the talk in the buildup for them has been not getting caught again.
'We've identified one or two things and I'm really confident that we will put our best foot forward. If it plays quick, we will be up to it. I'm quietly confident,' he added.
It's Dean Healy's second time to captain his county and it is an achievement he is rightfully proud of.
'To captain any team is a great honour but to captain your county twice is something I will hold dear. It's always a great honour. I know my mother holds it with great pride, and anyone attached to me. They see what goes on in the background. Most people just see you on match day and sometimes you don't put your best foot forward and they attach that bad performance to you, but there's a couple of special women around me and they know exactly what goes into it,' he said.