London calling after defeat to Kildare
Kildare 4-19 Wicklow 3-18
The Wicklow Senior hurlers fell to a competent Kildare outfit in their Christy Ring Cup clash last Saturday in Joule Park Aughrim and in doing so they booked a semi-final meeting with London this Saturday afternoon.
Scoring 3-18 while not playing particularly well will be of some solace to Seamus Murphy and his management team as they prepare for the last-four clash with the Exiles, but the concession of 4-19 and the dominance of the Kildare half-back line will make their preparations and thought processes fraught with concern.
The loss of John Henderson (fractured wrist bone) and Warren Kavanagh (back injury) ahead of the Kildare game were two massive blows for this Wicklow side. Kavanagh has been immense for club and county and his absence and the effect it had cannot be overstated. Likewise, Henderson being unavailable for that game and likely for the London game this weekend is a tough blow for the Garden County side as the Bray man brings huge intelligence and skill to the game.
The game on Saturday was controlled for the most part by the Kildare half-back line of Eanna O'Neill, Mark Maloney and Mark Grace while the four goals, two from Martin Fitzgerald and two from the superb Jack Sheridan, who was introduced after 32 minutes, were hammer blows to the Wicklow challenge at key moments in the game.
But Seamus Murphy will find the positives from this game. The performance of Ronan Keddy had to impress the Wicklow boss as he worked hard throughout and fired home two class goals. Padraig Doyle looked useful when he came in and has to be considered for a starting spot this weekend to give the Garden County side some go-forward momentum.
The impressive impact made by Carnew's Enda Donohue will have pleased the Rathnure man. Donohue's fine poached goal and sweetly struck free late on will have put his name into the hat for the start in the forward unit.
If Wicklow could have maintained their superb start they would have blown Kildare out of the water in the opening half. Alas, if only life were that simple!
At 1-3 to 0-0 the home side were looking good in a beautiful Joule Park Aughrim on a balmy afternoon, the goal coming from Kilcoole's Ronan Keddy who blasted home after great work from Martin O'Brien and PJ Nolan with O'Brien really impressing early on.
Wicklow might have had another goal but for a fine save by Paddy McKenna in the Kildare goal at the dressing room end from an Andy O'Brien penalty that was struck at a height favouring the netminder. Peter Keane drove hard up the middle to collect O'Brien's crossfield ball after the Pat's man had raced to gather the saved penalty and the Greystones defender swept over a fine point after PJ Nolan had opened the scoring for Wicklow.
Garry Byrne pointed for the home side not long after Keddy's rasper of a goal to the bottom corner of the Kildare net but then the Kildare half-back line started to dominate. A long ball from that terrain into the heart of the roomy Wicklow defence was won by Shane Ryan who rounded Martin O'Brien and fired low at Bob Fitzgerald who saved superbly with the rebound falling perfectly for Martin Fitzgerald and he tapped home from close range with full-back Stephen 'Chester' Kelly having committed to facing the oncoming Ryan and Eamonn Kearns having opted to ensure that the lurking Paul Divilly was kept out of the equation.
Kildare built quickly and capably after this. They were level within minutes, points from the impressive Brian Byrne, Barry Cormack (free) and Shane Ryan making it 1-3 apiece as Wicklow struggled to keep pace with the Lilywhites.
Two Andy O'Brien points from frees, the second a monster strike, cancelled out a Cormack free and another Brian Byrne score to leave it 1-5 to 1-5 but Kildare were about to move up another gear and they rattled off a quick 1-2, the goal from Fitzgerald after Bob Fitzgerald had pulled off another fine save from Ryan and all of a sudden it was 2-7 to 1-5 for the visitors.
Andy O'Brien stopped the rot with three fine scores (two frees won by Peter Keane) before Kildare opened up again with a point from Cormack from a free, Divilly from play and a goal from substitute Jack Sheridan right at the death of the first half. The Naas man was going to have a major say in how the rest of this game unfolded. 3-9 to 1-8 at the break and Wicklow had a considerable hill to climb in the second half.
Seamus Murphy introduced Padraig Doyle at the start of the second half in place of Christy Moorehouse Snr and PJ Nolan pointed a beautiful score to leave two goals between the sides before Ronan Keddy walloped home to the back of the Kildare net to make it a one-score game early in the second half at 3-9 to 2-9.
Andy O'Brien and Nolan again either side of a Shane Ryan point for Kildare left just two between the sides but a wicked sideline cut from Sheridan returned us to a three-point difference at 3-11 to 2-11.
It was nip and tuck at this stage with both sides trading points with good play from both sides all over the field.
Mikey Lee swung over a fine effort for Wicklow, Andy grabbed one from a free and at 3-13 to 2-13 Wicklow were looking in a good position and could have had a goal only for PJ Nolan's wicked strike barley missing the target. Alas, that man Sheridan popped up again and rifled home to the back of Bob Fitzgerald's net to return Kildare to a six-point lead after 55 minutes of action and leave Wicklow reeling after battling so hard to close the gap.
Kildare went seven ahead then before PJ Nolan, who enjoyed electric passages of play in this game, fired over before Kildare hit back with three points on the trot from the hugely impressive Kevin Whelan, Bernard Deay, and Sheridan to leave it 4-17 to 2-14 after 22 minutes of the second half.
Seamus Murphy, sitting high up on the bank in the second half, watched as Enda Donohue entered the fray in place of Anto Byrne and the Carnew man proceeded to bag a superb score almost immediately after taking to the field, PJ Nolan added another and then Donohue never gave up the ghost on a ball in the Kildare defence and pounced on an error to fire home from close range and make it 4017 to 3-16.
Padraig Doyle pointed to leave just a score between the sides, but Kildare blew the air from the Wicklow sails with two excellent scores from Shane Ryan and the sublime Sheridan and substitute George O'Brien's late effort left the score at 4-19 to 3-18 at the death for a deserved victory for Kildare who will face Derry in the other semi-final.
Scorers - Kildare: Jack Sheridan 2-5 (1 SL), Martin Fitzgerald 2-1, Barry Cormack 0-3 (3f), Shane Ryan 0-3, Brian Byrne 0-2, James Burke 0-2 (1f), Chris Bonus 0-1, Kevin Whelan 0-1, Paul Divilly 0-1.
Wicklow: Andy O'Brien 0-7 (2f), PJ Nolan 0-5, Ronan Keddy 2-0, Enda Donohue 1-1, Peter Keane 0-1, Garry Byrne 0-1, Padraig Doyle 0-1, George O'Brien 0-1, Mikey Lee 0-1.
Wicklow: Robert Fitzgerald; Emmet Byrne, Stephen Kelly, Martin O'Brien; Garry Byrne, Eamonn Kearns, Billy Cuddihy; Ronan Keddy, Eoin McCormack; Peter Keane, Anthony Byrne, Mikey Lee; PJ Nolan, Andy O'Brien, Christy Moorehouse. Subs: Padraig Doyle for C Moorehouse (H/T), Christopher Moorehouse Jnr for M O'Brien (55, inj), Enda Donohue for Anto Byrne (57), George O'Brien for M Lee (62min), Jamie Byrne for A O'Brien (65).
Kildare: Paddy McKenn; Cian Forde, John Doran, Paul Sullivan; Eanna O'Neill, Mark Maloney, Mark Grace; Niall O Muineachain, Barry Cormack; Brian Byrne, Paul Divilly, Kevin Whelan; Shane Ryan, Martin Fitzgerald, Chris Bonus. Subs: Bernard Deay for N O'Muineachain (26), Jack Sheridan for C Bonus (32min), James Burke for B Cormack (40), Mark Delaney for K Whelan (59).
Referee: Thomas Walsh (Waterford)