Thursday 14 December 2017

All goalkeepers dread that day

All goalkeepers dread that day when your defence will be torn apart and you'll be left like a sitting duck as goal after goal rattles the back of your net.

That nightmare became a reality for Wicklow net minder Robert Fitzgerald last Saturday afternoon as Kildare destroyed the Wicklow Minor hurlers in a devastatingly effective performance that saw them run out winners on an embarrassing score line of 8-10 to 1-11.

We could make the fairly limp point that some of the goals were of Wicklow's own making and that had they not conceded so many there would not have been the awful sight on the scoreboard at full time but that would be a criminal statement in many ways. This was a massacre of one group of players by another group who are obviously well trained, well drilled, who have endured some serious physical work judging by their physiques and who can hurl and hurl well.

On the other hand Wicklow were game, they battled, they fought but they had no answers to the Kildare power and class, they looked slow and cumbersome in possession and that is in no way a slight on the current management.

These shortcomings stem from an earlier phase in development.

Over and over again the gulf in physical size is there to be seen as underage teams and U-21 teams from Wicklow take to the field against Leinster opposition. At times Wicklow players are nothing short of scrawny in the face of these Herculean soldiers from the likes of Laois and Kildare and Longford and Dublin. For our part we're small or thin or lanky or a combination and it was the case on Saturday as well.

There was no hiding the potential that this would be a baptism from hell for Leighton Glynn as Kildare shot a 65 wide in the opening minute. Eoin O'Hehir who started in place of Robert Byrne but who was positioned at half forward then collected a ball from Tadgh Forde who had simply walked through the Wicklow defence after Anto Byrne had lost possession. O'Hehir goaled past Robert Fitzgerald to begin the Annacurra man's day from hell.

Anto Byrne then sent a free into Kildare territory but the Lilywhites cleared with ease. Some good play by John Walsh and Wayne Kinsella at either end of the field earned no rewards as Kildare's Evan Dempsey caught a puck out from Shane Nolan and tore through the Wicklow heart and walloped a second goal past Fitzgerald.

Leighton Glynn and his selectors began to make changes to plug the dam but the Kildare flood was unceasing and there was little anyone could do to survive.

Eire Og's James Cranley shot a wide after five minutes before Evan Dempsey showed some marvelous skill to point for his side to leave the score at 2-01 to 0-00. Brian Byrne added another seconds later before Eoin McCormack hit another wide for Wicklow.

James Cranley was now pulled back to act as a sweeper against the strong wind at the backs of Kildare while Wayne Kinsella was switched into full forward.

But Wicklow soon got a break after good work by Kinsella whose shot was blocked out for a 65 which his Carnew colleague Padraig Doran, who had a superb day from placed balls, fired over.

Wicklow were improving now but Kildare could almost score whenever they felt like it and midfielder Jonathan Reeves got the urge after 10 minutes and he pointed easily.

Kinsella was winning tough ball up in the full forward line but there was no reward on the scoreboard. Evan Dempsey was really tormenting Wicklow now and his next shot rocketed off the Wicklow post.

The Garden boys were trying their best but all their efforts were beginning to look fruitless when Eoin O'Hehir tapped in from a long hopeful Kildare ball.

Centre half forward Peter Moran added a point for Kildare before Eoin McCormack goaled for Wicklow after good work by Padraig Doran to leave the score at 3-04 to 1-01 in favour of the visitors.

But after that brief threat of hope the agony continued. O'Hehir bagged his hat-trick after only 23 minutes when he flicked home to the top corner. Seconds later Evan Dempsey made it five goals for Kildare with some sublime hurling that included a sweet touch over Sean O'Callaghan's head. James Cranley and Padraig Doran added points for Wicklow after Brian Byrne raised a white flag for Kildare to leave the half time score 5-06 to 1-03.

Leighton Glynn would need to be Al Pacino and Mel Gibson all rolled into one to produce a speech in the dressing room that could have any hope of inspiring his squad but he must have said something right because they did come out fighting with four Padraig Doran points around a Brian Byrne effort for Kildare.

Wicklow substitute Conor Lambert was proving himself very capable and his pressure on Shane Nolan in the Kildare goal resulted in a free which Padraig Doran pointed after 42 minutes.

But against a Kildare side that was now oozing confidence you can only hold out for so long and goal number six arrived when Robert Fitzgerald batted out a ball he might have caught to leave the lanky Niall Kenny with a simple shot at goal. Brian Byrne added another goal four minutes later and Evan Dempsey waltzed through on 58 minutes to bring an end to the torture.

Best for Wicklow were Padraig Doran, James Cranley, Wayne Kinsella and Conor Lambert when he was introduced.

A result like this in most other counties would result in a serious examination of procedures and practices but nothing will be said or done about it in Wicklow. That's been the way for years now and there are no signs of real change. Loyal Wicklow servants like Leighton Glynn and James Doran and the likes will continue to try and lift spirits and inspire a new generation of hurlers but they are GAA coaches, not magicians.

Wicklow People

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