Wicklow set for big battle
The footballers of Wicklow are back on the road.
This Saturday evening they will cross over the border roads to Netwatch Dr. Cullen Park, Carlow, where they will take on the might of Kildare in their opening round Leinster senior football championship game.
While Kildare will be seeking not alone to build on their league campaign, where they narrowly lost out on promotion to Division 1, they will be hoping to build on last years championship, the qualifier campaign and their journey in the Super 8s where they brought off a dramatic victory over Mayo in Conleth Park, Newbridge.
It was during that Mayo game that Kildare proved what a formidable side they can be on a given day, but it's their lack of consistency which is proving difficult to predict their ability to match up with the best on a consistent base.
Last year they were stunned by Carlow in the provincial title race but credit to the players and backroom they regrouped and showed that such a setback was a once off for they looked a side of quality in the remainder of the title race.
Wicklow may have been frustrated with their league campaign, losing out on a couple of games that they would have been expected to win, given the form shown by other counties in the Division. There may have been a bit of frustration locally when they didn't push on the league, but manager Johnny Evans is still happy with the effort and preparation which the players have put in for this Kildare challenge, which is a daunting one in itself.
Evans and his backroom have worked diligently with the players over the past five months, particularly over the period since their last league outing, to be ready to meet this challenge head on.
'One could see in the league that the players have the ability. We may have been short some key players but we had the back up from the bench which is huge come championship time. This is now more important than ever for we may be without two or three players who may have made the starting fifteen, but that's the importance of the reserves, one now days has to have strength in depth.
'The league may have been a downer in that we did not push on for promotion but we still had some good results while we lost narrowly in a couple of game. Had the Leitrim game gone our way it could have transformed our league campaign, but from the victories we achieved it has boosted the players confidence.'
Neither side will be taking anything for granted and Kildare have already been forewarned given what happened against Carlow last year.
Evans believes that Kildare will be using this as motivation for the players.
'There's no doubt that Carlow result last year will not be lost on the Kildare player. Forewarned, forearmed, that's what Kildare will be,' he said.
As for Wicklow, Evans said he could not have asked for more from the players.
'The players have put in a huge effort. They have prepared well, they are a very committed bunch and very dedicated, so I could not ask for more.'
Looking at Kildare, Evans is of the opinion they have a superb flow of young players coming through.
'Last year Kildare won the All-Ireland Under-21 title. That in itself given they an array of young talent coming through. These are players who know what it takes to win at the top level, so one fully realises the challenges we face.'
The comparative strength of the sides will be laid bare when these two sides clash on Saturday evening, but Evans is happy with his squad and their ability to match up to the Kildare challenge.
'It's going to be a formidable challenge but the players are looking forward to the game. We know what it is going to take to deliver a victory but we are confident in our own ability.
'Both sides are sprinkled with quality players, so it should make for an interesting clash.
'There is no doubt but that we are ready to deliver a big challenge.
'Should we win it will be looked upon as a shock but that is what championship football is all about.
'We know what Kildare can deliver but we are determined to deliver more,' said Evans.