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Wicklow boss wants to take on the 'big boys'

Offaly's footballers may just have taken the drop to the fourth tier, but Wicklow have a great shot at going in the opposite direction in their final Division 4 game next weekend.

Fermanagh have already clinched promotion but Wicklow, third and two points adrift of Clare, meet the Banner for a winner-takes-all showdown in Aughrim.

"Yes, our destiny is in our own hands, we're just one game away from Division 3 football," said manager Harry Murphy. "But that might as well be a hundred miles away if we don't beat Clare -- and they're a really decent side."

Murphy made absolutely no secret of targeting promotion from the minute he took over from Mick O'Dwyer at the end of last season.

"I don't know how people don't think the league matters, it's important for our players and football in the county to be playing the big boys and getting them down to Aughrim," he said.

"If we succeed in getting out of Division 4, I wouldn't be leaving it there. Our plan would be to push on and try to get into Division 2. Tyrone were down there until recently and those are the kind of teams you want to be playing against."

The Rathnew man admitted that Wicklow's chances of finally breaking their lengthy Division 4 sojourn looked pretty slim in the early rounds of the league.

After beating whipping boys Kilkenny on their first day out, they then lost at home to Waterford in their first big test.

"We had a disastrous start, conceded four goals to Waterford. We went up to Fermanagh the following week and were probably the better side but we had four good goal chances and didn't even get a point from any of them," Murphy explained.

"We only lost to Fermanagh by two points and, in some ways, that game gave us a bit of hope and settled the team down."

Forward star Leighton Glynn also credits Murphy with Wicklow's new-found league progress.

"Micko put all our energy into the championship so you could be doing very heavy training in the middle of the league," the International Rules star said. "But Harry made a point of trying to get promotion right from the start and our training has been much more geared towards the league."

The Garden County still found London a bit of a handful last weekend but they did the trip in one day, which meant a 5am start, and the Exiles have proven themselves a handful this year.

Glynn scored a late penalty for a flattering scoreline but Wicklow's 1-16 to 0-12 victory means the second promotion spot will be decided between themselves and their final-round opponents.

"Games between ourselves and Clare are traditionally very tight," Glynn said. "We were lucky to draw with them in Aughrim last year and, the year before that, we lost a big lead down in Ennis and ended up getting beaten by a point.

"We know just how hard it will be but there is a big prize there for both counties because getting into Division 3 would be a massive boost for either of us ahead of the championship."

Irish Independent