Tuesday 20 March 2018

Bosco's Army claim historic All-Ireland victory for Wicklow

All-Ireland u21 'B' Hurling final: Wicklow 2-17 Meath 2-15

Wicklow players Marc Lennon, left, and Jim Doyle celebrate after the final whistle of their All-Ireland U21 B Championship final in Thurles
Wicklow players Marc Lennon, left, and Jim Doyle celebrate after the final whistle of their All-Ireland U21 B Championship final in Thurles
Fergal Flattery, Meath, shoots for goal despite the best efforts of Daniel Staunton, left, and Jim Doyle
Jack Regan, Meath, scores his side's first goal from a penalty
Padraig Doyle, Wicklow, scores his side's second goal of the game

Jackie Cahill

An emotional year for Wicklow hurling stalwart Jonathan 'Bosco' O'Neill ended on a high as the Garden County claimed victory in Saturday's Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland U-21 'B' hurling final for the very first time.

After 23 years as an inter-county player, O'Neill pulled the curtain down on his career following Wicklow's Christy Ring Cup relegation play-off victory over Mayo back in May.

And as manager of the U-21s, O'Neill masterminded victory over 2005 champions Meath at Semple Stadium on Saturday.

O'Neill smiled: "As I said at the beginning of the year when I took over, it was our aim.

"I trained with 11 of these lads this year with the senior team so I knew what was in them.

"A few of my own (Glenealy) clubmates were there, a few other lads from Bray, and I said there was an All-Ireland in this team. I'm glad that everything worked out.

"Everybody knows everybody in Wicklow hurling. It's a small little community. We nearly know what we've had for breakfast!"

Jack Regan's 2-7 haul for Meath was in vain as Gavin Weir registered 1-4 for Wicklow.

Regan's second goal two minutes from time ensured a nervy finish for Wicklow but they held on as Regan saw a late 20-metre free batted away.

Pádraig Doyle's second-half goal gave Wicklow some breathing space, opening up an eight-point lead, but Meath showed spirit to fight their way back into contention. Two penalty goals were exchanged at the end of the first half, as Wicklow went in 1-9 to 1-8 ahead.

Regan netted for Meath but Weir replied in kind for Wicklow, to help ensure a narrow interval lead for the winners.

In an entertaining encounter, the sides were level six times in the first half, and again shortly after the restart, before Wicklow pulled away.

Daniel Staunton was excellent at centre-back for Wicklow and Anthony Byrne scored four points in attack.

Elsewhere, midfielders Diarmuid Masterson and Marc Lennon hit 0-5 between them and O'Neill hopes this victory can provide a platform for senior progress.

He added: "At the moment, we're looking for a new senior manager. We have a very young team and hopefully we can keep them all together, and add to it with a few senior players that are there."

Scorers - Meath: J Regan 2-7 (1-0 pen, 2f), L Martyn 0-4, G McGowan 0-2, J Fagan & S Quigley 0-1 each. Wicklow: G Weir 1-4 (1-0 pen, 2f, 0-1 '65), A Byrne 0-4, P Doyle 1-0, Lennon 0-3, D Masterson 0-2, D Staunton, J Byrne, C O'Byrne & J Cranley 0-1 each.

MEATH - C Bird; D Conneely, L Rickard, C McGrath; C O'Shea, S Whitty, E Ryan; L Martyn, S Kelly; J Fagan, J Regan, J Andrews; G McGowan, F Flattery, S Quigley. Subs: S Doyle for Flattery (37), C Shirren for Ryan (49).

WICKLOW - R Fitzgerald; S O'Callaghan, J Doyle, E Byrne; L Maloney, D Staunton, D Henderson; D Masterson, M Lennon; G Weir, A Byrne, P Doran; J Byrne, P Doyle, C O'Byrne. Subs: D Lohan for Weir (47), J Cranley for O'Byrne (48), A Kavanagh for A Byrne (55), J Tallon for Henderson (60).

Ref - D Hughes (Carlow)

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