Sport Hurling

Monday 20 November 2017

Wicklow beg GAA not to move divisional 'goalposts'

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

WICKLOW hurlers, fresh from making history last weekend, have begged the GAA not to move the goalposts on them.

The Garden County's Allianz Hurling League 3A final victory over Derry has just earned them a place at hurling's second table.

But there is heavy speculation that the leagues may be restructured next season, which could yet rob them of their chance to play in Division 2.

"Qualifying to play in the second division is a massive thing for us and we're desperately hoping they don't move the goalposts again," said Wicklow captain Jonathan O'Neill (below). "We got this far before, back in 1997, but we still ended up in the equivalent of Division 3 again because they created a Division 1A and 1B the next year.

"They'd even done the fixture draw -- I remember we were down to play Clare and Wexford in Arklow," he recalled. "Then it all went out the window, which was terrible.

"I know we're 'only Wicklow', very few people come to watch us, but we train just as hard as Kilkenny or Tipperary.

"Since Casey O'Brien (manager) took over we have only lost three games in the last two years."

O'Neill credits the appointment of former county star O'Brien, who has gone with only home-grown players, for instilling new passion in the county's hurlers.

"We've made a habit of not giving up in games. Against Derry last Sunday we were five points down at half-time and, with five minutes to go they got a goal and we went two down. It was pure heart again that got us over the line," he said.

O'Brien, who made his senior debut 19 years ago, scored eight points, six from frees, last weekend and has defied the odds himself, returning to the fray despite a serious leg break in 2003 when he was told he would not play any sport again.

But yesterday the Glenealy veteran gave the credit to everyone else, especially full-forward Don Hyland and now retired Mike Anthony O'Neill.

"Don is 38 now and Mike Anthony played midfield last year when he was 40! It's guys like that who have kept Wicklow hurling going and we owe them an awful lot," he said.

The newly crowned 3A champions have little time to celebrate this week as they face Mayo in the first round of the Christy Ring Cup in Castlebar on Saturday.

Irish Independent

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