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Wicklow 1-16 Kildare 1-19
Kevin Stapleton Reporting.
The Wicklow hurlers made the short trip to Newbridge today as they looked to build on last weekend’s victory over Mayo. The starting line up showed plenty of experience as Wicklow tried to maintain their 100% record, however a late rally by the Lillywhites would effectively decide the game.
Wicklow started the brighter of the two and fired over two early points from Don Hyland and Andy O’Brien as the sun shone on a fine playing surface in Saint Conlath’s Park. David Harney opened Kildare’s account in the 4th minute and when a quick Michael Divilly sideline found Conor Kenny, the teams were level. The game was shaping up very nicely as both teams traded scores and attacks. Wicklow captain made an excellent challenge on Tony Murphy but he was judged to have over carried the ball as he tried to clear from the Wicklow defence. This allowed Martin Fitzgerald an easy opportunity from the resulting free to open his account and he duly obliged. In the 7th minute, a carbon copy of his opening score had seen Don Hyland level matters. The “Prince of Wicklow hurling” was fed in from Jonathan O’Neill and the Carnew man struck off his right side to leave the teams level. At this stage the game was averaging a score every 90 seconds and Kildare kept up this trend when Tony Murphy caught the puck out and set up David Harney for his second of the game. Two frees from ace marksman Jonathan O’Neill brought Wicklow back in front after 11 minutes. Andy O’Brien was fouled twice in quick succession as the goal hero from last week caused havoc in the Kildare defence. The lead would only last two minutes whoever, as a clumsy challenge from Eamon Kearns on Conor Kenny resulted in another Martin Fitzgerald free. Then Wicklow were to be dealt two hammer blows in the space of thirty seconds. Don Hyland, who was masterminding Wicklow’s attack, pulled up with a groin problem and had to be substituted. There was a strong breeze blowing crossfield in Newbridge and when a Wicklow shot got held up in the breeze 30 seconds later, it dropped just outside the square. Tommy Doyle attempted to get his shot away and his follow through caught a Kildare man on his helmet. With a little bit of help from vocal Kildare members in the crowd, a red card was shown to the Glenealy man when if anything at all the effort merited a yellow. David Harney and Chris Kavanagh traded scores before Martin Fitzgerald scored his first from play. Timmy Collins picked up a lot of loose ball in the first half and the Carnew man was fouled in the 24th minute allowing Bosco to step up and split the posts. A minute later came a score that Wicklow deserved. Leon Browne attacked down the right side of the pitch and fed Andy O’Brien who took on his man and showed tremendous strength to hold him off. Then from an acute angle the Wicklow sharpshooter fired an absolute rocket into the roof of Damien Byrne’s net. Wicklow were on the up and deserved this score as they were playing the better hurling for the majority of the half. Collins drew another free for Wicklow around the half way line and again Bosco stepped up to make the score 1-8 to 0-8 after 33 minutes. A late effort by David Harney in injury time left two points in the game as both teams ran off to the dressing rooms at half time.
The roars were heard from the Kildare dressing room at half time as Andy Comerford dressed down his team and it showed as they came out of the blocks at a quick pace in the second half. Three rapid fire points gave the Lily’s the lead, with one of these the result of a terrible crossfield ball from a Wicklow clearance. Paudie Reid who started the game corner back was playing all around the park as he was having a great duel with Timmy Collins. Kildare had discovered how potentially dangerous Andy O’Brien was in the full forward line and they dropped centre back David Kennedy back as the free man to help shepherd the Wicklow town man. Meanwhile, Wicklow’s centre back Liam Kennedy was putting in a man of the match performance as he caught a number of puck outs and set up a number of Wicklow attacks. Kennedy suffered a knock in the first half but he battled on and was instrumental in a lot of Wicklow’s positive moves. O’Neill and Fitzgerald traded frees before a fine effort from Michael Anthony O’Neill levelled the score. Tony Murphy restored Kildare’s advantage when he received a quick sideline and stuck the ball over from a tight angle. Two Jonathan O’Neill frees looked to give Wicklow momentum as the game entered the final quarter but Kildare were beginning to make their numerical advantage show as Wicklow legs began tiring.
Adrian McAndrew and Andy O’Brien traded scores and Bosco scored another free to give a two point advantage to the men from the Garden with eight minutes left. Just over a minute later, McAndrew who was causing havoc since his introduction took a run down the wing and cut in towards goal. His shot struck Ted Kennedy in the Wicklow goal and unfortunately for Wicklow it fell to Harney who couldn’t miss from a yard out. The ball struck the net and Wicklow heads dropped. Kildare then added four more scores including a long range effort from David Kennedy to stretch their lead to five. As referee Eamon Morris announced three minutes of injury time, Wicklow went in search of a goal. Andy O’Brien created half a chance for himself but his effort went over the bar and Kildare’s lead was now four. Shane McGrath was fouled soon after and Bosco struck a point from the free to leave just the goal between the sides. O’Neill and Ronan Keddy dropped balls into the Kildare goalmouth but the Kildare defence held out to earn themselves a slight victory which they might just have deserved based on their second half performance. The loss of Doyle and Hyland in the space of 30 seconds was a crucial turning point and if Wicklow had 15 men the result might have been different.
Wicklow: Ted Kennedy, Eoin O’Neill, Jim Connors, Willy Collins, Eamon Kearns, Liam Kennedy, Geoffrey Bermingham, Michael A. O’Neill (0-1), Ronan Keddy, Leon Browne, Jonathan “Bosco” O’Neill (0-9, all frees), Thomas Doyle, Andy O’Brien (1-3), Don Hyland (0-2) and Timmy Collins
SUBS: Chris Kavanagh (0-1) for D.Hyland, Billy Cuddihy for L.Browne, Graham Keogh for J.Connors, Shane McGrath for M.A. O’Neill and Nigel Driver for C.Kavanagh.
Kildare: Damien Byrne, Paudie Reidy, John Doran, Paul Keegan, Neil Ó Muineacháin, David Kennedy (0-1, free), Richic Hoban, Micheál Divilly, David Carter (0-2), Mark Moloney (0-3), Tony Murphy (0-1), Conor Kenny (0-1), Martin Fitzgerald (0-4, 3 frees), David Harney (1-5) and John Houlihan.
SUBS: Adrian McAndrew (0-1) for C.Kenny, Chris Bonus (0-1) for T.Murphy, Lorcan Harney for J.Houlihan, Fiachra Ó Muineacháin for M.Divilly and Patrick Curtin for J.Doran.