Championship Preview: Wicklow Vs Longford

00017be3189rWicklow Vs Longford


Sunday 24 Th May  – Throw in 2pm

When Sunday comes the summer begins. No more waiting, the training is done, the pitches are marked and dreams begin. When Sunday comes Wicklow will embark on another quest for the Holy Grail that has now eluded the Garden County for 125 years.

Away from the glare of Croke Park the master will meet the student. Mick O’Dwyer will send his Wicklow charges out looking to teach Glenn Ryan and his Longford team a lesson. Last year Wicklow broke the hoodoo, Kildare were the victims as the old fox from Waterville masterminded the downfall of then rookie manager Ciaran McGeeney. Twelve months on and after another patchy league campaign the Garden County will look to start Championship fever rolling with a win over the Slashers.

Wicklow’s league campaign fizzled out in the end with defeats to neighbours Carlow and Sligo. For there part Longford will be disappointed with relegation from division 3 after a poor league. The return of Brian Kavanagh approaching the end of the campaign boosted Ryan’s men and the Crokes sharpshooter will be the launch pad for the majority of Longford’s attacks when proceedings begin.

Wicklow have named their team and while there are few surprises a number of hard decisions have been made in key positions leaving a number of players disappointed at their failure to make the starting 15. In goal Mervyn Travers was always a certainty after the Arklow Geraldine’s clubman produced a number of stunning performances during the league campaign. Tough decisions had to be made in the full back line; Brian McGrath looked to be benefiting from his All Ireland exploits with Kilmacrud Crokes before limping out against London. A return to fitness would have put the All-Ireland winner in contention but the management have decided to stick with Alan Byrne who struggled at times this year with a knee injury, battling bravely through the pain with cartilage damage but a strong end to the league and his experience helped him retain his spot in the corner. Damien Power is a high profile casualty in the backs losing his place to Alan Nolan, the Baltinglass clubman making his first Championship appearance. Ciaran Hyland has laid down the foundation for solid defensive displays in the past and his dedication and experience sees him claim his number two shirt. The McLoughlins will be disappointed not to have made the team sheet but they are surely the future across the Wicklow rearguard. The major surprise is the return of Dara O’hAnnaidh at centre back. The Bray Emmet’s clubman has been out with a hip injury since Brays involvement in the Wicklow Championship was ended last year. Padge McWalter, Wicklow’s player of the season to date is named at wing back and the transition should be no problem for the Wicklow Town man. Paddy Dalton gets the final spot in the half backs keeping Rory Nolan out of the team. Thomas Walsh and James Stafford may not have spent the long winter with the panel but their involvement on Sunday will be key to Wicklow’s chances of success. The twin towers have the class and ability to provide the ball to the Gardens forward men who in turn have the firepower to damage the Longford defence. Tony Hannon, Leighton Glynn and Jacko Dalton get the nod across the half forward line. Tony Hannon missed the last couple of games of the League and his return to fitness is a huge boost given his dead ball abilities. Leighton Glynn has been utilised between the half back and half forward lines this year but is preferred in attack which will give him a platform to attack the Longford rearguard. Jacko Dalton’s position should be watched closely, for kick-outs and when Wicklow are without the ball Jacko might be used as a third midfielder to give Mickos men the advantage in the centre of the park. The full forward line picks itself with Paul Earls, Seanie Furlong and Dean Odlum leading the offensive. Ciaran Walsh could have been close and will be hoping to make an impact from the bench at some stage.

So the team is picked….What has been said, is said. No training over the next couple of days will make the difference now. Wicklow are as strong as they could have been; only John McGrath is missing and the first choice midfield has been restored. Micko doesn’t hold the league in high regard. The priority has always been the Championship and D-day is nearly here and history is waiting to be made.

When Sunday comes we dare to believe all over again!!

Wicklow (SFC v Longford): M Travers; C Hyland, A Nolan, A Byrne; P McWalter, D O hAnnaidh, P Dalton; T Walsh, J Stafford; T Hannon, L Glynn, JP Dalton; D Odlum, S Furlong, P Earls.

Longford (Leinster SFC v Wicklow): D Sheridan; D Reilly, B Gilleran, P Foy; D Masterson, E Williams S Mulligan; G Dennigan, K Smyth; P Berry, F McGee, D Barden; P Barden, K Mulligan, B Kavanagh.








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