Match Report: Wicklow 3-13 Carlow 0-12

Leinster Senior Football Championship

Wicklow 3-13

Carlow 0-12

O’Moore Park, Portlaoise.

Referee – G O Conamha (Galway)

When Leighton Glynn dropped his shoulder to ease past Kavanagh and fire the ball into the back of the Carlow net for Wicklow’s second goal the Gardens Counties fans knew that the ghosts of Wexford Park well and truly laid to rest writes Alan O’Briain.  Wicklow oozed experience from the off and without ever getting out of second gear put a poor Carlow side to the sword with a display of score taking that blew away there opponents who had no answer to the Gardens forwards.  The pre-match banter flowed and Carlow gaels were sure that the bookies had it wrong and they would inflict similar pain on the Wicklow as they had previous Championship game (2006), but Micko and Wicklow had other ideas.

Brendan Murphy and Thomas Walsh started in midfield for Carlow and many commentators felt that their strength here would prove decisive.  Wicklow pulled a surprise by dropping Jacko Dalton for Don Jackman in the middle of the park but otherwise the team lined out as per the programme.  As throw in approached you could cut the tension with a knife.  Carlow won the throw in and set about their task but Wicklow weathered an aimless attack and after Carlow kicked two poor wides Tony Hannon opened the scoring with a couple of fine points.  Wicklow raised the first three white flags and despite Carlow having an advantage in the middle they struggled up front.  Brendan Murphy finally got Luke Dempsey’s team on the score sheet with a fine effort which he followed up with another fine point.  Soon after Carlow were level and Wicklow were worryingly losing possession in the middle of the park and struggling to get any ball into the forwards.  Micko made a bold call and called Don Jackman ashore to put Jacko Dalton into the game in a move that set the tone for the rest of the match.  Carlow’s dominance evaporated and Wicklow restored their momentum but tagging on a couple of well worked scores.  The Galway official was applying the new interpretation of the rules and players were picking up yellow cards all over the field.  Nicky Mernagh was correctly booked for an accidental trip when he caught the heels of a Carlow forward bursting forward.  The key moment in the first half came when Paul Earls caught possession and brushed former teammate Thomas Walsh aside before firing a weak shot past Clarke in the Carlow goal.  The keeper appeared to commit himself early and the ball barely made the goal such was the lack of power.   That score pushed Wicklow five points ahead playing against the wind.  Carlow came forward and tagged on two points, one a free before half time and just on the whistle they were thrown a lifeline by the Galway official who bizarrely sent off Rathnew man Nicky Mernagh for a second yellow card for a supposed check off the ball.  Television replays show that the decision was very harsh under any interpretation of the rules.

Facing into 35 minutes of Championship football a man down may have fazed many teams but Wicklow grew in stature as the second half progressed.  Micko’s extra long team talk meant Carlow had three minutes on the pitch with no opposition as Luke Dempsey’s half time message turned into a distant memory.  Wicklow set about their business and a superb Pat McWalter point stretched the Gardens Lead.  Carlow should have got a goal but a save from Travers was followed up by a Carlow shot off the post, the rebound was blocked by Alan Byrne and when Carlow finally got the ball over the end line it was wide.  Paul earls and Thomas Walsh had part two of their personal duel in front of the Wicklow posts when it looked certain that the Fenagh player would score a goal to ignite Carlow’s flailing hopes of causing an upset.  A high ball hung up in the air with only Earls and Walsh waiting on it on the edge of the square, all the way it looked like Walsh’s ball given the height advantage but Earls leapt like a salmon from water to take the ball and clear his lines.  In the end it came down to who wanted it more and the St Pats clubman just wanted it more.  The superb Glynn and Murphy traded points with excellent efforts.  Murphy’s point with the outside of the boot was straight from the top drawer but the under 21 was soon to learn a harsh lesson in the senior ranks.  Leighton Glynn drifted onto a ball before ghosting past Kavanagh and opening his body to fire Wicklow into an eight point lead.  The terraces were in raptures and many missed Brendan Murphy getting a straight red card for a bout of verbal’s with referee Gearoid O Conamha.  Wicklow were now eight points ahead which sparked a procession from Wicklow who used their superior fitness and skill to open up their deflated neighbours with angled running and precise passing.  Jacko Dalton added a third goal and the icing on the cake as the Carlow fans headed for the gates.  Soon after Paddy Dalton was sent through on goal and with a certain goal on Thomas Walsh hacked him down which meant Carlow would finish the match with 13 men as the Fenagh man was shown a second yellow card.  The Barrowsiders did tag on a couple of scores near the end as Wicklow stopped running and marking as their attention turned to a quarter final date with Westmeath.

Wicklow showed how far they have come throughout these seventy minutes.  Many papers have led with a headline that Wicklow beat a 13 man Carlow but Wicklow bet Carlow with only 14 men themselves.  When Brendan Murphy was shown the line Wicklow were 8 points ahead and cruising past ragged Carlow.  Luke Dempsey’s comments in the National media are disappointing where he described Wicklows play as “incessant fouling” the Carlow manager would do well to look at the stats from both the League and Championship as Carlow finished the match with less men once again as both midfielders were sent from the pitch.  This match was Carlow’s All Ireland final and may be why Dempsey is so ungraceful in defeat where as Wicklow viewed the match as a stepping stone to a potential Leinster title.  At all areas of the pitch Wicklow were solid and the so called dominance of midfield never really materialised as Wicklow broke ball and showed enough hunger to get the breaks.  A ten point win probably flattered Carlow in the end as Wicklow eased down and allowed them to tag on a couple of late scores.

Wicklow star Padge McWalter suffered a horrendous injury in the second half when he broke his kneecap in an accidental clash with Brendan Murphy.  The St Pats man was clearly distressed and left the field on a stretcher, he had an operation in Tullamore last night and despite the serious nature of the injury he is expected to make a full recovery.  Everyone here at the website would like to wish Pat a speedy and full recovery and we look forward to having you back in the Wicklow team soom.

Wicklow now face Westmeath in the Leinster Championship quarter final while Carlow head for the qualifiers.  The match is down on the Leinster Gaa site as Tullamore but Micko has confirmed that Wicklow will look for the match to be switched to Portlaoise.

SCORERS — Wicklow: L Glynn 1-4, T Hannon 0-6 (0-1f, 0-1 ’45), P Earls, JP Dalton 1-0 each, S Furlong 0-2 (0-1f), P McWalter 0-1.

Carlow: B Murphy, A Curran, S Rea (0-3f) 0-3 each, J Kavanagh (0-1f), JJ Smith, D St Ledger 0-1 each.

Wicklow — M Travers; S Kelly, D O hAnnaidh, A Byrne; P McWalter, B McGrath, D Hayden; J Stafford, D Jackman, L Glynn, T Hannon, N Mernagh; D Odlum, S Furlong, P Earls Subs: JP Dalton 7 for Jackman (21), S Canavan for McWalter (52 ), P Dalton for Odlum (54 ).

Carlow — J Clarke; P Murphy, L Murphy, B Kavanagh; A Curran, J Hayden, P McElligott; B Murphy, T Walsh; S Gannon, D Foley, M Carpenter; S Rea, J Murphy, J Kavanagh. Subs: S Redmond 6 for L Murphy (30), JJ Smith 7 for Foley (34), D St Ledger 6 for J Murphy (44), P Cashin 6 for Hayden (53 ).

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