The GCA U15’s travelled to Camolin in Wexford to take on two of the strongest counties in the country namely Dublin and Meath. The prospects prior to these two very important matches might have been diminished due to our lack of success in Juvenile circles over the years. But, the WILL to WIN is nothing without the WILL to PREPARE held true last Saturday. This academy squad has been working very hard in recent weeks and it paid off in both games. First up was Dublin who sent a strong side. The game was played at a very high tempo and Dublin where quick to take the initiative and scored two unanswered points in the first few minutes. This seemed to awaken a sense of irritation in the Wicklow team and they started to play some very direct football and responded with points from John Kavanagh and Sean Gregory. Dublin added 3 more points and most were as a result of turned over ball. The Garden County men were starting to compete and were unlucky with some of their attempts, all of which went marginally wide. Just before half-time Wicklow conceded a penalty and another point and replied with a point from Brian Lambert. The Half-time whistle sounded with the score Dublin 1-6 Wicklow 0-3 points. The Second half was a revelation from the Wicklow boys who dominated after conceding an early goal to keep Dublin at bay to a total of 3 scores in the Second Half whilst they rattled of 3 points from Brian Lambert, 2 points from Brian Nolan and singles from Ross Coogan and Man of the Match Conall Deeney left the final score Dublin 2-8 Wicklow 0-10 points.
Despite a short period of rest before Wicklow took on the Royal County, Wicklow was ready for battle. Meath who were beaten by Dublin in the first match raced into the lead with a goal direct from the Throw-in. Cathal Doyle and Brian Lambert steadied the ship with points and Meath replied with three unanswered points. Meath scored a goal and a point and it seemed like the effort against Dublin was beginning to tell. Points from John Kavanagh, Sean Gregory and Ciaran O’Shea left the score at half-time Meath 2-4 Wicklow 0-5 points. A few positional changes at half time worked wonders for the team with Wicklow completely dominating Meath throughout the second half. Sean Gregory’s goal was the kick start Wicklow needed. Points from Brian Lambert, Ronan O’Malley and Ciaran O’Shea and a goal from Meath made it a tight finale. Wicklow finished very strong and ran out winners by 4 points. Final Score: Wicklow 2-12 Meath 3-5. Great team performance and all the Wicklow Mentors Jim Cushe, Sean O’Sullivan, Denis Mangan and Kevin Gill were delighted at the level of work and skill the lads gave on the Day. Still lots of work to do but at least Academy Squad work is beginning to pay dividends in all age groups this year.
The GCA U16’s hosted a blitz in Ballinakill last Saturday where teams from Wexford, Louth and Westmeath took part. Having achieved victory over each of these teams earlier this year, the Wicklow management were targeting two victories with a genuine possibility of three.
A good start is essential in these tournaments. Wexford and a strong wind proved extremely tough opposition for the first half of our first match. At half time Wicklow lead by just 2 points. However the players opened up in the second half and soon dominate play in all sectors. The final score of 1-15 to 0-5 didn’t fully reflect Wexford’s gritty effort or Wicklow’s hard graft.
The Louth match commenced almost immediately after the first and proved a very close encounter. Though now aided by the wind, Wicklow struggled to make an impact and trailed the wee county by two points at half time – albeit due to a very questionable Louth goal. Considering the conditions, Louth may have expected a facile second half. The introduction of fresh players re-invigorated the Wicklow effort however, and an improbable victory suddenly became a real possibility. Despite trojan work and fighting for scores to the very end the gap widened to three points. The final scoreline was Louth 2-6 to Wicklow’s 1-6.
Westmeath then stood between Wicklow and their target of at least two wins. A combination of weariness, near misses and some poor finishing conspired against Wicklow. Leading by the minimum at half time, the second half would be against the wind and was always going to be difficult. The players were visibility tired and flat in the first half but everyone dug deep in the second. With the advantage of the wind, Westmeath overcame the deficit and raced into a strong lead. Wicklow never gave up and set up wave after wave of attacks near the end. The Westmeath defence held, but only thanks to the cross bar (several times) and two exceptionally saves from their keeper. In the end Wicklow succumbed to a scoreline of 0-11 to 0-9. A two point defeat but with a little better luck this match could easily have been their second win.
Three inter-county games in immediate succession is a big ask of any group of players. This format clearly favours counties with large panels and strength in depth. In reality the Wicklow team failed to replicate the intensity of last week’s epic encounter in Meath. Nevertheless they must be commended for their sheer grit and determination throughout the two hours of football. This is a team that has now proved themselves successful and competitive against several Leinster counties and will continue to improve and impress.
Team Wicklow ambassadors are continuing to recruit members with a great response to date. If you would like to support the Garden County Academy initiative please call Joe O’Brien 087 2577680 or visit www.TeamWicklow.com. All funds raised go towards preparing our juvenile football players to challenge for Leinster and All-Ireland success in years to come.