Leinster Schools Senior A GAA Football
Wicklow Schools drew breath as an ice cool Chris Heslip chipped a shot towards the Dundalk Schools posts midway through the second half of extra time in this pulsating match. A blanket of tension enveloped both spectators and players as we all watched the ball take a high trajectory and this moment served as a microcosm of how this match unfolded over the 80 minutes.
Dundalk started this game with precision and accuracy. They had bagged 1-3 in the first 10 minutes before Wicklow could register a score in the game. Both teams were playing a sweeper system, however Dundalk were playing the system to greater effect, although with a wind advantage. Wicklow shifted back to a standard formation and this proved to be the catalyst to allow them to enter the game. Wicklow stemmed the flow and scored the next 5 points in the game, thanks mainly due to the boot of Cormac O’Shea , Paddy Kelly’s steady free taking and Jack Bellamy’s opportunist finishing. Wicklow were in an impossible position at the beginning of this game and were only one point behind at half time, their ascendancy was cemented by Conor Byrne’s industrious work which allowed Wicklow take a lead for the first time in this game, early in the second half. All of this shovel work was undone by a goal mouth scramble where the ball was adjudicated to be over the line to the displeasure of the Wickow players and supporters. Once again into the breach for this Wicklow team. With some direct positive play from the free running Stephen Conor and Darragh Fitzgerald, Wicklow started to wound Dundalk and keep the scoreboard ticking over with some accurate long range score taking from Conor Byrne. Deja Vu, as Wicklow gifted Dundalk another goal, when a high ball into the square was not dealt with and was finished by the Dundalk sharp shooters. Wicklow started from an impossible heart breaking position for a third time in this game but these players showed what desire really is as Conor Byrne scythed through the Dundalk defence to finish to the net. The match was level and Wicklow won a free 50 metres out to the left, Goal keeper Mark Jackson lined up the pressure kick but the ball drifted slightly wide of the posts. Alas, Full time whistle, level scores, Wicklow 1-12 to Dundalk 3-6. Extra Time!
Both teams did not yield in battle as the injured players rolled off and the substitutes rolled on. Wicklow took the early initiative in extra time but were pegged back time and again by Dundalk on a score line of 1-15 to 3-9 in this frantic finale. Deadlock! This was the moment for the deep intake of breath as Chris Heslip kept his head and split the posts, when all about him in Dundalk colours were losing theirs. Congratulations to this Wicklow team on a courageous performance from the 22 players involved on the day. Desire can be talked about but rarely is it witnessed with such guts.
1.Tom McGuirk (St. Kevin’s, Dunlavin)2. Jack McCall (Gealcoláiste na Mara, Arklow)3. Saoirse Kearnan (Avondale C.C) 4. Liam Kinsella (Avondale C.C) 5. Stephen Conor (Avondale C.C) 6. Tom Maher (Gaelcoláiste na Mara, Arklow) 7. Darragh Fitzgerald (Gaelcoláiste na Mara, Arklow) 8. Thomas Kearns (Coláiste Craobh Abhann, Kilcoole) 9. Cal Kelly (Gaelcoláiste na Mara, Arklow) 10. Paddy Kelly (0-4, St. kevin’s, Dunlavin) 11. Cormac O’Shea (0-3, Arklow C.B.S, Arklow) 12. Justin House (Coláiste Bhride, Carnew) 13. Conor Byrne( 1-5, Avondale C.C), Mark Keenan (Avondale C.C), Jack Bellamy (0-2, Coláiste Craobh Abhann, Kilcoole)
16. Mark Jackson (0-1, Scoil Chlongais, Baltinglas) for Tom McGuirk; 21. Chris heslip (0-1, Scoil Chlongais, Baltinglas) for Mark Keenan; 22. Mark Barrett (St. Kevin’s, Dunlavin) for Justin House; 18. Jack Kelly (Coláiste Chill Mhantáin, Wicklow Town) for Jack Bellamy; 17. Eoin McTague (St. David’s, Greystones) for Liam Kinsella; 23.Luke Daly (Scoil Chlongais, Baltinglas) for Tom Maher.