St Patricks 0-9 AGB 0-7
It wasn't a classic, but it was a county final that had plenty in terms of drama and excitement as St Patrick’s recorded their first double since 1960 by surviving a massive test from underdogs Arklow Geraldines Ballymoney (AGB) in a packed Aughrim this afternoon to claim the Wicklow SFC title.
Both sides have been the form teams in this year’s championship; both unbeaten, with AGB only dropping a point to Rathnew in the group stages, but it was the manner of St Patrick’s passage through the competition that suggested to many that they would have too much for Damien Redmond’s AGB, who emerged from the Intermediate grade in 2016.
And it looked as though that was going to be how this clash unfolded with Casey O’Brien’s men racing out to a 0-5 to 0-1 lead with points from Tommy Kelly (three frees), early substitute Bryan Doyle, who came in for the injured Paul Earls after just three minutes, and man of the match, center back Conor Ffrench, while AGB could only register a point from Philip Healy (free).
However, veteran Ciaran Hyland was producing a magnificent defensive display on the in-form Tommy Kelly and that as well as strong performances from Jack Hamilton, Stephen Hurley and JP Hurley combined to send AGB in only trailing by two at 0-5 to 0-3 with further points from Healy (free) and Darragh Fitzgerald.
Massive saves from goalkeeper Mervyn Travers either side of half-time kept AGB well in this contest and they drew level after 40 minutes thanks to an outstanding Andy Maher point off the outside of his right boot from a tight angle and it was anyone’s final at that stage.
But this battle would come down to a matter of belief. St Patrick’s, having overcome neighbours Rathnew last year to claim the crown, took advantage of AGB misses and errors to open up a two-point lead at 0-8 to 0-6 at the end of the third quarter in a low-scoring but highly entertaining struggle; substitute Paudge McWalter and team captain Stephen Duffy (free) grabbing the vital scores as AGB racked up five second-half wides that could have snatched victory.
A strong St Patrick’s bench provided substitutes that only strengthened the Wicklow Town side and although the outstanding Ciaran Hyland would bring it back to a one-point game, a stunning, late point from Tommy Kelly gave St Pat’s a precious cushion and left AGB needing a goal which a superb defensive unit were never going to cough up.
Low-scoring and dogged it might have been, but for drama and excitement and intrigue this county decider came up trumps in a big, big way.
AGB will feel they had the chances to win this, but they can take consolation from the fact that they have youth on the side and will most definitely be back.
Casey O’Brien’s men have secured the double. They are an impressive side and will go forward with well-placed optimism to a Leinster campaign within which they could make a major impact.
Scorers - St Patrick's: Tommy Kelly 0-4 (3f), Bryan Doyle 0-1, Conor Ffrench 0-1, Stephen Duffy 0-2 (2f), Patrick McWalter 0-1 AGB: Philip Healy 0-3 (3f), Darragh Fitzgerald 0-1, Cathal Kelleher 0-1, Andy Maher 0-1. Ciaran Hyland 0-1
St Patrick's: Shane Doyle; Patrick O'Keane, Shane Murley, Wayne Doyle; Ciarán Doyle, Conor Ffrench, John Crowe; Dean Healy, Matthew Traynor; Paul Earls, Paudge McWalter, Ciarán McGettigan; Paul O'Brien, Stephen Duffy, Thomas Kelly.
Subs: Bryan Doyle for P Earls (3), Jonathan Delahunt for C McGettigan (44), Jordan Pettigrew for B Doyle (44).
AGB: Mervyn Travers; Tom Maher, James Tyrrell, Jack Hamilton; Karl Kirwan, Ciaran Hyland, Andy Maher; Chris O'Brien, Stephen Hurley; Cormac O'Shea, Philip Gleeson, Darragh Fitzgerald; Cathal Kelleher, Philip Healy, JP Hurley.
Subs: Ciaran O'Shea for P Gleeson (H/T), Daire McBride for Cormac O'Shea (46), Tiernan McBride for P Healy (53), Cal Kelly for J Tyrrell (55), Peter Hempenstall for C Kelleher (58)
Referee: Anthony Nolan (Baltinglass)