Murphy happy with rate of progress as Wicklow show there's plenty of life after Micko


Wicklow 2-16 Fermanagh 1-11:THE ALLIANZ football league assumed new prominence in Wicklow this year and the change of policy paid off in Croke Park on Saturday night.

Coming after the Micko years, managing Wicklow could have been a difficult assignment. Yet Harry Murphy has made it look easy, first winning promotion, and now the Division Four league title.

This was the county’s first silverware since lifting the Tommy Murphy Cup in 2007, a rare moment to savour, winning a title in Croke Park. Murphy could have basked in the achievement but he was generous enough to deflect the praise elsewhere.

“In fairness, Micko had assembled a lovely group of footballers. There was a few that had slipped through the net who, for one reason or another, weren’t playing or had pulled away.

“We went around and gave everyone the chance to come back in. People came on board. We’re very happy with it as you can see. We got a great performance from them there today.”

This was a convincing, impressive victory. Fermanagh were unbeaten in the league this year prior to Saturday and only conceded one goal in the entire campaign before Wicklow plundered two in eight minutes inside the opening quarter.

Nine points down at one stage, the Erne men did get it back to two points by half-time, but they were scoreless for the first 25 minutes of the second-half. Wicklow got stronger and stronger and won pulling up.

The paltry attendance of 7,512 can only have enjoyed the performance of Seánie Furlong, who tormented the Fermanagh defence for 70 minutes.

He scored 1-5, including an opening goal in the ninth minute, when the equally impressive James Stafford made a spectacular catch and hit it long to him on the edge of the square.

Wicklow dominated around the middle and won four kick-outs in a row, which gleaned 1-3. That included a second goal through corner back Ciarán Hyland.

Only for another couple of smart saves from Ronan Gallagher, the damage could have been worse for Fermanagh who were badly exposed at times.

They responded well to falling 2-6 to 0-3 behind after only 21 minutes. They hit back with an unanswered 1-3, midfielder Eoin Donnelly finishing the goal well, and Tomás Corrigan scoring 0-3 from play before half-time. Wicklow led 2-8 to 1-9 at the break.

Fermanagh changed tactics with a strong wind at their backs for the second-half, trying to go long to find Séamus Quigley, but it didn’t work.

Wicklow midfielder Rory Finn scored three points in the second-half and Fermanagh were out on their feet in the last 10 minutes.

“We were a bit worried if the legs would carry us through, but it looked as if we were getting stronger,” said Murphy.

“The margin of the win probably flattered us a bit but we’ll take the win any day of the week. A national title is great for the lads. We just said we had been there (in Division four) for too long and thank God we got out of it.”

Having coasted through Division Four up to this point, the manner of the defeat must have been a blow to Peter Canavan. However when it was put to him that he would struggle to take any positives out of losing a final in Croke Park, he disagreed.

“I will take a lot of positives out of it,” he responded. “There were various things that worked and things I’m pleased about, there are other aspects we need to brush up on.

“In terms of positives we should learn a lot. The game was played at a good pace and a good intensity and it was a very worthwhile experience. It is a good wake-up call before the championship.”

WICKLOW: J Flynn; C Hyland (1-0), A McLoughlin, A Byrne; D Healy, M McLoughlin, S Kelly; J Stafford (0-2), R Finn (0-3); L Glynn (0-2), D O’Sullivan, D Hayden; T Hannon (0-4, 0-1 free), S Furlong (1-5, 0-3 frees), J McGrath. Subs: P Burke for O’Sullivan (49 mins), P Earls for McGrath (63 mins).

FERMANAGH: R Gallagher; N Bogue, B Cox, N McGovern; C Quigley (0-1), R McCluskey, B Mulrone (0-1); S Lyons, E Donnelly (1-0); D Keenan (0-1), S McCabe, R Jones; E Maguire (0-1), S Quigley (0-2, frees), T Corrigan (0-3). Subs: B Owens for McGovern (half-time), D Kille (0-1) for Jones (49 mins), P Ward (0-1, free) for Maguire (53 mins), M McGrath for Mulrone (53 mins).

Referee: F Kelly (Longford).