Just back from Joule Park, Fortress Aughrim.
The home of Wicklow GAA lives up to its fearsome reputation as the visitors leave empty handed, the seven hour round trip in vain.
Went up by the Red Cow, southbound on the M50, onto the M11 and turned off at junction 16. On through Rathdrum to Aughrim on possibly the worst road in the country. A blinding sun made it even more treacherous but landed on around 12.45pm eventually.
Had an absolutely savage roaster carvery in Lawless’s Hotel beside the ground. Roast bafe, mash, mountain of roast spuds, peas, carrots, cabbage and copious amounts of gravy. All for the princely sum of €11.95. Quick pint in O’Toole’s which was only middling.
Tidy little ground. Terrace on one side, cosy little stand on the other with comfortable bucket seats. Nothing behind either goal.
We played into a hurricane in the first half. A rare half where we scored more from play (0-02) than frees (0-01). To be only three points down at the short whistle looked a great position.
When the ever menacing Seamus O’Carroll smashed home a goal at the second attempt to put us a point up we looked set to kick on and preserve our 100% record. A terrific finish, it had the estimated away following of eight (8) on their feet in acclaim.
As it was we were to score just one more point (a free) as we collapsed after we gave away one of the worst goals you’ll ever see at any level of football. Our lineball, about 40 yards out from our own goal and we go for a short one. Should have been intercepted but we managed to scramble and win another lineball in the exact same spot. This time we did the exact same thing, hospital pass intercepted, Wicklow sauntered through (as our full backline had all drifted out) and duly buried it. The home crowd came to life, the visitors wilted and there was only one winner from that moment on. Been saying it for years, the opposition are at their most dangerous when we have the ball in our own defensive areas.
Second goal was a decent move, cut us open, the rampaging wing back laid it across and the ball was palmed to the net. Game over.
The ref - Murnane from Cork - is one of these new breed of officials who are desperate to appease the assessors. Just so picky. Gave us nothing in the first half but got a few handy ones off him after the break. Best team won anyway.
McSweeney at wingback kicked two fine points but other than O’Carroll we were toothless up front. Nash was industrious and it was a mistake to take him off. Begley was completely nullified at full forward and should have been replaced. That was only magnified when he was shown a straight red late on. Incident happened on the far side so didn’t see it clearly.
Lovely ground. An actual county ground which has a functioning tannoy system. They even encouraged all the youngsters to go on the pitch at half time - footballers to the dressing room end, any kids with Hurley’s to the scoreboard end. Gave a comprehensive list of half time scores from Division One to Division Four and even threw in the latest on the junior All-Ireland hurling final. Top class, other counties could learn a lot from little things like that.
Shaky drive home between torrential rain and dangerous crosswinds which had the car swaying. Stopped off in Barrack Obama Plaza on the way home, a load of distraught Charleville fans in there. It perked me up for the remainder of the trip.
We go again to Kilkenny next weekend.