16 October, 2008
Bray minor footballers produced a whirlwind
start which saw them through in the Wicklow final against a
very well coached Blessington side on a scoreline of 2-6 to 1-6,
thus completing a great double with the hurlers who had already won
the County Championship.
The victory completed a magic trip by this squad who have won all
the championships from U-10 (North), U-12,U-14, U-16 and U-18
on Sunday. What makes the feat special is the team also won
the All Ireland Feile in Tyrone four years ago, which gives them an
unique place in the history of Wicklow football.
The group came together in 1999 as eight and nine year olds
and it was as much this long and enduring camaraderie and
friendship which won out at Aughrim on Sunday as any
great play on the day. Having had a dream start in
which they were 2-4 to 0-1 up after 16 minutes, Bray then missed a
series of chances with the light wind in their back and by
giving away a penalty and two pick-up frees late on, opened the
door for Blessington to resurrect themselves on the
The West boys stormed into contention
with four unanswered points in the second half which left just the
minimum between the contenders as they headed down the final
straight.It was then that the Bray lads rallied each other and the
fact that they didn't let the ball pass the half way line for the
last five minutes was testament to the blood and guts approach
which said: "We will not be beaten.".
With Man of the match David 'Gigo' Haughton scything through the
defence with strength and pace and Jordan Egan dominating midfield,
it provided the platform for big John Breslin to race through and
score a brilliant point which lifted the siege.
With time almost up, Gearoid O Murchu won a
wonderful free with sheer persistence which refused to
allow Blessington comfort on the ball and Paul Cunningham
slotted over the free to signal a cherished victory.Bray
though know only too well that it was that first quarter when they
played a perfect game of intense football which closed down
Blessington at every turn which won the day. That and the tactic of
finding both Cunningham and Breslin with long balls had
the losers in all sorts of trouble from which they never fully
Two frees from Cunningham and then an exquisite pass from him to
Gigo saw the centre-forward draw first blood with a goal at the
second attempt. Moments later the marauding Egan cut through the
defence for the umpteenth time and his handpass left Cunningham in
the clear to slot home Bray's second strike.
The placing of Egan - the best minor midfielder in
the county - at right half forward was a master stroke by the Bray
bench as most of the damage came from the fact that he lorded it in
the air and then had the pace to cut ribbons through the
Mark Nolan was magnificent until shipping an accidental high tackle
and Aco Keating's industry directly led to the first goal.
With ten minutes to go to half-time, Bray's sprint from the blocks
began to sag and they plainly had not the fitness to go all the way
with the intense game set out for them.
This saw Blessington come storming back and it
was then that the Bray management had to thank their backs for the
amount of covering and harassing they put their bodies through in
the cause of the Bray jersey.
Sean Byrne was magnificent at fullback, pitted against no less an
opponent than Dean Siney, who had scored 3-6 in the semi-final
against Luke O'Tooles. Byrne's performance of strength, speed and
pure skill kept a tight rein on Blessington's talisman and when he
won one particular head to head duel midway through the second half
which saw the forward having to foul him, it was a seminal
moment in the game's many turnings.
Eoghan Wogan was another hero. What's new? He not
just won ball deep in Bray territory but had the presence of mind
to travel with it until he could give a telling pass. The two
Murphys - Cailean and Aaran were again magnificent and
Adam Benson fought a chest infection to give his all and in the end
two of his ball from defence carried a lot of weight further up
field. Captain Conor Power held the high ground against an array of
opponents and under his leadership, Bray didn't know the meaning of
the word lose.
Conor Thomas had been this team's goalie for six years but played
outfield in the first half because of his outstanding
This gave Stephen Carton his chance between the sticks and when he
got injured making a brilliant save just before half-time which
affected his vision, Bray were lucky to have Thomas to revert to
the No 1 position. And he produced one great save at a
crucial time to keep out a certain goal.
In the forwards, Gigo's performance on no less an opponent
than Ronan Doyle was magnificent as he kept his team going
forward and ended up with 1-1 to his name. When Gigo gets that look
in his eye, other teams should watch out. And he had it yesterday.
So too had Egan who missed the semi-final win over St Pats.
Now here was a man who played two games rolled into one for Bray on
Sunday and with a little luck, his runs could have yielded a goal
or two to his personal account. O Murchu worked and foraged in
a role unfamiliar to him to allow the long ball into the deadly duo
of Cunningham and Breslin. The front two are hard to mark and in
fairness Blessington had two great players on them - Paul
McLoughlin and Niall Keogh - who fought for every ball as if their
lives depended on it.
In the end though, the Bray lads held sway and had their enormous
commitment to the cause rewarded.
Bray were forced to lline out without two first team
stalwarts - the dashing Fergal Devlin in defence who broke
three ribs playing rugby and the high fielding Ronan Cunningham in
attack, who dislocated his shoulder in training. On the day
the Emmets were lucky to have Sean Prendergast to come in, for he
saw a lot of ball and was unlucky not to get at least two or three
scores. With Aaran Murphy injured, Devlin showed great bravery in
going on and playing brilliantly, carrying a series of attacks to
the Blessington team from deep. Robin O'Sullivan strength and
coolness on the ball was vital in those final ten minutes when he
won and kept possession to great effect as a third
The Bray Management of PJ Cunningham, Pat Wogan and Frank
Devlin would like to thank the subs which weren't used, Dylan
Kavanagh, Chris O'Connor, Niall McCague, James Talbot, Ross Murphy
(Injured), Ronan Cunningham (Injured) for the way they supported
the team right through. And they would also like to thank Darragh
Scully for his expert input from outside and that of John
Henderson, Liam McGraynor and Dave Barry for their commitment from
within the club to ensuring the Bray minors ended up as champions.
As Peter Keogh said afterwards - Double champs,because earlier this
summer, the hurlers won their minort championships.
BRAY EMMETS - S Carton; C Murphy, S Byrne, E Wogan; A Murphy, A
Benson, C Power (Capt); A Keating, M Nolan; J Egan, D Haughton
(1-1), G O Murchu; P Cunningham (1-4, 0-3 f), J Breslin
(0-1), C Thomas. Subs S Prendergast for S Cartopn (inj). F
Devlin for A Murphy, R O'Sullivan for M Nolan.