BALTINGLASS V TINAHELY
What a final awaits between Baltinglas and Tinahely! In what has been an unprecedented and difficult year, great credit must go to the County Board and the various committees for completing excellent championships across all adult grades. It has been one real positive on a local level throughout the pandemic, giving communities a real lift and none more so than Baltinglass and Tinahely, who will meet to decide where the famed Miley Cup will reside for the next 12 months.
Not many would have predicted this pairing before the championship began, but both sides are certainly there on merit. Baltinglass have been so consistent throughout the campaign which has been a real highlight, and are priding themselves on the collective, which is key to any successful team. They are not depending on one or two individuals and have match winners in every line, aligned with a savage energy to their play. Defensively they are well set up and I believe that Tinahely will have to score goals if they are to win the game, and to date Baltinglass have been very difficult to break down. The skill and tenacity of their tackling often goes unnoticed but is of the highest quality and none more so than the likes of Dan Kelly and Jason Kennedy in the forwards, who really set the tone when Balto lose possession. Not many outside of the club would have tipped them to beat the favourites AGB in the semi final, but they really set the tone from the first minute in a high tempo all action display which was full of class and poise. The tables have now flipped where Baltinglass now find themselves favourites coming into the final. I do not believe that will affect them however, as they were written off by many before the championship began and are a team playing with great motivation and unity. Baltinglass will fully respect the challenge of Tinahely and be acutely aware of the battle that is coming.
Tinahely deserve massive credit for the way in which they regrouped after the opening round extra time defeat to Kiltegan. You can’t beat coming through on the right side of tight championship games, it is worth multiple top training sessions. The belief, mental strength and trust that brings to the collective is so valuable and puts them in great health coming into this final. To go to the well against highly flying Bray, 3 in a row seeking St. Pats and then again against the in form Avondale in the semi final is testament to the culture and spirit in the side. They will no doubt be coming into Sunday’s clash full of confidence and a belief that this is their year. However, county final day is a different animal and you can’t underestimate the challenges it brings. The build up is different, the non stop talk and hype in the community, the flags, the gear, the demand for tickets, the media are just some of the distractions and that is before a ball is kicked! You can’t beat experience in this regard, which Balto have. The fact there will be a severely restricted crowd may prove to be a positive for a side playing in their first final for 36 years.
Both sides have a great mix of youth and experience. Baltinglass – Mcgrath, Cullen, Murphy, English, Kennedy leading the way with the brilliant youth of Keogh, McHugh, Doody, Jackson and the elusive Burkes. Tinahely – Crouch, Dillon, Byrne, Nolan, Cushe with the exuberance of Darcy, Stokes, Ging, McDonald et al. A healthy rivalry underage in recent years has seen Balto hold the upper hand triumphing over Tinahely at 16’s, minor and 20’s before Tinahely reversed the 20’s on route to an impressive win last year. These young players will know each other inside out and it could be which side’s youngsters deal with the pressure best on county final day that will see their team over the line. The midfield battle between English, Doody, Dillon and Crouch will be pivotal in setting a platform to dominate for each side. Both sides will look to hit their inside forwards early when possible. The trio of Mcgrath, McHugh and Kelly for Balto and Dillon, Darcy and Ging for Tinahely are all equally dangerous and in form. However, finals often throw up unsung heroes and it will be fascinating to see who rises to the occasion. Both managers are extremely astute and it will be a real battle on the sideline too. Gino Heaslip will be a man on a mission to get the county title that he desperately craves and at this stage deserves. Alan Costello has been a great addition to Wicklow football and is a really shrewd coach too, not afraid to make huge tactical calls for big games depending on the opposition.
So who will be crowned county champions on Sunday? This could be the start of a new great rivalry in Wicklow football, which can only be good for the county. For me I think that Miley will be arriving back to the banks of the Slaney after a 4 year absence. I think that this Baltinglass side has the necessary experience, guile, game management and football to ultimately win out on the day by 3/4 points after a pulsating game. However, it will be far from easy against a resilient and talented Tinahely team, a team that will too have their day in the near future.