Baltinglass v AGB
A fascinating tie awaits between two of the best footballing sides in the county. Both teams are renowned for their quality open and attacking football. However, this year both have probably been more impressive in how well they have been set up as a unit defensively, along with their game management in general.
Both teams are littered with match winners, with the likes of John McGrath, Johnny Keogh and Dan Kelly on Baltinglass and Chris O Brien, Dara Fitz and Cathal Kelleher for Arklow. In theory this would appear to be a game of the purists, however I expect a real tight, cagey and tactical affair with great emphasis on ball retention, probing and maximising scoring chances when they can get inside the opposing 45.
Baltinglass have been very impressive in the way they have controlled games against Dunlavin and Blessington in a disciplined and workmanlike manner, before putting up a big score when the game opened up against Kiltegan.
Likewise, Arklow have been impressive by blitzing Bray early and controlling the game after, before overcoming Rathnew in a tight game which must surely fill them a lot of confidence mentally.
I think the middle third is going to have a huge influence on the game. For Baltinglass, the Burke twins are back to their all action best and Billy Cullen is really influencing games. The return of Jason Kennedy is a massive boost after a couple of years of unfortunate luck with injuries. Jason is one of the best club players in Wicklow and always rises to the big occasion, a real leader. Adam McHugh came in to replace the injured Peadar Burke and had a big game against Kiltegan, and no doubt Baltinglass could do with a similar performance on the big stage from him.
For Arklow, Chris O Brien is a really influential player, rotating between full forward and midfield and pulling a lot of strings and chipping in with big scores. Andy Maher has developed into a complete player and his endless running, play making and energy will be vital for Arklow. Jack Hamilton and Peter Hempenstall both really impressed me against Rathnew also and will be seeking a similar return on Sunday.
Both teams will really fancy their chances here, with the winners rightfully believing they will go on to win the championship. Arklow will have to deal with being favourites which can bring its own pressure, whereas Baltinglass have been on an upward curve throughout this championship, and have built a lot momentum somewhat under the radar. There could only be a kick of the ball between them, and I am going with Baltinglass to win by the odd point, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it ended up being after extra time.