Wicklow to start with two debutants

Wicklow will start with two championship debutants in their team when they take on Kildare in tomorrow's Leinster SFC first round clash at Croke Park (throw-in 2pm).

Wicklow will start with two championship debutants in their team when they take on Kildare in tomorrow's Leinster SFC first round clash at Croke Park (throw-in 2pm).

Right half-back Mick McLoughlin and full-forward Seanie Furlong will both make their championship bows, with Kiltegan clubman Furlong back fully fit after an ankle injury.

Wicklow are without young half-forward John McGrath as he had his appeal against a suspension - handed down to him for his sending-off in March's Leinster Under-21 semi-final encounter with Wexford - turned down by the Leinster Council.

While his Kildare counterpart Kieran McGeeney is preparing for his first championship game as a manager, for Wicklow boss Mick O'Dwyer this will be his 116th.

The Waterville man said: "I love this time of year. Long days, good grounds, real championship weather - you can't beat it.

"I'm as excited about Sunday's game as I was when I first took charge of Kerry all those years ago. I'm told Wicklow have never won a Leinster senior championship game at Croke Park so there's an incentive for us."

Insisting that "league form doesn't count in the championship", 'Micko' added: "Kildare were a Division 1 team (this season) and we were in Division 4 which is a mighty difference. But we have to ignore that and go about getting our own game right."

O'Dwyer will look to the likes of Leighton Glynn and Ciaran Hyland to inspire his side, who are the reigning Tommy Murphy Cup champions.

Tommy Gill, the diminutive Rathnew forward, will have the role of an impact substitute having been sidelined recently due to an appendix operation.

Wicklow have only beaten Kildare once in 13 championship meetings since 1911.

The Garden county side won the sides' 1990 Leinster quarter-final tie by 1-7 to 0-6 with Kevin O'Brien and Phillip McGillycuddy, two of O'Dwyer's current selectors, playing leading roles on the pitch back then.

WICKLOW (SFC v Kildare): M Travers; C Hyland, D Power, A Byrne; M McLoughlin, D O hAnnaidh (capt), P Dalton; T Walsh, J Stafford; T Hannon, L Glynn, JP Dalton; D Odlum, S Furlong, P Earls.

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