TOMORROW afternoon in Portlaoise, Kildare and Wicklow renew acquaintances and when Tony Hannon takes to the pitch, he will have plenty recent experiences of the Lilywhites to draw on.
In 2008 they sent tremors throughout the championship by defeating Kildare in Croke Park and though Kieran McGeeney’s men got the better of them 12 months later in Portlaoise, it remains an occasion to savour.
“I remember in 2008, they said there was 20,000 at it but it seemed like there was 200 at the game,” recalls Hannon. “It was a very small crowd in very big stadium. Then we played them in the 2009 qualifiers and we reckoned there was 20,000 there. The atmosphere was much better and the fans seemed much closer to the pitch. It was nip and tuck right the way through. Maybe a provincial ground is the way to go for the early ties and fingers crossed we’ll have a full house again tomorrow.”
Wicklow enter the tie on the back of another fruitless season trying to emerge from the league doldrums in Division Four. But Hannon insists manager Mick O’Dwyer’s famed indifference to the secondary competition did not influence the players attitude.
“Micko probably doesn’t hold a whole lot of favour to it. But that doesn’t mean we go out to throw games or try not to win. We try to win every game.”
One positive from the league was the Garden County’s acquisition of former Mayo attacker Austin O’Malley. “It’s brilliant to have Austin in. He expressed a great interest in joining up with the panel. He is a fantastic scorer and his record speaks for itself. Any team is looking for scoring forwards. It’s probably the hardest thing to do in the game, get the ball over the bar and into the net. That’s something Austin does really well.”
WICKLOW: M Travers; C Hyland, A Byrne, S Kelly; M McLoughlin, B McGrath, D Hayden; J Stafford, R Finn; T Hannon, P Dalton, P Earls; A O'Malley, S Furlong, L Glynn.
KILDARE: S Connolly; A MacLochlainn, M Foley, H McGrillen; G White, B Flanagan, E Bolton; AN Other, H Lynch; M O'Flaherty, E O'Flaherty, P O'Neill; J Doyle, R Sweeney, J Kavanagh.
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