McConville says Wicklow have ‘loads to learn from’ after two O’Byrne Cup games.

Wicklow concluded their O’Byrne Cup campaign with a lacklustre 1-9 to 0-7 defeat to the Faithful County on Saturday in Tullamore.

his performance, which lacked forward cohesion or penetration at times, was indicative of a side that showed nine changes from the team that lost to Dublin in Baltinglass last Wednesday.

In the front six alone, the entire half-forward line was changed, with Rory Stokes, Eddie Doyle, and Patrick Whelan coming in for JP Hurley, Mark Kenny, and Cathal Baker, with Jack Kirwan dropping into midfield. Meanwhile, Eoin Darcy was replaced in the starting XV by Tommy Kelly.

It was the last chance for McConville to assess his options ahead of his expected squad announcement this week and while he admitted Wicklow’s inability to fashion and take chances from play was disappointing, he believes the first-choice front six would wreak havoc on any county.

“I look at it that when we have our best six forwards out on the field, we can cause serious damage to anybody,” he said. “It is just getting those boys together. We haven’t had them yet. We played three or four of them on Wednesday and a couple today. It is about getting those guys firing together.

“(Four points from play) is not good enough and obviously that needs immediate attention and immediate attention it is going to get.”

In total, across the two games, Wicklow has used 33 different players. Only six – Mark Jackson, Karl Furlong, Padraig O’Toole, Jack Kirwan, Kevin Quinn, and Eoin Murtagh – have started both matches, while a further eight – Jacques McCall, JP Hurley, Cillian McDonald, Craig Maguire, Tommy Kelly, Adam. McHugh, Simon Bouchier, and Paddy Whelan – have played a role in the two contests.

The volume of players available and used, while leading to a lack of cohesion against Offaly, has given McConville plenty of food for thought.

The O’Byrne Cup campaign has featured some impressive performances from the likes of Jack Kirwan, while Adam McHugh looked bright coming off the bench against Offaly and it was promising to see Matthew Ging to get a quarter of an hour on Saturday.

“Anybody who isn’t injured or hasn’t picked up a knock has played some football over the last week or so.

“That is definitely a plus and it gives everybody an opportunity and it gives us an opportunity to look at everybody and assess everybody over the next couple of days.

“I think what you learn is you learn are they capable of playing and operating at this level, and I think we learned over the two games that the majority of the boys, 90 per cent of the boys who we’ve introduced are capable of. playing at this level and that for me is the most important thing.

“Whether we get the finer details in before the league starts or whether they are a longer-term project, they are definitely worth being around.”

Wicklow begin their Division 4 league campaign away to Carlow on Saturday, January 28. Before then, McConville is hopeful of playing a few challenge matches in order to refine his by-then trimmed down squad.

And with areas of improvement identified from the O’Byrne Cup, McConville believes that being able to work on those areas in games hidden away from view and without the crutch of competitive expectation will benefit the group.

“It’s difficult for the lads because going into the O’Byrne Cup without any challenge matches behind them is tough. You are playing, effectively, your behind-doors challenge matches in full view of everybody.

“I think a lot of the focus sometimes on O’Byrne Cup games is lads playing competitive games and wanting to win, so a win can take away the focus on a performance.

“That has probably happened with us over the last two games but as I say there is loads to take away, loads to learn from.

“There is loads we are not happy with but there are also plenty of positives.”

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