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Dublin: 6 °C Saturday 19 January, 2019

'I just come up zoned-in, kick it and that’s it' - Wicklow's free-scoring goalkeeper

Mark Jackson clipped over 0-7 on a good weekend for goalkeepers.

IT WAS QUITE the weekend for the new age of goalkeepers.

Graham Brody looks on as Naomhan Rossiter scores a goal Laois fly-keeper Graham Brody Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

Laois stopper Graham Brody starred in his county’s extra-time win over Wexford on Saturday evening in a unique fly-keeper role.

The Portlaoise native regularly ventured into the Wexford half as part of a very bold strategy by his manager John Sugrue. Brody has played outfield regularly for his club in the past and is extremely comfortable in possession.

At one stage during the first-half at Innovate Wexford Park, he was the furthest Laois player forward and was almost slipped in for a goal chance had the pass from Alan Farrell been better.

“Graham Brody brought goalkeeping to a new level,” RTÉ pundit Ciaran Whelan said on the Sunday Game.

“The admiration I’d have for him is he chooses the right time to do it. He’s very comfortable in possession. This guy loves to get into the action.

“He shows leadership. Maybe it’s a new style, it’s hugely risky. It’s gutsy play, he can play a bit of football.”

The freedom Sugrue gave Brody paid dividends in the final minute of the tie, when Donie Shanley chipped a Wexford penalty over the bar. Within seconds, Brody had his restart take short and raced upfield to join the Laois attack.

He drew the attention of a couple of Wexford defenders and Laois were able to transfer the ball to corner-back Gareth Dillon for the equalising score. The O’Moore County powered to victory in extra-time.

On Sunday afternoon, it was Mark Jackson’s turn to help his team over the line against Offaly in Brody’s hometown.

The Wicklow goalkeeper saved a second-half penalty from Nigel Dunne and top-scored for his team with seven points – five frees and two 45s. His frees were all from a considerable distance, with only one coming within 35m of the Offaly posts.

“I would normally kick frees,” said the 19-year-old Baltinglass man after the county picked up a first Leinster victory in five years.

Mark Jackson celebrates at the final whistle Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

“But to be honest, when I kick them I don’t know what the score is. I just come up zoned-in, kick it and that’s it. I am still in awe, it was a great game, my heart is still pounding.”

Without the presence of an official archive of GAA statistics, it’s impossible to tell, but Jackson may well have put up the highest tally ever scored by a goalkeeper in a single game in All-Ireland SFC history.

Wicklow’s defensive game saw them regularly drop as many as 14 men behind the ball, before using a running game to draw scoreable frees up front.

With veteran Sean Furlong an accurate shooter inside the scoring zone, Jackson was able to clip over the frees from distance. The strategy worked to good effect against Offaly.

John Evans is in his first season in charge of the Garden County and Jackson admits the mood among the players was good despite their winless Division 4 campaign.

“The spirit is good in the camp but there against Offaly just something completely clicked. I don’t know what it was, it was brilliant. We knew we could win it. It took something from deep in us.

“We knew we had it, we brought it out and it was brilliant. Hopefully this will bring out more Wicklow supporters from now on. It’s great. That’s what all the fans need. It’s a big boost to the county.”

Mark Jackson saves a penalty Mark Jackson saves a penalty against Offaly. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Wicklow’s reward is a quarter-final clash with All-Ireland champions Dublin, a game Jackson says he “can’t wait” for.

“We will give it a go against Dublin. It’s a big occasion. It’s very exciting, I can’t wait now. It’s a few hard weeks. We will give it a good rattle.

“They would be at a bit of a higher standard than myself at the minute. Look, I am going to go out, give it all I can and that’s all you can do. Hope for the best.

“It’s going to be a great game. We are just going to go out and express ourselves. That’s all we can do and see from there.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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