by Kevin Egan
Getting out of Division 4 of the Lidl Ladies National Football League was a vital first step for Wicklow and with that goal achieved, the Garden County are ready to step up in class in the championship.
That's the verdict of manager Mick O'Rourke, who watched his side comfortably dismantle Louth at St Brendan's Park in Birr on Monday afternoon.
Wicklow lost out to Longford in the 2017 decider but went one step further to claim the fourth-tier silverware - and gain promotion to Division 3.
"From the start of the year, this was our first focus," said O'Rourke.
"We need to play at a higher level, and these girls remembered what it was like to be in the losing dressing room last year, they weren't going to let that happen again.
An early goal from player of the match Marie Kealy, who went on to rack up a personal tally of 3-3, got the Garden County out to a great start, but Kate Flood picked off some excellent points off a scant supply line at the other end of the field, and as Wicklow racked up nine first half wides, the favourites struggled to pull away.
O'Rourke was unconcerned, however, saying that he knew his charges would come good.
"They're an experienced bunch of girls, there's a bit of youth in there as well, once they were getting those chances I was happy enough that they would convert. Anyone who's played here at Birr would know that the town end is the scoring goal, I was confident we'd push on".
Meadhbh Deeney fired in a bullet of a shot to give Wicklow a 2-7 to 0-5 interval lead, but a goal for Louth immediately after the restart, toe poked in by Flood after Rebecca Carr's initial shot rebounded off the crossbar, hinted at a comeback.
Instead Wicklow rallied in spectacular fashion and two goals from Kealy, not to mention a brace of fine points from Jackie Kinch, pushed their lead out to 18 points at one stage.
A late consolation goal from Lauren Boyle trimmed the gap somewhat but Wicklow continued to look sharp going forward, firmly establishing their credentials as potential dark horses for the upcoming Leinster Intermediate championship.
"The girls will go back to their clubs for a while, we'll step up the training and we've plenty of space for improvement within this group. There's a more in this panel, there's 26 girls here and there's a huge team bond there. They're going to bring things further and we'll put it up to Meath on June 3rd," O'Rourke added.