Cleary confirmed as Minor manager
WILLIE CLEARY is set for a taste of inter-county management for the first time, having been appointed as the new Wexford Minor hurling boss.
Cleary, who was a member of Martin Storey's backroom team over the past few seasons, was elevated to the managerial post last week when he won the backing of the Coiste na nOg committee.
The primary school teacher from the Clonard club will be joined by Liam Griffin, whose experience was invaluable to the last management team, and GlynnBarntown clubman, Paul Carley, who will be a selector at inter-county level for the very first time.
Now Cleary, who coached Rathnure to last year's county Senior hurling final, will be hoping to weave his magic on the Wexford Minor hurling set-up. Along with Griffin he will have learned much about the players and the structures over the past two years, but the challenge he now faces is - can he revolutionise Model county Minor hurling?
Perhaps the greatest leap forward one could expect in his first season in charge is a provincial title. This year they came ever so close when losing the final to Dublin, a game that was well within their grasp, but it was their failure to drive on when in a promising position that came back to haunt them.
They disappointed against Galway in the All-Ireland quarter-final, but this game came against the backdrop of a hugely-congested club fixture programme, something that will not have gone unnoticed on Cleary and his new backroom team.
Now they must adapt to the challenges facing them and there are many. Colleges hurling must improve and provide the platform for future seasons. The only years that Wexford were a serious force at Minor hurling level was when the colleges, particularly St. Peter's, were competing for and winning provincial and All-Ireland titles.
There is no doubt that under-age hurling in the county has progressed. They have pulled off some impressive displays over the past two seasons so there has been enough progress to change the way the game is being looked at in the county.
Now Cleary will be hoping to provide the guiding hand along with the experience of Griffin and the back-up of Carley, whose skill levels one never doubted, and which he will be hoping to impose on the younger players. It looks a promising set-up as there's no doubting the enthusiasm of the trio appointed.
While the county has been talking about the appointment of Aidan O'Brien as the new Senior football manager (he will announce his backroom team over the coming week), Wexford may have to seek out a new Minor football manager as there are considerable doubts as to the availability of Paul McLoughlin.
McLoughlin has just returned home after a period in the States, and rumour has it that he's contemplating returning across the Atlantic to secure work. Having taken over the Minor team at short notice this year, he made considerable progress with the group of players, leaving one looking forward to him influencing the direction of under-age football in 2013 and beyond.
Should he depart Irish shores in search of employment he would be a huge loss to the under-age football set-up. However, Coiste na nOg are still holding out hope that the former Kildare star will be able to remain on, and a decision is expected quite shortly.
Wexford are still seeking out managers for Under21 football and hurling. It's not yet known if Kevin Kehoe will continue on for a third year in charge, while a number of names are being considered for hurling to replace Tony Demspey, who had served his three years in charge.
County Chairman, Diarmuid Devereux, is confident that both positions will be filled over the next two weeks.
In these recessionary times a number of counties are suffering in the sponsorship stakes, but Devereux is delighted to announce that Sports Savers are set to continue their role as Wexford G.A.A's main backers. 'I've met with Sports Savers and they are continuing as our main sponsors. I'm delighted they are remaining on and looking forward to working with them,' he said.