A paltry four clubs are dining at Minor hurling's top table
Published 02/04/2016 | 00:00
It was an unthinkable prospect, but the reality has arrived - a Wexford Premier Minor hurling championship with just four clubs participating.
It's a championship riddled with anomalies as, while the four clubs play off in a league section, no side can be eliminated from the championship proper.
They just play for group places, with the top two teams qualifying for the county semi-final stage, while the bottom two sides enter the championship at the quarter-final stage against whoever emerges from a Premier 'B' section.
That may sound like a championship running smoothly but there is an added attraction if you would like to call it that. This championship is now divided into two tiers - as for some strange reason the clubs saw fit to create a second level, thus demeaning the status of Minor hurling in the county even further.
To further add to the embarrassment that is Minor hurling in the county, no fewer than 17 clubs have amalgamated in one format or other through the various divisions, highlighting the sad decline of the ancient game amongst our youth, while also demonstrating the problems facing us at inter-county level, given the current status of the game where even large rural parishes are unable to field a Minor hurling side.
Another startling statistic is that Enniscorthy, so long the hotbed of hurling in the county, is currently rated below Premier Division and tier two grades, with Rapparees now operating out of Division 1.
The Premier Division is currently comprised of two urban and two rural clubs, while New Ross town, so long playing catch-up in all grades, also fail to figure as a club capable of offering something positive to top flight hurling in the county.
The Premier Minor hurling group is comprised of Naomh Eanna, Faythe Harriers, Shelmaliers and St. Martin's (holders). For the record, tier two brings together Rathgarogue-Cushinstown, Glynn-Barntown who were last year's beaten finalists, Oulart-The Ballagh (2015 Division 1 champions), and Mogue O'Rahilly's, a combination of Fethard and Gusserane.
But we are not finished yet. How about this for the number of amalgamated clubs - St. John's Gaels (Bannow-Ballymitty and Clongeen); Kilross Gaels (Kilmore and Rosslare); Dunbrody Gaels (St. James' and Horeswood); Munn Abbain Gaels (Taghmon-Camross and Adamstown); Macamore Gaels (Buffers Alley and Ballygarrett); Castle Craan Gaels (Craanford and Liam Mellows); Hollow Rovers (Duffry Rovers and Marshalstown); Ballinastragh Gaels (Ballyfad and Tara Rocks).
In fact, the championship is so ridiculous that it is being turned into a farce. How do we start explaining?
To try to keep it simple, the four Premier teams play off in a league format, but strikingly the two top teams cannot be eliminated until the county semi-final stage, which would be their fourth championship outing, while the bottom two qualify for the quarter-finals.
To complicate matters a little further, tier two's top two sides help to make up the quarter-finals, so one presumes after all this there will be a shield competition.
Don't blame the system. This has been brought in by the clubs along with the top table. Frankly, one cannot see where the standard required for a competitive inter-county Minor side can be reached with such a mish-mash championship set-up.
The question must now be asked: how serious are we regarding Minor hurling in the county? With such a composition of amalgamated clubs, one is left wondering what the standard is like in the Under-16 and Under-14 grades, given that so few players are coming through at Minor level.
Wexford is now a county with a serious hurling problem. Despite the hundreds of thousands of euro having been poured into coaching, the numbers of players are not transferring through to under-age level in the county.
Certainly serious questions must be asked of the clubs and the efforts being made to attract boys to hurling in their respective parishes. When one sees a small rural parish like Piercestown providing successful under-age sides, one must seriously question the strength of the promotion of hurling in the majority of other parishes in the county.