Appetite of fans for hurling success is still strong as ever
Published 14/01/2017 | 00:00
Well, what did we learn from Sunday's double-header in the excellent surrounds of Páirc Uí Shíocháin in Gorey?
Not a great deal if truth be told, certainly from the hurling anyway as U.C.D. fielded a weakened team which ensured that the game didn't even come remotely close to a contest at any stage.
Last year the Munster Council decided to leave the third level colleges out of their early-season competitions, and they are doing likewise in 2017.
Perhaps the time has come for Leinster to consider a similar move. These games will be a complete waste of energy for the counties unless they come up against full-strength sides, and it must have been a frustrating exercise for Davy Fitzgerald and his fellow mentors.
The fact of the matter is that more value would have been gleaned from an in-house 15 on 15 match among the panel, but that only became apparent with the benefit of hindsight.
What Sunday did underline is that the appetite for success among the Wexford hurling fraternity remains as strong as ever. They were out in force for this first game under the new management, with full use made of the impressive stand at the Naomh Eanna club grounds, a welcome addition since the last inter-county game played there which is a credit to all involved.
One disappointing aspect though was the noticeable thinning out of the crowd before the football game. In reality it has never been any other way in this county when a hurling match comes first on a double-header, but I expected more people to stay on and support Seamus McEnaney and his team.
After all, the weather was quite mild for the second Sunday in January, and there had been no value for money in the first 70 minutes as it wasn't a contest in any shape or form.
Despite that, there was a rush to the exit gates as the football teams warmed up, and it must have been demoralising for the players who still battled to the end and finished with a share of the spoils from a game that could have been won or lost by both sides.
By my calculations a total of ten marks were awarded, eight to Wexford starting with Tiarnan Rossiter's fetch in the eleventh minute.
This was followed by four for Daithí Waters, two for his midfield partner Colm Kehoe, and one for John Leacy.
From my recollection the recipient of the mark stayed static and took the free on all of the first five occasions before Leacy latched on to a U.C.D. kick-out and burst on regardless in the 48th minute.
I'm not sure if this was by accident or design, but I reckon that the rule will take some getting used to, simply because the natural reaction for all players is to stop when they hear the referee's whistle.
This seemed to be the case on Sunday as there was no great advantage to be accrued from coming to a halt on any of the occasions in question.
Then again, it may be advantageous to take the free when the player catches his own kick-out and therefore isn't facing towards the opposition's goal.
At least that gives him the opportunity to turn in the direction he wants to travel and pick out a colleague with a pass. The difference in Leacy's decision to drive on was that he was running on to a rival re-start and had their posts clearly in his sights.
Overall though, my opinion hasn't changed in the space of a week, as I feel the mark will be utterly redundant when the important games come around as there's still only a 50-50 chance at best of winning clean possession by pumping the ball past the 45-metre line.
The Gorey venue came in for high praise Sunday, and I was in another location all Wexford G.A.A. folk should be proud of 24 hours before when the combined schools romped to a 46-point victory over their Westmeath counterparts in the first round of the Leinster championship.
It certainly was a fruitful weekend for J.J. Doyle, a mentor with this team as well as the county Senior hurlers, as he witnessed a combined total of 17-48 from his charges. Dublin North will offer a far stiffer test for the schools side, but there's a lot of good coaching work going on at under-age level in the county and that was evident in the pleasing style of play deployed in this runaway win.