Coiste structures guarantee all clubs feature in the finals
The Coiste na nOg playing season came to a conclusion on Saturday, and it certainly ended on a high note in several respects.
First and foremost, the game that drew a curtain over a hectic schedule - the Wexford People Minor football Premier championship final replay - gradually built up into a crescendo of excitement.
Spectators got their money's worth with extra-time required, and the fact that there wasn't one sly dig or angry word throughout is a great credit to the young participants from St. Martin's and Mogue O'Rahilly's.
It was their third big clash in two months and familiarity often breeds contempt, but that certainly wasn't the case on this occasion as the sportsmanship was exemplary.
The weather was perfect for the game, an unseasonably mild and sunny afternoon for this time of year, and the Taghmon venue was ideal.
I know that mentors of under-age finalists love to play in Innovate Wexford Park, but there is a lot to be said for hosting these games in homely country venues such as this one.
The decent crowd leaning on the railings around the pitch produced the type of good atmosphere that simply cannot be replicated in our main county ground with similar numbers.
Referee Brendan Martin deserves a word of praise too because he was excellent over the 80 minutes. Our officials get more than enough slack at times, much of it warranted it must be said, but it's only right and proper to acknowledge a job when it's very well done.
Here in People Newspapers we are proud to be sponsors of the Coiste na nOg championships, and we are committed to staying on board in that capacity for another five years at least, up to and including 2021.
I was updating my records over the weekend, and one fact really caught my eye. We have 49 clubs in Wexford, and all of them with the exception of Clonee field teams in the competitions from Under-14 to Minor.
Amazingly, only four didn't contest at least one of the 44 finals played this year between championships and shields: Buffers Alley, Clonard, Monageer-Boolavogue and Shamrocks.
And in all four cases, they were involved in deciders in 2015. In other words, every eligible club in Wexford has contested a minimum of one Coiste na nOg final over the past 14 months.
Some of the achievements are excellent. For example, the teams from Fethard and Cloughbawn were involved in five finals out of a possible six this year, while Rathnure featured in hurling deciders in all three grades.
Of course, there will always be divided opinions on whether or not shield finals are worthwhile, and if there's an excessive number of grades, but I believe the above facts represent a ringing endorsement of the current structures.
Still, I will never forget the wise words uttered many years ago at a County Board meeting by long-time Enniscorthy hurling mentor, Martin Doyle, who is sadly no longer with us.
During a debate on championship structures, Martin reminded everyone that having more grades doesn't necessarily lead to a better overall standard. His argument was that players will only benefit long-term by performing at the highest possible level, and that view should always be heeded because some mentors are happy to remain hovering around the lower grades if they can get away with it in order to stockpile championship titles.
I'll always remember publishing a photograph of a 13-a-side winning club some years ago, with 22 boys included. Clearly they could have easily fielded at 15-a-side, and all they were doing was depriving two of their squad of a game every time they fielded. I'd be interested to know how many of their nine substitutes are still playing.
That's why I was so pleased to see Crossabeg-Ballymurn completing an Under-14 championship double this year. By all accounts they had a very small squad, but they didn't take any easy options and instead yielded immense rewards after getting the maximum possible commitment from their players.
It was a template that all other clubs would do well to follow.