Footballers learn fate as journey to Mullingar awaits

Brendan Furlong's Hop Ball column

Published 19/05/2015 | 00:00

Brendan Furlong
Brendan Furlong

The 2015 championship is up and running with every county around the country preparing to embark on their respective campaigns.

Looking ahead to this year's football championship, it looks like there will be little change at the top table. With the exception of Ulster, the remaining provinces have been dominated by a few counties: Munster with Kerry and Cork, while Roscommon may bring more of an edge to Connacht along with Mayo and Galway.

For Leinster, it's in the eyes of all football followers a one-county race, with Dublin clear favourites to emerge from their own back garden.

Last Sunday left me free for the first time this year so I became an armchair fan, taking in the highly combative Donegal versus Tyrone Ulster Senior football preliminary round game.

We all can argue the merits of the Ulster fare but right now it's the only competitive provincial title race. Take a look at what lies ahead.

Donegal for all their effort in winning this preliminary round clash have been handed a daunting quarter-final game with another arch-rival, the Kieran McGeeney-managed Armagh.

Had that great Kerry team a provincial championship such as this to negotiate before even thinking of a quarter-final, how many All-Ireland titles would they have won? It would generate much debate.

Wexford may not be viable football contenders but they have just learned who their quarter-final opponents will be. They must make the journey to Cusack Park in Mullingar to take on Westmeath, who easily disposed of Louth on Sunday in Drogheda.

Wexford will go into this game on June 14 on the back of a poor league, resulting in demotion to Division 4. Their performances lacked consistency and intensity. Only an improved approach could leave them with a chance of a quarter-final victory and a place in the semi-final against the winners of Meath and Wicklow.

Wexford football is not in a good place at the moment. New manager David Power was given a difficult hand to deal with. Player retirements, injuries and defections saw him having to rebuild a squad which failed its opening test - the league.

As a result he will go into the championship with a new-look combination. They may lack the strength in depth but he will still be hopeful of a squad of at least 20 players realising their potential, and getting the momentum sufficient to deal with the Westmeath challenge.

In Leinster there are no signs of the gap closing with Dublin out on their own. Luckily Wexford have been drawn in the weaker side of the title race, leaving them with a real chance of progressing. Time and again Wexford have crumbled but in more recent times they came ever so close to dealing with the Dublin challenge on several occasions.

Their more recent collapse in the league is the source of concern. Defections from the squad and a poor league has added pressure ahead of their opener but in Wexford they know how to fight.

While provincial success is firmly beyond the current squad, management have their sights set on at least a provincial semi-final.

David Power will have the team prepared well and will be looking to build momentum over the coming weeks of preparation. Although on the easier side of the draw, they will still need a special effort if they are to make it through to a provincial semi-final.

Last week this column questioned the closing of Wexford Park at such a crucial stage of the season.

This week the news is more positive. The keys have been handed back and the gates unlocked, with the pitch now being made available to county teams for their final preparations as the provincial championship games draw ever so close.

It's great to see common sense prevail as very little grass could be gained by closure for a few weeks at the cost of inter-county progress.

Now it's over to the groundsmen.

Junior squad: The Wexford Junior football squad for Wednesday's Leinster championship clash with Wicklow in Bellefield (7.30 p.m.) is Anthony Masterson (capt.), Robbie Vallejo, Jim Rossiter, Joey Wadding, Páraic O'Keeffe, Glen Malone, Naomhan Rossiter, Syl Byrne, Jamie Carty, Niall Hughes, Emmet Kent, Graham Carty, Ciarán Redmond, Kevin Rowe, Conor Sinnott, Richard Cleary, Niall Harney, Declan Murphy, Peter Travers, Noel Roche, Lee Devereux, Graham Staples, Robert Frayne, Paul Curtis.

Wexford People

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