I'm expecting our neighbours to put up stiff resistance

On the Line with Alan Aherne

Alan Aherne
Alan Aherne

I'm more than a little apprehensive ahead of Sunday's trip to Netwatch Cullen Park for our Leinster Senior football championship opener against Carlow.

And let me be clear, that uneasy feeling is not because I feel we lack the players or the management to get the job done and set up the quarter-final clash with All-Ireland titleholders Dublin that supporters have been anticipating since the draw was made.

It's bizarre really when you think about it: everybody knows the victorious team on Sunday will be hammered by the boys in blue, but still both sets of fans would love to get a crack at them, if only to savour the occasion probably more so than the game itself.

That has to say a lot about a championship structure that is no longer fit for purpose, but now that the big guns have been catered for with the new super eight plan, does anyone at the helm of the association really care about the Wexfords and Carlows of this world?

The answer is a resounding no as far as I can see, although of course they would disagree strongly with that opinion. Perhaps they should be reminded of that well-worn phrase that actions speak louder than words.

Let's see something being done to give the weaker counties an achievable goal in the All-Ireland football championship, and please don't say that the qualifiers fill that requirement as they lost their sparkle a long time ago.

Anyway, time to get back to my original thought: why am I not brimming with confidence prior to Sunday's clash?

It's simply because I reckon we could be in for a trying afternoon at a compact venue against a team playing in a more structured manner than is normally the case with Carlow.

They had an inexplicable slip-up in the league against London, but their first round draw away to Westmeath is probably a fairer reflection of the threat they potentially pose.

And let's be clear: we're in no position to be travelling to an away venue for a championship game expecting to win without being severely tested.

I felt the wholesale changes made for our last two league games were too extreme. I would have favoured one of two options instead: either play all the reserves in one of those ties but field close to full strength for the other, or alternatively use two-thirds of the regulars in both and throw in a different four or five panel members to complete the two starting 15s.

I guess we will see on Sunday if those three losses on the trot had a really detrimental impact or not, and if success is secured, then rest assured the matter will never be mentioned again.

Whatever about the group game defeats to Westmeath and Carlow, that final loss to the former in Croke Park must have hurt because the strongest team we could possibly field at the time endured an unmerciful thrashing.

However, I'm encouraged by the positive vibes emerging from the camp which is certainly a lot different to this time last year when some of the more experienced players weren't happy.

In contrast, the combination of Banty's man-management skills, the tough training of Martin McElkennon, plus the deep respect they all hold for David Murphy - a man whose passion for Wexford football knows no bounds - suggests that the squad will be ready for what I expect to be a searching test from our neighbours.

And they will need to be, given the expected early onslaught they will come under from a Carlow side waiting patiently in the long grass with a goal of scuppering our plans to host the Dubs.

Meanwhile, the Minor draw was kind in that it pitted us away to the Barrowsiders too, ensuring that the game would be played as a curtain-raiser to the Senior clash.

Some people are under the mistaken belief that, because St. Peter's reached the All-Ireland final, we should have a team of world-beaters, but they don't realise that the school side was packed with players over the age limit for Minor.

Our opponents will draw heavily from the Carlow C.B.S. outfit wwhich won the Leinster 'B' title and narrowly missed out on a national final spot, and they had a very good one-point win away to Westmeath last time out. In short, they will be very difficult to beat too.

Wexford People

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