Intermediate farce casts county in an extremely bad light
The feel-good factor that once gripped the Leinster Intermediate hurling championship seems no longer - as the delights of those days are now long forgotten, or so it seems.
When the Intermediate hurling championship was first introduced back in 1961, the fact that the competition caught the imagination of the public was something to behold.
One can cast an eye back to Wexford Park which was packed for finals, both provincial and All-Ireland, and it was a cauldron where many a Wexford player was introduced to the adult grades before going on to win a Celtic Cross at Senior level.
To throw some light on this grade and its Wexford connection is important at this stage. Just a short few years back, in 2014, Wexford failed to enter both Intermediate hurling and Junior football. Following a prolonged campaign by this column, Wexford were re-introduced to both grades, winning a provincial hurling title in 2015 and achieving two successive provincial Junior football crowns.
For a county starved of silverware this was welcome.
But now in 2017 do we once again envisage the dismantling of both codes?
The Junior footballers, with a management team only put in place weeks before their game with Meath, failed, as expected, to win that elusive three-in-a-row, going under miserably to the Royal county who have succeeded them now as Leinster champions.
Now we turn to Intermediate hurling. Many rumours have circulated over recent days regarding Wexford's ability to field a team for this Wednesday evening's Leinster final with Kilkenny.
Last Thursday last the rumour mill had it that just three players (all from Bannow-Ballymitty) had made themselves available. The team management were still struggling with numbers up to Friday night, being unable to release any player names for a match preview, and this despite an appeal to all clubs from County Secretary Margaret Doyle.
Given the plight in which the team management found themselves in, the County Secretary was forced to release an e-mail to all clubs requesting that they notify the County Board office of any players who would be available in order to announce a squad for the final.
The feel-good factor sweeping across Wexford hurling is no longer, with this e-mail coming less than 24 hours after the county were on the receiving end of a heavy defeat to Kilkenny in the provincial Under-21 hurling final.
The Intermediate grade is by all accounts this year being subject to a new rule, with only players from Intermediate and Junior clubs being eligible to participate. But the ruling should not be an obstacle.
The real complaint is the lack of preparation, and the failure of team management to bring a squad together, even for four weeks for training, coaching and a minimum of two challenge games, in preparation for a provincial final.
With all the talk around the county about the upsurge of hurling which can be attributed to the Davy Fitzgerald factor, Wexford has failed its hurlers from the lower grades.
For the record, the 1961 decider was a memorable day for Wexford, not alone in that they won the first All-Ireland intermediate title, but also because they staged the game in Wexford Park, and the day went off splendidly.
The Intermediate championship was divided into two sections, with the All-Ireland champions and British champions meeting to decide the overall winners.
Wexford, having won the 'home' final, faced London in the decider at Wexford Park and won rather easily, by 3-15 to 4-4.
This was a game where goalkeeper Paddy Shiggins (Shamrocks) was forced to cry-off at a late hour owing to an appendix operation, being replaced by Jim O'Neill who had to get special release from St. Peter's College boarding school.
The winning Wexford team was: Jim O'Neill (Kilmore); Jim Hyland (Shamrocks), Billy Ryan (Hollow Rangers), Michael Collins (Shamrocks); Bill Doran (Buffers Alley), Johnny Crean (Hollow Rangers), Paddy Sullivan (Shamrocks); Larry Byrne (Shamrocks, capt.), Paul Lynch (Shamrocks); Johnny Walsh (Hollow Rangers), Nicky Newport (St. Fintan's), Tommy Hawkins (Ferns St. Aidan's); Larry Crean (Hollow Rangers), Jim Coady (Shamrocks), Seamus Whelan (St. Martin's).