Pressure and feat the norm at any relegation decider
On entering the Oylegate arena on Saturday evening last I was reminded of the awful feeling of pressure and 'fear' that comes hand in hand with relegation finals.
It is no consolation to the contestants that some of the best and most dramatic games seen in Wexford over the past few years have been the last chance battles to avoid the dreaded drop.
I for one don't need any reminding of what unfolded a few years back between Glynn-Barntown and Buffers Alley, and as a result appreciated more than most what was going through the minds, particularly of the men from Rathnure as this dramatic game entered its final moments.
With time almost up the Shamrocks bore down on goal, only to see their last effort trickle inches over the bar off Dermot Flynn's fingers.
I have no doubt that blood pressure levels on the Blackstairs were at record levels at this precise point.
Had fate intervened to guide the ball three inches lower, I would venture to bet that black and amber legend Marks Morrissey, who was standing behind me, would have needed assistance to get back to his feet.
Nobody wants to see a team go down, particularly a club that has contributed (and will continue to do so) so much to the standing of hurling in this county as Rathnure.
On the flip side however, it was heartbreaking to see the Enniscorthy men come out on the losing side having given a wonderful display of courage and skill in a game that few gave them a chance of winning.
There is a huge future in this young team and although defeated they have exited the Senior ranks with reputations fully intact. A quick return is a distinct possibility if they continue to show the commitment witnessed last weekend.
Rathnure for their part must heed this warning and ensure that they don't leave themselves in a similar situation going forward.
Blackwater and Duffry Rovers went through similar torment and while congratulations is due to the former, hopefully we will see the Kiltealy men re-group and return next year.
It's knockout time in our Senior hurling championship this weekend and we have some mouth-watering ties to look forward to.
I feel Oulart will have too much for St. Anne's and will install themselves as outright favourites by semi time.
The Anne's for their part will feel that they generally hurl well against the black and red but don't seem to have maintained the form shown earlier in the year since their dismantling of Glynn-Barntown.
The suspension body blows suffered by the Martin's will ensure that a potential thriller with the Shels may not be as close as originally predicted, and I have been hugely impressed by the way the Castlebridge men have carried their title of champions this year.
A repeat of their performance in that last round would be fatal but I think Mick Kelly's men have the experience to come through.
Cloughbawn have been the form team of the championship to date and, despite the loss of Johnny Cullen and Barry Kehoe, should sneak through a dangerous Harriers hurdle in a game that would be easier call closer to throw-in with a full detail on injury issues.
Lastly, the game of the round could be the Glynn v. Buffers Alley tie which will stir memories of that memorable relegation encounter of a few years back.
Shane Carley's men have rebounded spectacularly from the injury setbacks to Pádraig Donnelly and Gary Moore early in the year.
I feel, however, the recent good form of the Alley has generated a momentum that will carry them through on this occasion.
To finish I feel that any county finals (where possible) should on go to a replay rather than playing extra-time.
I feel that when the first game is drawn a team should have a chance to re-group and extra-time should only be drawn on in replays or where unusual circumstances prevail.