Pressure injected on Minor teams must be diffused
Published 12/05/2015 | 00:00
When the final whistle sounded on Saturday to scenes of wild celebration amongst the Westmeath following, my mind involuntarily went back to a bleak Wednesday evening in 2007 when I along with Liam Dunne occupied Larry Coleman's position as Wexford Minor hurling boss.
We had taken over a few months previously and set out with a completely new panel (with the exception of Joe Kelly) to the one that Carlow had beaten well in the previous year's competition.
A good Carlow combination were a point up with two minutes to go and I can safely say that in all my years in sport it was one of the most pressurised situations I have ever found myself in.
Things at that point can go either way and fortunately for us fate took a hand in the form of a Lee Murphy goal and a couple of inspired Jason Rackard scores (if ever I needed a Rackard to intervene it was then).
That young team went on to serve Wexford well over the next couple of years and were unlucky not to at least appear in an All-Ireland final.
Before my legion of fans say it, I along with my sideline did and still take full responsibility for our exit the following year in Thurles, but the most important factor is that a large sprinkling of that group are now representing Wexford at Senior level and this should be the main objective of our Minor and under-age teams.
Saturday was not a good day for under-age hurling in Wexford and there is no escaping that fact, but I do feel we have almost unwittingly injected a pressure onto our Minor hurling set-ups over the past decade that needs to be diffused immediately if we are to progress.
This has been as much off the field as on it.
We also need to give credit where it's due and acknowledge that Westmeath are trying to work just as hard as ourselves and deserved their victory with a strong gameplan executed by some excellent hurlers.
Identifying the problem and over-reacting is the easy part; identifying and implementing the solution is what's needed.
Our team did not play well on Saturday and certainly the wide count from play and frees contributed greatly to our downfall.
In my opinion this is still the team that went so close to Kilkenny and the talent within hasn't changed from Friday night to Sunday morning.
Hopefully lessons will be learned from all aspects of the performance and our only option is to push forward (life is a windscreen, not a rear view mirror, etc. etc.).
A good friend told me the story of two builders who went to Saudi Arabia to find work.
On arriving they saw miles and miles of sand. One said to the other, 'let's get out of here before the cement arrives'.
There is an ocean of young enthusiastic talent in the county but we must continue adding hard work to the mix if we hope to get there.
I was very impressed with the standard of play in our Senior championship having attended four and a half games of the six.
Buffers Alley's clash with Ferns proved the highlight with a high-scoring draw being the fairest result.
This group is going to be very tight with Oulart looking like the only team odds-on to qualify.
Ferns are still in a slightly precarious position, but their second-half display in Bellefield suggests they are getting back on course and their clash with the Castlebridge men should be a cracker.
In the other group the Martin's are sitting pretty and Cloughbawn gave a top-class second-half display to upset their near neighbours, with young Connal Flood suggesting he certainly merited more game time with the Minors on the previous day.
Finally, I can't let it go: we must ensure that games don't finish in near dark for everybody's sake. That was the case on Sunday and it shouldn't happen again.