This team needs a coach of quality to get back on track
Hop Ball column
Published 07/07/2015 | 00:00
By 8.30 p.m. on Saturday the temperature had risen in Wexford Park despite the evening sunshine having gone under cover.
The air was icy, not from the weather, rather from the sporadic bursts of high voices hanging in the air. Wexford hurling was being carved right open and there was no stillness as hurling fanatics were pondering the future of the game in the county following a second successive championship defeat, this time to Cork in the first round of the qualifiers.
The conversations were sharp and snappy, with Liam Dunne's management being called into question.
On the brink of so much success around this time last year, Wexford hurling has been adrift and buffeted since the league campaign. Now they are gasping for air with just one championship victory to the side's credit in 2015, and that against Division 2 side Westmeath, when they also encountered a struggle.
While failure was the county's lot in the league, the summer still held promise. But by the first weekend of July their season is over. Now they must try to wipe the disappointment of what has been a disappointing campaign away but it will not be easy.
Wexford knew what they had to do in the league but they failed to grasp the nettle, and we are paying the price now. At what cost to the County Board and hurling in the county?
This after a massive spend of a figure in the region of €1m on Senior hurling team preparation over the past four years. We thought things couldn't get worse once Liam Dunne took over and settled his feet under the table as he undertook a clean-out of the squad, bringing in many new and young faces.
Credit must be given to Dunne who built from scratch. He has presented an opportunity to many young players to stake a claim for inclusion in the Senior squad set-up. That's what he was trying to do.
Many players have been victims of the squad system but once Wexford again missed out on promotion to the top phase of the league, questions began to be asked.
Huge money was spent on technology to bring their preparations into line with other counties but now the dawning of Division 1B for another league campaign, and the lack of a worthwhile championship campaign, will seriously impact on Wexford hurling into the future.
There is a perception out there that Wexford are going nowhere. One finds it hard to argue with that. We may have moved up as more serious challengers to the top sides, but as a county Wexford is no nearer silverware.
Wexford are no longer able to surf the waves. This is a young side. Wexford teams were not always universally good but they were always proud and confident, always ready for a battle. Many will say the side battled in the second-half against Cork but this was a game gone from them after 20 minutes.
The way Wexford approached this game must still be haunting supporters. Winning the toss and electing to play into the strong breeze was not just a strange decision, but a decision taken by a side coming out of a Kilkenny disaster, when every advantage was needed against Cork from the very beginning.
It backfired dramatically as, Cork being Cork, no doubt unable to believe their luck, hammered their advantage home, killing off Wexford with an intense opening 20 minutes.
It's said this was a decision taken by the players. Surely this must, and if not should have been, a decision directed by team management from the sanctity of the dressing-room.
This was coupled with the continued playing of Diarmuid O'Keeffe as a sweeper when 14 points adrift starting the second-half. And all of this along with the tactical mistakes taken before the start of the Kilkenny mauling.
As the season has drawn to a close the questions are being asked. Do Wexford need a quality coach? Do Wexford need a change of management? Do Wexford need a whole new backroom set-up?
Wexford management are in the line of fire. Wexford is a proud county but unless we fight we will continue to fail like everybody outside expects us to.
Liam Dunne may be given credit for his contribution to Wexford hurling over the past four years, but right now it's the responsibility of the County Board to have the team coaching structure revisited, and a high calibre coach appointed. The fightback starts today.