We still lack squad depth to be good enough for semis

On the Line with Alan Aherne

Alan Aherne
Alan Aherne

I unearthed my match report from our All-Ireland quarter-final loss to Waterford - then managed by Davy Fitzgerald - in 2008 last week while researching a story for our match preview.

One paragraph stands out like a beacon and, when I re-print it here I'm sure you'll agree:

'A quarter-final exit by the minimum margin is probably a fair overall reflection of where Wexford hurling lies at the moment - still some way off the standards set by the current big three of Kilkenny, Cork and Tipperary, but well able to hold their own within the chasing pack.'

Fast forward nine years and is it really any different? The gap was four points rather than one this time, and on current form that top three would clearly have to include Galway rather than the Cats, but generally speaking that paragraph could be used to describe the current situation too in my opinion.

We had a great quarter-final record in our first three appearances, beating Limerick in 2001, Antrim in 2003, and Tipperary in 2007 respectively.

Alas, it's ten years now since we cleared that hurdle, with Waterford making it a treble over us at this stage after previous successes in 2008 and last year, while Limerick were our masters in 2014.

So, what makes the exit last Sunday to the same opponents any different or easier to take than twelve months ago?

I think it's clearly the realisation that a lot of progress was made in our new manager's first year at the helm.

Any year Wexford defeat the old enemy, not once but twice, has to be a good one, and we can look forward to top flight league hurling in 2018 after finally escaping the Division 1B millstone that hung around our necks for so long and constantly dragged us down.

On the whole then, I can see more positives than negatives, even though it's clear that we still lack the squad depth to be good enough for the last four.

The harsh reality is that while all of the players we used this year clearly have the talent to be inter-county hurlers, not all of them have what it takes to get us to the next level and further. That's not a criticism of their efforts, it's merely stating the obvious.

And that's why I hope Davy Fitzgerald will be joining us among the crowd at as many club games as possible between now and the end of the year to see if he can unearth some more uncut gems.

No reflection on Sunday would be complete without a comment on the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Simply put, it's magnificent, and all involved in its construction should take a bow.

The pitch was no different than any other newly-laid surface, and I'm sure the slipping and sliding will soon abate.

As for the journey, it wasn't nearly as daunting as many feared; well, not for me at least.

I left home at 8.45 a.m. and was parked in a prime spot on the Boreenmanna Road opposite Páirc Uí Rinn by 11 a.m., just a ten-minute stroll from the ground.

That facilitated a quick exit afterwards and, after getting to the notorious Dunkettle interchange ahead of the posse, I was back by 8.20 p.m.!

FOOTNOTE: Last week I listed the 21 Wexford players as per the match programme for our drawn All-Ireland semi-final clash of 1976 against Galway in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Interestingly, the first substitute introduced that day wore number 22 so wasn't included! That was Declan Rowsome of Monageer-Boolavogue, twin brother of midfielder Billy, both of whom first shot to prominence with the last All-Ireland winning St. Peter's College hurling team of 1973.

Two more of that crew - Andy Doyle (St. James'), who was the school captain, and Rathnure's John Conran - had also made the inter-county Senior grade three years later.

Another couple of 1976 panel members not listed in that programme were Tom Byrne of Oulart-The Ballagh, our All-Ireland winning Minor captain in 1968, and Cloughbawn forward Martin Furlong.

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