Moving away from basement the short term Youths target
Published 14/05/2016 | 00:00
Now seems like an appropriate time for an overview of the Wexford Youths season to date, particularly as the first series of games concluded in the rain-lashed Showgrounds on Saturday night.
The Premier Division newcomers have played all eleven of their league rivals once at this stage, and the second cycle will get under way tonight (Tuesday) when they make another long trek to take on fellow strugglers Longford Town.
Basically the next eleven fixtures are a direct reversal of the games played to date. Shane Keegan's side will take on the same teams in the same order, except at home rather than away or vice versa, depending on where they played in the first phase.
It's fair to say that it hasn't been an easy start, and I think everybody involved will be grateful for the opportunity to re-charge the batteries and take stock overall when the mid-season break arrives from June 6 to 23.
At this juncture it would be an achievement for Youths to remain clear of twelfth position by the half-way point of the campaign. They will go a long way towards fulfilling that aim if they can beat basement side Longford Town tonight, as it would more than likely see them leapfrog Bray Wanderers too unless our nearest neighbours in the division shock holders Dundalk.
Youths were full of energy and fire in their earlier outings, and it's generally accepted that they played quite well without getting the rewards they deserved in terms of results.
It hasn't been so promising in more recent times though, and the concession of four goals apiece away to St. Patrick's Athletic and Sligo Rovers was particularly disappointing.
Likewise, the home form hasn't been wonderful with just a solitary win secured in Ferrycarrig Park. And one figure sticks out like a sore thumb with a cursory glance at the league table, namely the 23 goals conceded in eleven outings.
That's a figure shared with lowly Longford, and it's always going to be difficult to win games at this level with an average concession rate of just over two goals every 90 minutes.
The 'Soccer Republic' show on RTE2 is essential viewing for all domestic league enthusiasts every Monday night. However, I was disappointed, but not surprised, by the reaction of panelist Stuart Byrne to a comment from Finn Harps assistant manager Gavin Dykes on last week's show.
He mentioned how difficult it was for his team to travel from Ballybofey to face Wexford a mere seven days after another long journey south to take on Cork City.
Byrne dismissed that view with a 'that's just the way it is, get on with it' attitude, but I have sympathy for Dykes and indeed for Youths who are facing another arduous trip to Longford tonight, just three days after being in Sligo.
It's an extremely difficult schedule for amateurs holding down day jobs, but instead of supporting them it appears to me that the Dublin-based pundits and those from a professional playing background look down their noses at their plight.
After all, the only way the game at League of Ireland level will thrive is by trying to bring as many teams as possible up to the highest standards, rather than focusing on the full-time clubs and leaving the others to fend for themselves.
Many outfits are struggling financially at the moment, with our neighbours Waterford appearing to be in dire straits. At times like these, a club such as Youths, operating in the top flight for the first time, ought to be given every assistance to develop.
I can't help thinking though that the general attitude is all about ensuring that the established clubs continue to hold their own while the others are largely left to their own devices.
It was only natural that the gap between professional and amateur would hamper Youths as the season progressed. Indeed, that was never more clearly illustrated than in Sligo on Saturday night when seven of the 14 players used by the hosts had previous experience in England or Scotland.
In the circumstances, staying in the Premier Division would be a laudable achievement; I believe they are good enough to do just that.