independent

Monday 16 September 2019

Footballers can ill afford off-day with Dubs so powerful

BRENDAN FURLONG

WE'LL FIND out on Sunday how Wexford can cope with reigning All-Ireland champions, Dublin, just twelve months after they let a provincial title slip through their grasp to the same opposition.

A team's physical presence is now as important as the individual players' skills. This is now an important part of the preparations and that is emphasised with the bulking up of this present Dublin team even since they won the All-Ireland last September.

Their whole body frame has taken on a new look as evidenced against Louth, which all makes for a huge ask of the current Wexford side which for some reason has failed to bring the improvement expected following last year's exploits.

Wexford simply cannot afford an off-day. Expect Dublin to take the game to them from the very start. The outcome of the opening 15 minutes will make a massive difference to the end result.

While question marks may hinge over Wexford's ability, they have shown in the past a determination that brings their game to another level against quality opposition.

Dublin will come under the microscope from their supporters who will be demanding, not just expecting, a big game from their side. But there are many motivational factors for Wexford and this is where they will be seriously tested.

Last Saturday evening Wexford comfortably saw off Westmeath in the hurling qualifiers. Now they will be hoping to get Wexford's weekend off to a successful start when they play Carlow in phase one of the qualifiers.

Nobody in Wexford likes being told that their hurlers are now second rate. Wexford find themselves where they are at the moment and only they they can rectify this situation.

Home truths after all can be the hardest to swallow but Liam Dunne is embarking on a team-building programme with the introduction of so many new, young faces.

At under-age level things have begun to pick up. The Minors are through to a provincial final against Dublin with no Kilkenny in sight. We have not won a Minor AllIreland since 1968. Now is the time to rectify this.

But many feel that Wexford cannot succeed at Senior level until they are able to match the physicality of the leading sides, particularly Kilkenny. Liam Dunne is now beginning to put those structures in place so it would be an added bonus if they could progress through to phase two of the qualifiers.

For some strange reason Wexford had not faced up to the problems prevalent in hurling in the county. There is no shortage of good people working in clubs, but it's very true that Wexford have fallen behind other counties who set up elite development squads and player pathway programmes.

It is only this year that Liam Dunne on his appointment as manager has set about putting similar structures in place. But it is not all doom and gloom.

We should have taken Offaly in the opening round, when failure to take our chances in the first 20 minutes came back to haunt us despite a blazing finish.

Wexford have put the resources into the development of the Minor teams. Those players are now coming through and even in the Under-21 defeat to Kilkenny many players showed a potential to progress through to Senior level, with a defined physical programme and quality coaching.

It's by no means doom and gloom as last weekend gave the game of hurling a huge boost in the county.

Wexford Park was at its best for the weekend games. The pitch provided a quality surface which won the admiration of the players.

But all the concentration was not just on the pitch as the dressing-rooms and passage way looked resplendent having been painted and given a real make-over. Congrats to John 'Bumpy' Nolan on his excellent work.

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