Tuesday 17 September 2019

Footballers did us proud but results don't reflect that

Alan Aherne's On The Line column

Pride and frustration were felt in equal measure by the small number of Wexford supporters who made the five-hour round trip to Cusack Park in Mullingar on Sunday.

Well, I reckon that was the case anyway, and they were certainly the two emotions dominating my thoughts on the journey home.

It has been a tough year to date for this group, but the admiration the genuine followers have for them certainly grew on the basis of this performance.

'In transition' is probably one of the most over-used phrases in sport as it is so often applied to situations without merit. However, this Wexford football team certainly has the credentials to fit that particular bill, and really they were on a hiding to nothing given the number of rookies within the ranks.

David Power doesn't strike me as the type of individual who will be happy with a moral victory of sorts, or a generally good display despite the final result.

Still, he should pass on the gratitude of the Wexford followers to his players as they unquestionably restored a lot of lost pride. Naturally people were feeling low after the relegation to Division 4 of the National League but, rather than viewing it as a basement and a point of no return, I think there will be justifiable hope that it will be used as a springboard for this generally youthful squad to develop further in 2016.

That's still a long way off though, and for the moment the entire focus will be on Down who will visit Innovate Wexford Park for the first time ever in the championship on Saturday week, June 27.

The northerners' backroom quartet, fronted by manager Jim McCorry, were seated a few rows in front of me in the Cusack Park stand on Sunday, and with ten minutes left they must have wondered if they would be returning to Mullingar for the opening round of the qualifiers rather than travelling further south.

The Westmeath crowd had fallen into a deathly silence after Kevin O'Grady's two points gave Wexford a 14-12 lead, but one unfortunate and very costly error ripped the heart and soul out of the underdogs. That's where the after-match frustration came from.

Up to that point the visitors had performed admirably and I, for one, felt they did the county proud given all the circumstances.

This may seem like a contradiction after a nine-point defeat and I may be open to the accusation of not always reacting in the same manner after a Wexford team loses.

That's my sincerely-held view though, and I think most of the Model county followers in Mullingar would tend to agree with it.

The inter-county roller-coaster moves on to Nowlan Park on Sunday and what a way for Liam Dunne's charges to be tested: against the All-Ireland champions away from home.

That sounds familiar of course, but are we likely to perform as well as we did in similar circumstances in Ennis last year before finishing off the job in the park?

After the Westmeath game my own view was that the same 15 players selected on that occasion should start again, albeit with a few positional tweaks.

I know Ciarán Kenny would be the choice of many to return to a defensive role, but I'm not so sure a blood and thunder game against the Cats is the ideal place to be easing a player back after an injury.

My second worry is that, if Kenny is to be accommodated, it will involve altering one, or perhaps both, of the defensive lines, with possibly Diarmuid O'Keeffe moving to midfield, and I fear that may have an upsetting impact as a settled team can make such a huge difference.

I sincerely hope that Lee Chin is left in the centre-back role because he was immense there on Sunday week against admittedly average opposition, but I still feel it's his best place on the field.

At the time of writing it appears that Jack Guiney's involvement in the game could be in some doubt, and that of course would lead to at least one enforced change.

Will Kenny come in at left half-back with O'Keeffe moving to midfield and Harry Kehoe going to the half-forwards, or have Liam and co. something else up their sleeves? Whatever the line-out, good luck to the lads and their mentors ahead of this ultimate test.

Wexford People

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