Saturday 21 September 2019

Alan Aherne's On The Line column

On the Line: Alan Aherne

There's something amiss with a competition when an inter-county team stands to gain more from playing in a challenge game.

That was the situation last weekend when Liam Dunne made no secret of the fact that the most important match for his charges as far as he was concerned was the one against Clare in Boherlahan on Saturday. And it was easy to see his point, because for that game he had the option of playing any member of his extended panel, with no restrictions.

Fast forward 24 hours to Gorey on Sunday though, and his hand was forced as U.C.D. had first call on their Wexford contingent. It's a frustrating position to be in, and I guess if there is an advantage it's the fact that it meant more players combined got to line out in the purple and gold over the weekend.

And it has to be pointed out too that Clare would have targeted their Sunday game as the priority given that they were meeting arch-rivals Tipperary in the Waterford Crystal quarter-final, coming through by a point in Sixmilebridge.

It does beg the general question as to the worth of continuing with these early-season competitions in their current guise. The third level colleges have participated for many years now in all four provinces, and with first call on the majority of county players.

It has resulted in a number of public spats in the past, notably up north where Mickey Harte, a man who doesn't believe in the value of inter-county challenge matches, is vehemently opposed to the system whereby third level students on the Tyrone panel are obliged to play with their colleges.

There seems to be a growing clamour for an overhaul of the inter-county fixtures schedule, with a preference for an earlier start to the National Leagues. If that comes to pass, there's a strong chance that the Walsh and O'Byrne Cups will be no more.

Many readers may not be aware that all gate proceeds from these competitions are put into a hardship fund, and numerous ex-players who fell on tough times have benefited from it in the past.

Of course we never hear about these stories for obvious reasons, but it goes without saying that finance should always be made available for such a worthy cause, regardless of where it comes from.

January is all about experimenting for our inter-county Senior mentors, and the trend continued in Gorey on Sunday when Pádraig Foley, Benny Barron, Joe Kelly, David Dunne and Daithí Waters all made their debuts at this level.

Substitute Shane O'Gorman from Adamstown, whose first game was in the Walsh Shield of 2012, now has the distinction of playing in two early-season competitions in the same year as he was at midfield on the U.L. side which lost to Cork in the recent Waterford Crystal quarter-final by 1-18 to 1-15.

It's an achievement shared by Horeswood footballer David Larkin who played in the O'Byrne Cup against Carlow I.T. after assisting U.L. in their McGrath Cup loss to subsequent surprise finalists Waterford in Carriganore.

Other Wexford players to feature with colleges recently include Eoghan Nolan, Graham Staples, Ed O'Byrne and Matthew O'Hanlon with the U.C.D. footballers, Jack Guiney with the D.I.T. hurlers, and Rúairí Tubrid, Kevin Crean, Peter Sutton, Kevin Ryan and Eoghan Rackard with the St. Patrick's-Mater Dei hurlers.

I miscalculated the number of Senior football newcomers last week, and with more time on my side I now realise the number was 18 rather than 17. In actual fact, the mentors are clearly keen to check out the cover available for all positions, as the following placement of the 18 players indicates:

Luke Rafter; Páraic O'Keeffe, Jim Rossiter, Simon Donohoe; Robbie Barron or Naomhan Rossiter, Kieran Butler, David Larkin or Matthew Cody; Graham Carty, Jim White or Syl Byrne; Declan Murphy, Shane Grannell, Niall Hughes; Dermot Flood, Paudie Barden, Kevin O'Connor.

Apart from moving Shane Grannell from full-forward, where he played against Wicklow, to the '40, the remainder are listed in their more often than not regular on-field roles.

Wexford People

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