Tuesday 20 February 2018

Alan Aherne's On The Line column

Wexford teams unfamiliar with Mullingar venue

Alan Aherne

Alan Aherne
Alan Aherne

Well, it looks like Wexford supporters will be very familiar with the road to Mullingar before the month is over.

It's not the easiest place in the world to get to from home base whether you go via Dublin or choose the Carlow-Portlaoise-Tullamore route.

And it's not a venue we have played in too often in the past either. Indeed, by my reckoning our clash on June 7 will be the first Leinster Senior hurling championship game the county has ever played in Cusack Park, Mullingar.

And here's a sobering thought: unless I'm mistaken we have never won a Senior football championship game at the same venue. We didn't actually play there until 1989 when Westmeath prevailed in a game notable for the fact that Aidan O'Brien of Good Counsel fame played in the half-back line with his native county, having trained the rival Wexford team with colleague Brian Teague in the previous campaign.

We only made two more journeys to the midlands ground since then, both replays and both won by the locals once more in 1997 and 2001 respectively.

At the outset of both campaigns this year there was a 50-50 chance that we would be travelling there for the football, and a one-in-four likelihood of the same thing happening for the hurling.

And now that it has come about, with the small ball action set to take place on June 7 and the big ball one week later, it's only natural that supporters are wondering if the possibility of a double bill can be entertained.

All of David Power's plans have been based around playing on June 14 so it would be unfair in my view to ask his team to play one week earlier at this late stage.

However, what would be wrong with moving the hurling back to that date? I know the answer the Leinster Council will come up with: the semi-final is down for June 21 so that would leave no provision for a possible replay.

In all truth what is the likelihood of that happening though? The other factor is whether or not Liam Dunne and company would like seven or 14 days to prepare for the Cats, assuming of course our Seniors manage to get over a test we should not treat lightly.

No matter what way the pros and cons are weighed up, it looks like we will be on the road twice to the same venue in the space of seven days, so there's no point in moaning about it at this stage.

While the first really big hurling clash of the year took place in Thurles on Sunday, earlier in the afternoon I got a taste of life among the lower echelons when I covered Carlow's fine victory over Antrim in Netwatch Cullen Park for another newspaper in this group.

Their fully-merited ten-point win sees them preserve their status for 2016 whereas the northerners drop down to the Christy Ring Cup.

It was an incident-packed game, with both teams reduced to 13 men, but the outcome was a huge boost for our neighbours who numbered Maudlintown's Paul Carty among their mentors and who, incredibly, won't play a competitive hurling game again now until the Walsh Cup next January.

Do the G.A.A. authorities seriously think this is a justifiable way of promoting the game in Carlow?

Another Wexfordman, John Rossiter, was the referee's assessor on Sunday, and I would love to read his report, not specifically to get his views on the performance of Cathal McAllister from Cork, but rather to see if he made any reference to one of the linesmen on duty, Declan O'Driscoll from Limerick, who was joined by our own James Owens.

I was sunning myself on the uncovered side of the Barrowside ground and both Antrim dismissals happened right in front of me and, as it happened, right in front of the Munster assistant too.

Both were as plain as day, so it was amazing to see the referee having to rely on his umpires for their input before the two red cards were brandished.

It never ceases to amaze me how certain linesmen - not all let me stress - don't seem to be switched on to their primary duties.

Wexford People

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