independent

Thursday 18 April 2019

Appetites for year are well and truly whetted after that!

Brendan Furlong
Brendan Furlong

Brendan Furlong's Hop Ball

The provincial fires have been stoked and the hurlers are now ready to take on the might of Division 1A of the Allianz National League.

Last Saturday afternoon was spent in Nowlan Park as Wexford and Kilkenny took centre stage in the Walsh Cup Senior hurling final which gave us all the drama one would associate with later in the season but enthralled 3,544 supporters into the darkening evening.

This was an appetiser for the main event, and my appetite has already been whetted, if this is a forerunner to what lies ahead for us over the coming months.

It was enthralling stuff with not even extra-time managing to separate the sides, Wexford eventually lifting the cup following a shoot-out.

The game itself had just about everything - hurling of quality, fiercely competitive with even a couple of mauls to light up the afternoon; Kilkenny reduced to 14 players; Brian Cody sent to the stand by the match referee following some persuasionl; and then the most dramatic of climaxes, but at the end of it all Wexford lifted the Walsh Cup for the first time since 2002.

There have been many arguments over recent months regarding the many structural changes that have taken place in both hurling and football, but this final provided answers to those who doubted the value of these subsidiary competitions given the earlier start to the National League.

Wexford and Kilkenny rivalry has once again taken on a whole new meaning. Yes, this not alone whetted the appetite for what is ahead next Sunday, a visit to Walsh Park to take on neighbours Waterford in the opening league game, but also for the two mouth-watering clashes with the Cats down the road in both league and championship.

For Wexford the hurling league is of huge importance both on an off the pitch. Having just returned to top flight hurling they will be determined to retain their status, but also the financial stakes will be high.

Wexford did substantially well out of the hurling league and championship last season, with Davy Fitzgerald's charges contributing handsomely to the coffers of the County Board.

Given the stark reality of Wexford's finances, County Board officers must be keeping their fingers crossed that the hurlers can once again make a major financial contribution.

County Secretary, Margaret Doyle, issued a warning last December that whilst the county showed a surplus of €183,380 at the year end, she pointed out that this is not money in the bank.

'To maintain our loan and lease agreements together with future developments and teams costs we require a net surplus each year of a minimum of €250,000.'

Also the cost of preparing county teams has soared to €945,224, leaving a staggering figure of teams' preparations now at €18,177 per week.

Davy and his charges are ready to respond to the challenges ahead. We have already been installed as championship outsiders, while the 'Sunday Independent' two days ago also marked us down as favourites for relegation. That's a challenge to our pride but I'm confident the players will deliver the right answers.

This is yet another adventure for Davy and Wexford hurlers in just his second season in charge. When it comes next Sunday, the flasks will be filled, and the sandwiches will be at the ready, as Wexford supporters will converge on Walsh Park in their thousands.

This is the type of support that can edge Wexford over those vital extra metres in their quest for victory. The learning curve may not be over, but I believe the players have learned so much in such a short space of time that they can deliver a huge challenge to Waterford and their likes.

As Wexford hurlers take centre stage, Paul McLoughlin and his footballers are left in something of a vacuum. They travel to play Fermanagh in their opening Division 3 league game, also next Sunday in what is the first of several daunting challenges facing his young squad.

They will be playing in front of an expected 5,000 vocal home supporters, with only a handful of the Model county army present. It will be a hostile experience for this young side.

Best of luck to both Davy and Paul in their respective ventures next Sunday.

Wexford People

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