Brendan Furlong's Hop Ball
More direct route needed to get best from forwards
Defeat was the county's lot against Waterford in the final round game of Division 1B which denied promotion to the top flight of the Allianz hurling league.
Wexford may have lost out on promotion but they have an equally important quarter-final date with Cork on Sunday, with the counties having to toss for venue advantage after both having three home games in the current campaign.
Despite defeat to Waterford, this young Wexford side should not lose their belief, as they have laid the foundations on which to build the future of the game in the county. It may have been a big come down from the highs of last year in the county grounds, but the players will learn much from this game, and believe that they can deliver a lot better in the weeks and months ahead.
Having watched Wexford through the current league campaign there is an abundance of young talent coming through. The supply line is healthy, but the real challenge is for the players to adopt a game structure which they carry into each encounter, with the team management now much closer to knowing their top 25 players.
Last year one was really excited about the future of hurling in the county. There is no need to lose that on the back of this latest defeat, but what must be disappointing is having lost two huge home games, as the one earlier against Limerick was let slip through the net.
While the players will carry belief in their own ability to put this latest defeat behind them, one would still like to see the team have a real set pattern to their game, which no doubt manager Liam Dunne is trying to impose. The short passing game is letting the side down as was particularly evident against a fit and excellent young Waterford side.
Far too many passes failed to find their intended target, while one is now beginning to believe that much of the passing is for the sake of passing to the player closest. Wexford also failed to win a single 'dirty' ball; in rugby terms, the turnover from ruck ball was non-existent, and this is another area the players need to take a long, hard look at.
Perhaps it was the extra determination which Waterford seemed to carry into this game which brought them through these situations, but these are areas the Model county need to drastically improve upon.
Wexford I feel must return to basics, and play a more direct style of hurling. Wexford as in the past are at their most lethal when making the ball do the work, giving a quick supply into the inside forwards. We have two of the top and most exciting young attackers in the country in Liam Og McGovern and Conor McDonald.
Apart from the opening 15 minutes they were starved of a quality quick ball and this was not through lack of outfield possession. It was to do with the players adopting a short passing game in midfield before a high Garryowen which took ages to drop was launched into the full-forward line, by which time the defence had time to re-group, with the inside duo man-marked by at least four defenders. A quick delivery from half-back and midfield would help alleviate this and free up the inside attacking duo who could use their speed, skill and explosive finishing to greater effect.
Waterford played to a system, imposing a tight and packed defence, and it was their ability to stick to the gameplan that helped them win out.
Despite Wexford's best efforts they must employ a more direct style of hurling if they are to impose themselves on Cork. However, Liam Dunne must now impose a gameplan on his players, insist they stick to it, and utilise their best players especially in attack.
It has been a huge league which showed that Wexford are now not far away from competing with the top sides. They have pace, skill and intelligent movement, and now they must be more direct.
Wexford may have lost out on a second chance of winning promotion but all is not yet gone. We have a huge quarter-final date with a Cork side that is showing a rapid rate of improvement, but they lost a big lead in defeat to Tipperary which is sure to rattle their confidence.
Once the league is over the boys in suits should take a new look at it, and have the bottom side relegated, with the second team in Division 1B playing off for promotion with the second team from the bottom of Division 1A. It's unrealistic to have just one team promoted from Division 1B each year, a division that has three quality sides. capable of holding their own in the top flight.