Friday 18 October 2019

Brendan Furlong's Hop Ball column

Oulart-The Ballagh have returned as the kings of Wexford hurling, winning their sixth title in seven years, regaining the Dr. Bowe Cup which they loaned out last year after five years at the helm.

Many will say that county finals are not for faint hearts. But sadly this was not so on this occasion as the Oulart-The Ballagh men controlled this clash, never being headed, and from early on it was quite evident as to where the Dr. Bowe Cup was about to rest for another twelve months.

It's simple enough to sum up St. Martin's. Not only were they coming off the back of a disappointing Senior football final defeat, they have also been fielding a very young side, a side for the future no doubt, but on this occasion it was simply a step too far against a more experienced and physically powerful opposition.

It looks to me, judging on Oulart-The Ballagh's more recent displays, that they also have their sights set further, perhaps winning that elusive Leinster provincial club title. During the build-up it was generally expected they would come out on top, but while they had eight points to spare on the final whistle, manager Frank Flannery still has many problems to deal with as they head into the cauldron of provincial club hurling.

When the crunch came in the knockout stages, Oulart-The Ballagh stepped up to the plate, but they're still left with some soul-searching as to whether their current standard is high enough to bring them through the provincial championship campaign.

I would not be afraid of the defence, but will they continue with the experiment of Rory Jacob in midfield - clearly successful on this final occasion - or should they go for his scoring instincts closer to goal, as it's in attack that their major problems lie. They are lacking the fluency and scoring power to unhinge more torrid defensive set-ups which they will come across, even against the Laois champions this weekend.

But still Flannery and his backroom team were smiling on the final whistle. It was a return to the pinnacle of Wexford hurling, joining their neighbours Buffers Alley on twelve titles apiece, but the Alley still retain bragging rights given their provincial and All-Ireland title successes.

Before the game people were speaking not just about Oulart-The Ballagh's chances of regaining the county title but as this being a possible last hurrah for the present group of players to win a coveted Leinster Club title. Few could argue with this. Now that they are over the first hurdle, their eyes will be firmly set on O'Moore Park on Sunday afternoon.

We have not long to wait to see how they will react in provincial club hurling. They have once again proved themselves at club level. There were many plusses to their game, with solid defending, a ball-winning midfield, and some fine individual play in attack, but it's the lack of cohesion in this sector which must be a real concern.

The coming days will see Frank Flannery and his backroomteam work a way to bring improvement. No doubt he will be annoyed with some of the forward play when in the second period they failed to push their first-half advantage home. There is no time now for faint hearts but one is confident that Flannery and the team can extend their season with a prolonged provincial championship title surge.

Many faces of the past popped up in Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday afternoon when Wexford G.A.A. honoured the Rathnure jubilee team. In that 1990 final Rathnure defeated neighbours Cloughbawn, but the presence of this crew brought back memories of a great team, and great players.

Rathnure were the then standard-bearers of Wexford hurling, enjoying great rivalry with Buffers Alley. My only disappointment for the group of Rathnure players, then and prior to this, was their failure to win an All-Ireland Club title, having enjoyed some stirring tussles with the likes of Blackrock (Cork) and great Kilkenny champions.

Congratulations to Oulart-The Ballagh camogie team on retaining their county Senior title, making it a wonderful day for the club, and St. Joseph's on winning the Intermediate 'A' football crown.

Not forgetting Davidstown-Courtnacuddy who were guided to a long-awaited county title by my good friend, Tony Dempsey, who took real pride in helping his native parish to success. Best wishes to Andrew Shore who received a severe chest injury in this game which saw him brought to Wexford General Hospital by ambulance.

Wexford People

Most Read