Friday 20 September 2019

Facts don't back up Power's claim of progress made

Alan Aherne
Alan Aherne

On the line with Alan Aherne

The realists among us will accept that silverware on the Senior inter-county football front is very hard to win for a county with our lowly stature in the game.

Nobody expects a new manager to fill the trophy cabinet, so instead each and every incumbent will be judged on whether progress of any discernible nature was made on their watch.

And in the wake of David Power's departure from the hot seat last week after two years at the helm, the question must be posed: is the team in a better position now than when he took over the reins from Aidan O'Brien? The Tipperary man certainly thinks so judging from one stand-out line in the statement he released on Tuesday after his decision was made public.

'I feel that significant progress has been made in the last two years,' he wrote. And to back up his claim, he added that a lot of young players have been blooded and introduced to inter-county football, 'and we have been competitive always in all the games we played across the three grades'.

Naturally enough, Power was going to be positive rather than negative in his assessment of his own time in charge, and he deserves credit for penning a gracious few paragraphs rather than taking the opportunity to respond to recent criticism from some of the more experienced players under his wing.

However, I totally disagree with the assertion that significant progress has been made. I would argue that the exact opposite is the case, and the facts simply don't lie.

The players were relegated from Division 3 to Division 4 in the first Allianz League campaign under Power and then failed to gain promotion this year, losing the two key games against Antrim and Louth that were always going to determine the final placings.

As for the championship, one victory from five games - against a Down team in freefall - is hardly the stuff to write home about, and this was the first year since 2003 that we failed to win at least one game at this level.

It's true that a lot of young players were blooded, but that's the reality for any manager in any given year so it can scarcely be viewed as an achievement.

As for the two Leinster Junior titles, let's not get over-excited about a competition that is only taken seriously by a handful of counties.

The Wexford County Board took a punt on Power and gave him his first opportunity at Senior inter-county level, largely based on his very impressive track record with the Tipperary under-age teams.

Their marvellous All-Ireland Minor win in 2011 was a stand-out moment, but there's simply no comparison between the two levels. Many people have discovered this to their cost before, and more will follow, make no mistake about it.

I watched Power and his team closely over the two years, and for what it's worth I felt he didn't do himself any favours on the sideline.

He seemed to get side-tracked by petty incidents and was constantly berating referees and linesmen, when a more clinical, detached view was required.

I felt he completely over-stepped the mark earlier this year when he criticised Antrim for 'thuggery' after an Allianz League loss in Corrigan Park, Belfast. It may have been a heat of the moment comment, but it was a bizarre outburst given the way that particular game unfolded.

I hope some officer of Wexford County Board privately apologised to their counterparts up north for the remark, because it was simply uncalled for and conveyed an impression of being sore losers that I, for one, never want my county to be labelled with.

Not long after his appointment, one of his backroom team with a complete lack of understanding of how the local media operates issued a dictat which angered many of us trying to promote sport in Co. Wexford. To Power's eternal credit, he met the affected parties and cleared up the matter before it escalated. And from that point on he was courteous and obliging in his dealings with this newspaper, always on hand to take a call from our reporter, Brendan Furlong.

I will agree to disagree with him on the view that 'significant progress' was made, but I acknowledge his efforts in a difficult job and wish him well for the future.

Wexford People