independent

Saturday 25 November 2017

Footballers simply must arrest slide in clash v. Carlow

Brendan Furlong's Hop Ball

Brendan Furlong
Brendan Furlong

The consensus is quite clear - Dublin will win the Leinster Senior football championship title. The remaining counties may shuffle the pack but it will only be for the minor positions.

The Dubs are top of the class by a distance, so what does one make of Sunday's opening round provincial championship clash involving Wexford and Carlow?

The prize is a quarter-final game, yes, with Dublin. So does it make a mockery of the provincial championship as it stands, as only one county figures with the bookmakers, with the remainder not coming up slightly short but at long odds to create an upset.

As has been widely remarked, what would be the better outcome for either county? Despite the odds being stacked against the eventual winners, they still would look forward to a clash against the provincial and All-Ireland champions. In Wexford it would bring a home venue, and a huge crowd to Innovate Wexford Park.

That's the negatives cast aside as far as the provincial title race is concerned. Now let's look forward to the opening weekend of the provincial championship.

While it's hard to predict an outcome, both Wexford and Carlow will look forward to their day in the sun. Perhaps it's nothing more than a case of the sides slightly surpassing the low expectations people have of them.

That said, Wexford, in particular, will be endeavouring to build on their promotion from Division 4 and give Seamus McEnaney a first championship win in charge of the side.

There was something a little constipated about their displays in the latter half of the league, as they were simply not flowing and their performances were disappointing. Still, they had shown earlier shown there is the possibility of a longer championship campaign than expected, more probably through the qualifier route.

But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. Where the championship is concerned, Wexford have been there and caused many an upset then under the tutelage of Jason Ryan. Now their Monaghan native manager will be confident of picking up the baton and delivering a performance of his own.

Despite their league finish, Wexford are in a better place than they were twelve months ago, and can look forward to a decent championship campaign. That finish may not be a fair gauge. Perhaps the best indicator of their standing is their opening five-game winning league run.

During this run they produced manful displays. It will take a similar performance to deliver a victory over Carlow but still there is a feel-good factor about Wexford football at the moment, with the Minors also in a quarter-final, and St. Peter's College having reached the All-Ireland final.

Wexford must fed off this. They will need to continue their improvement and not allow those consecutive defeats to become a fourth consecutive loss and therefore degenerate into a familiar pattern.

Sunday against Carlow marks an occasion for Seamus McEnaney's charges to make a statement of sorts. They have to win. They don't have to win emphatically but they do have to give the supporters something to think about and with Dublin in mind.

While the Seniors will gather the limelight, supporters would do well to arrive at Netwatch Cullen Park early as our Minors are in action in the provincial quarter-final against Carlow. For all that has been said over recent weeks, they deserve support, particularly given the manner in which manager John Nolan and the players masterminded that fine second-half recovery against Wicklow.

The young players are living the dream and with support to go with a little luck they have the ability to reach the provincial semi-final which would be a major achievement in itself, given the problems they've encountered along their journey.

Meanwhile, I'm told that Wexford referees fear for their safety at the county grounds. They are unhappy with their changing facilities, which are in the same stand area as the teams.

They also fear having to mingle with both teams and supporters as they leave the pitch at the end of games, claiming it's a recipe for a disturbance of some sorts down the road. Now they are seeking an extension of the building at the Clonard end at the opposite side of the ground, in order to have independent facilities, free of teams and players at the game's end. Let's hope they are not kept waiting as long as the press for improved facilities.

Wexford People

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