Tuesday 12 December 2017

It cannot get much worse for hurlers ahead of derby tie

Brendan Furlong's Hop Ball

Brendan Furlong
Brendan Furlong

The Wexford versus Waterford Allianz Hurling League game is much bigger than just local rivalry.

There will be much talk about 'bragging rights', but for Wexford this is a game that could define the remainder of their season. For Waterford, despite their latest setbacks, albeit going into their final game with an experimental set-up, they will be confident of keeping the defence of their league title very much on course.

At least one of them will be facing up to the reality that their league season will be over. Wexford on recent displays are in massive danger of suffering another demoralising defeat.

If Wexford lose the derby clash with a fighting display, it can be somewhat acceptable, but for the moment one feels that it cannot get much worse.

After a demoralising defeat to Offaly, and only salvaging a last-gasp victory over Laois who ended their league point-less, this really speaks for itself.

So far it's been a National League for Wexford to forget, with just two victories, and those over Kerry and Laois, the two counties left in the relegation zone. Yet there is no suggestion that this is about to change for Wexford, as one would have to judge this campaign as being the worst witnessed in the league for more than a decade.

When Liam Dunne took charge one did not expect an immediate transformation such was the depth that Wexford hurling had fallen. But right now this has been a squad five years in the making.

He has been looking to build up a squad but Wexford as a county can no longer live on the assumption that 'this is a young team'.

After five years Wexford should be in a position to challenge at the top level, but for some reason this has not been achieved, the alarming statistic being that the county was just a single game away from a relegation battle to preserve their Division 1B status.

This has been a campaign where Wexford has lost its way. From a hurling perspective this is now tugging at the heart-strings of loyal Model county hurling people, and even those outside the county, who have been left-soul searching as to what has gone wrong with the game of hurling here.

Undoubtedly further questions will be asked this week following that woeful display against Laois, just seven days after being demolished by Offaly, who in turn lost to Kerry in Birr. Such bizarre results involving the bottom four counties to me suggests that these are poor sides, sides without any sense of direction, sides that can offer very little to the hurling top flight.

This has been a league where Liam Dunne has come under the type of heat as never experienced before. It's been a league where Wexford's standards continued to decline.

It's been a league where we now face into a game where we could be on the receiving end of an embarrassingly heavy defeat.

Wexford cannot be excited about what is coming down the road. Dunne has drawn criticism after a dismal league. While some new faces have been introduced, one could seriously question the attitude of the players, and the squad as a whole.

You look at some and it's almost got to the stage where one would question their interest and their commitment, as the passion and individual flair has gone from their game.

That's the sort of attitude that brought defeat to Offaly, and only staved off Laois with an additional time Shane Tomkins point, and this after trailing by two points entering the closing minutes.

The focus may be on the players but it cannot be switched away from management as a whole. The question now arises: 'just who is bossing who?'

Coaching seems to be a Wexford problem. There is no pattern to their play, but the lack of a strong squad after five years in the making has led to many serious questions, and this after three provincial Under-21 successes. We lost many experienced players, for one reason or another, but the backbone disappeared far too quickly.

There is no room for error when it comes to mixing it with the top teams. Wexford are conditioned to remaining in Division 1B for the foreseeable future. With Limerick present for another season, along with either Galway or Cork, it does not hold out much hope for a change of scenery.

There is something seriously wrong in Wexford. We are a county in hurling decline. Change is needed, and as to who brings it about is another question.

Wexford People

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