Monday 14 October 2019

It's time for hurlers to get settled look

Brendan Furlong
Brendan Furlong

Brendan Furlong's Hop Ball column

With the Leinster Senior hurling championship a little over five weeks away it's time for Wexford to start hitting form with the team taking some shape.

Wexford have spent the last five months between training, challenge and league games, but can anyone hazard a guess as to what will be the composition of the starting 15? Perhaps you could pick out a bundle of players but position-wise is another story.

You just hope that the backroom team are on the same wavelength. This is not the time to be complacent. This is the time Wexford must stand up and shout 'we are ready'. But are we?

Now the time has arrived when the team management must decide on their squad of 24 players. The days of the nearly men are well and truly over. We had some of them against Clare on Saturday, players who will not figure in the championship squad.

That's there for everyone to see. Why prolong their presence with a game against Clare? They are peripheral to the management's thinking. Well, let's hope so.

Whatever games are planned following the two rounds of club championships, Liam Dunne must settle on his championship 15 plus nine substitutes. It has now reached that stage. The players must know if they are figuring in the starting 15 and where. That's important for a team's preparation.

We have lost out to three of the big sides in league action, Limerick, Waterford and Cork. We might be tipping along with the championship opener in sight, but major calls now need to be made, as looking at other counties they are well settled and know their championship set-up.

Clare sources intimated that they know 13 of their starting 15, with perhaps four players battling it out for the remaining two positions. One of those could yet be filled by Colm Galvin despite having signalled his intention to travel this year. That's how far Clare are down the road at present.

Wexford need to be in a similar position. They need to be similarly ambitious, but there's a concern creeping in, particularly as it's not in any way clear as to what will be Wexford's formation.

Who will man the centre of defence for instance, a crucial spine of any hurling team? Will Matthew O'Hanlon start full-back or centre-back? Will Tomás Waters be handed the No. 3 jersey? Will Lee Chin be given the No. 6 shirt? Who will form the midfield pairing? Who will fill the centre of attack?

Wexford may have player options for a number of positions but it's a settled team that's now needed. Results did not go our way in the league. That's why I feel we should have given the Clare challenge more serious thought.

I firmly believe many players who figured during the course of that game did not earn match day stripes. They will not come into the management's championship thinking as they are simply not up there with players like Clare's Tony Kelly, let alone those from Kilkenny, who hopefully we will cross hurleys with in the provincial semi-final.

This year we are no longer going to be an unknown quantity. The other counties will not be fooled into thinking that 2014 was a one-off for Wexford. Wexford must now utilise the remaining weeks to settle on a championship team. The message it would send out to the players, fans and more significantly, their rivals, would be huge.

It would let everyone know the county is launching an all-out assault on the title race. They would have to be taken seriously. Beating teams like Clare, even in a challenge game, would determine how big a statement they can make.

There's certainly room for improvement, so there are most certainly interesting weeks ahead.

Our Minor hurlers went down to a disappointing defeat to Kilkenny in the championship after extra-time by the minimum margin. It was the first defeat to our arch-rivals at Minor or Under-21 level for a few seasons. Leading by two points with 60 minutes up on the clock, we failed to close out the result. Kilkenny, as one would expect, went on to punish us in extra-time.

It's a setback but it should not stop the county from progressing through to a provincial semi-final. Still, there are serious question marks over the team. Having witnessed some league games along with the club championship, one would expect better from the team management.

There are some players, even in the extended squad, who could offer a lot to the team, even the starting 15. One club's domination is not what one would expect in this day and age.

Wexford People