Saturday 21 September 2019

Marketing chance should be seized

Brendan Furlong's Hop Ball

It's hard to get the fans to kick the habit. The first competitive hurling game back on Sunday saw several hundred supporters make their way to Gorey for the Wexford v. U.C.D. Bord na Móna Walsh Cup clash.

No doubt many were reflecting back on the exploits of 2014 and were eager to see if the same appetite was prevalent for the 2015 season. Well, they will not have been disappointed as an experimental team comfortably saw off U.C.D., while 24 hours earlier the Model county men also accounted for Clare in a challenge game played in Boherlahan.

While the inter-county scene may be the one talked about most, the club appetite has already been whetted following the championship draws made last week, with the initial rounds throwing up some huge games.

Many of the clubs will be out to test the theory that it's difficult for any side to put titles back-to-back in the current climate. Perhaps this is what makes the championship. It's the romance of the club championship that brings out the loyal parish followers. They will find this as an opportunity to promote their parish, their club, and more particularly the players who give so much back to the area.

As much as the county admired the achievements of Oulart-The Ballagh, the emergence of Shelmaliers to win their first-ever Senior hurling title under the current guise gave the championship a whole new importance. Not even the freezing cold afternoons through the final stages of the championship could take from what was happening as a new piece of history was being created.

They deserved it, especially those who had put so much into the club through those barren years at Senior level, to keep them going. Each season was presenting a new challenge, a new mountain to climb, but the Shels were experiencing difficulty in climbing that mountain. It was inevitable that given their under-age success that the breakthrough would eventually arrive though.

But it's now up to Wexford County Board to continue the trend set by Shelmaliers and what they brought to the county championship last year, not just in Senior hurling, but also Senior football and at under-age level. Sport is now all about marketing and bringing the game to the audience to enable them fill seats.

Each and every code has upgraded the marketing of their chosen sport. The G.A.A. to their credit is way ahead on a national level, but this must now be taken down to county level, and a whole new marketing programme put in place before the opening rounds of the respective county championships.

Shelmaliers can be used as an example. The parish was covered in the black and amber colours for months as the club's exploits continued on the championship fields. Supporters, many of whom had not been to Wexford Park for some years, suddenly dusted off the cobwebs and hauled down their sporting regalia before making their way to the county grounds. And they must have been pleasantly surprised by what they saw, a splendid venue to go along with what turned out to be an historic occasion.

Now we must put 2014 behind us and build for 2015. The G.A.A. has an ideal opportunity to put a proper marketing strategy in place to mark the opening rounds of the county championships.

Once the draws were concluded the talk commenced as to the individual pairings and the attractiveness of many.

This is an opportunity not to be missed. Wexford G.A.A. Board should now consider launching the opening championship rounds with a Friday evening being earmarked as a special date and ceremony to mark the opening of the 2015 campaign.

Wexford should dispense with the long-held fixtures plan of a series of weekend first round games with little or no marketing to mark the occasion. For Senior hurling the first round pairing of reigning champions, Shelmaliers, and champions of the previous five years, Oulart-The Ballagh, provides the ideal marketing tool for a special Friday evening occasion to launch the championship.

This is a marketing dream, as along with the game, the Under-10s of both clubs could provide their mini games before and during the interval, with musical entertainment and other side shows to add to the occasion. Also it could feature a special match day programme to mark the launch of the county championship.

A similar marketing programme could also follow for the football championship, with the pairing of reigning champions, St. Anne's, and St. Fintan's throwing up a hugely-attractive derby clash.

With the fans always willing to rally behind their clubs, this is a marketing dream for Wexford G.A.A. and a golden opportunity not to be lost.

Wexford People

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