Wednesday 17 January 2018

Minor model isn't working and the excuses wear thin

Alan Aherne's On The Line column

Alan Aherne
Alan Aherne

It's now three years and counting since Wexford last contested a Leinster Minor hurling championship final and, by extension, the All-Ireland series.

We are probably too hung up on the long gap since our last provincial victory in 1985, but let's focus on the recent past for a while.

In the three seasons under review we have exited to Laois in the 2013 semi-final, Dublin at the same stage in 2014, and of course Westmeath one rung lower down the ladder in the recent quarter-final.

Now, if these results occurred in an era when the county was investing scant resources in Minor, it would be a case of 'you reap what you sow' and there would be no need for further comment.

However, it's the exact opposite; from what I can see at least, a huge amount of time and energy has been spent trying to improve our fortunes in Minor hurling, but it doesn't seem to be working.

That's why our lack of progress, and in particular the recent capitulation to Westmeath on home soil, should have the alarm bells ringing.

I'm not so sure that's the case though because, in my opinion, certain people find it easier to trot out a list of excuses rather than accepting that we have serious problems and there is no discernible, concrete sign of any improvement.

I probably shouldn't waste paper listing a selection of the flimsy reasons offered for our failure, but some of them deserve to be highlighted if only to outline how some people really must be living in cloud cuckoo land.

Top of the list - and this is an annual offering - is that it's so difficult to prepare a Minor team with the Leaving Cert. around the corner. That's strange, because I could have sworn that every other county in realistic contention for Leinster and All-Ireland Minor honours had the exact same problem, but that's conveniently forgotten.

The one that maddens me the most is the rush to talk up the quality of the opposition in the immediate aftermath of a defeat. So, two years ago we lost to the best Laois Minor team in a long time, and the same goes for the current Westmeath side we are told.

The midlanders may well prove that to be the case when they play host to Dublin in the semi-final in Mullingar on June 20. However, is that really how we want to judge ourselves every year at Minor level?

This year it was Westmeath; God forbid, but when will this end? Will we lose in years to come to the best-ever Kildare Minor team, or perhaps it will be Meath's turn next?

How long will elements of what I now dub 'official Wexford' trot out this nonsense? I use this term to broadly describe the people who are undeniably working hard at the coalface in an effort to rectify these problems.

However, some of them are clearly in denial; then again, it's easier to throw out excuses rather than accepting that their efforts are not having the desired impact.

It was also suggested to me by one invididual that preparing our Minors to play Westmeath was nigh on impossible because of the recent heavy schedule of adult club championship games. My response was: 'are you serious?'

Should we deny the hundreds of hurlers and footballers meaningful games in April and May to give a clear run to our county Minor teams? You must be joking; the adult fixtures are in a big enough mess without going down that road.

As an aside though, I hope Wexford will lobby to return to the way it used to be when all Leinster Minor championship games prior to the final were played on midweek evenings. Munster still do that, and I can't understand why our own province had to change.

Take a look at next weekend's local fixtures elsewhere in this edition. It's the fifth round of Senior action between hurling and football, but the first which gives neutral supporters a chance to watch all six games in the top flight if they so desire.

Why? Because there's no inter-county Minor game plonked in the middle of the schedule on Saturday afternoon.

There's a simple solution to that fixtures situation, but it's going to take a lot more to solve our Minor crisis - and lame excuses will get us nowhere, whether 'official Wexford' likes to hear that or not.

Wexford People

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