Monday 16 September 2019

My heart sank as soon as I saw our line-up in defence

Alan Aherne: On the Line

When I was a child the hurling championship was a lot more straightforward. It was do-or-die, straight knockout, and the Wexford team was either very good or very bad in the fans' eyes depending on the result on any given day.

There was no in between, but that scenario has changed completely of course. Nowadays, with the advent of round robins, back doors, second chances and the like, we hear a lot of talk about 'performance' as if the result itself is somehow secondary.

Let's face it, most realistic Wexford supporters basing their view on the evidence of the year to date didn't expect us to travel into the lion's den and beat the reigning All-Ireland champions.

However, in terms of that buzz word 'performance', the majority were expecting that at the very least we would go toe-to-toe with our talented neighbours for three-quarters of the game. I know I was.

In my view, a five- or six-point loss after giving as good as we got for as long as possible would have suggested that the clear progress made last year was no flash in the pan.

What unfolded in its place was a shock to the system, and now there is one chance left for the players and management to prove that we haven't regressed in the space of twelve months.

It goes without saying that I have no idea what it entails as a player to cross the white lines at that level of hurling and face the best team in the history of the sport.

However, I have enough experience with various backroom set-ups to appreciate the high volume of time and mental energy expended on making tough decisions with regard to team selection and handling difficult situations that may arise.

I'll deal with the latter first. There was only one talking point around the county since our exclusive story in last Tuesday's edition, and that was the Jack Guiney issue.

Based on the information at my disposal, in my opinion the management took the correct course of action. In saying that, by the same token I sincerely hope that we will see Jack back in the Wexford colours sooner rather than later.

I may as well express my view on that particular situation because it seems like the world and its mother has said something on it at this stage.

I've no issue with the mentors on that score, but my heart sank when I observed the formation of our defence on Sunday once the ball was thrown-in and the match-ups became apparent.

All of the fears voiced in this column last week turned to a stark and shocking reality, and for that I feel the management have questions to answer.

Eoin Moore was the only one of the six backs deployed in Mullingar to start in the same position. Am I the only one who thinks this Wexford team is at its most solid with Matthew O'Hanlon at full-back and Lee Chin at centre-back?

Yet our captain started in the number six slot with Chinner on the wing although the latter was born for a role straight down the middle.

As for Liam Ryan, we should be developing him as a specialist corner-back and playing him nowhere else, just as Kilkenny have done down through the years with Jackie Tyrrell.

I worried about Ciarán Kenny being up to the challenge given his recent hamstring injury. Our mentors felt he was the man to curb no less a talent than Eoin Larkin which in my view is a task that no player on the road back from a lay-off should be forced to endure.

I could go on and on but instead I want to finish on a positive note. That involves a complete change of subject as I wish the many thousands of players and mentors involved in the national Féile Peil the very best for the weekend.

I have enjoyed the privilege of being directly involved in four such events before, albeit never in football. I was a player in 1985, a member of the local organising committee in 1998 and 1999, and the Chairman of a competing camogie club in Limerick in 2013.

All four left me with many happy memories, and I'm delighted that our football clubs will get a first-ever chance to experience the magic of Féile at first hand. I hope the players enjoy every minute of it, and make sure to watch a game or two if you have the chance.

Wexford People

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