New boss expects keen battle
McLoughlin busy making plans for inter-county year
While St. Martin's will be trying to rewrite the history books and become one of the few sides to win the Senior double, new Wexford Senior football manager Paul McLoughlin said their final meeting with Enniscorthy Starlights is too close to call.
The last team to win the double was St. Anne's (Rathangan) back in 2000, but St. Martin's will be confident of joining their neighbours in the history books as they will be particularly buoyant following their magnificent Senior hurling championship final victory over the reigning champions, Oulart-The Ballagh.
Dreams come true so St. Martin's will this week be intent on completing the double. They have successfully negotiated the endless weekends of hurling and football, and now that they are just 60 minutes away from their own piece of history, one can expect a titanic struggle with the Starlights.
Just a few weeks into his new role as Wexford Senior football manager, McLoughlin believes that this has the real makings of a great final, as he notes that both sides play attractive football.
McLoughlin doesn't need to be told what it takes to win big games, having played in three provincial finals with Kildare, but he still sees this final clash as a very wide open affair.
'St. Martin's have been there or thereabouts. They have a chance of achieving the double which would be a wonderful achievement. They are enjoying a great year right through the club in both codes, so they will not be lacking in motivation,' he said.
Listening to the Wexford boss you get the impression that he finds it a final that's extremely difficult to call.
'Joe Hagan has done a brilliant job with Starlights. They have some very good footballers, the likes of Aaron Dobbs and Darragh Pepper in attack. They have quality through the team which is what makes this a final so difficult to call.
'He has the side superbly conditioned and playing attractive football, so they will make it difficult for St. Martin's,' he added.
But McLoughlin was quick to stress the advantage of St. Martin's run.
'They are going for the double. No matter what was to happen in the hurling, the motivation would be there to win at least one title, but now that motivation is two-fold, as they are seeking the double. This will have them superbly motivated, but still it's a final that's going to be difficult to predict.
'I have been very impressed with the conditioning of the Starlights, while also they will have had a few weeks' rest and added time to prepare for the final.
'This is in contrast to St. Martin's. They had a huge semi-final replay victory over Shelmaliers in football, while seven days later they turned around and beat Oulart-The Ballagh.
'Now they have just a seven-day turnaround for the football final, but the sight of the double will be motivation enough for them,' he added.
Looking at the inter-county scene, McLoughlin has been handed a huge task, drawing Laois in the opening round of the championship, with Westmeath awaiting the winners in the quarter-final, while they also face into an initial two away games in the Allianz League, in their first season back in Division 3.
McLoughlin is still looking forward to the new season.
'I have lots of respect for Laois but we will see how the league goes, as it's the league that will dictate how you will go in the championship. Laois are now down in Division 4 so the league will be motivation for them ahead of the championship.
'We travel to Fermanagh and Sligo for the two opening round games, which could not be more difficult. Then we have Armagh and Westmeath at home later on, so when one looks at the games, there is little or no difference between Divisions 2 and 3.
'It's a fierce league campaign but we will be trying to stabilise our game and focus on Division 3.'
Meanwhile, McLoughlin is finalising his plans. 'We are preparing our organisation for the team at the moment, getting together a training programme, along with a gym programme.
'We are planning our schedule right up to Christmas, as we will be having our first training session on November 2. We want to put a good programme into place for the players so that is what we are focusing on right now,' McLoughlin said.
The new strength and conditioning coach will be Gordon Waters (Lucan Sarsfields).
Allianz League Division 3 fixtures: Sunday, January 28, away to Fermanagh; Sunday, February 4, away to Sligo; Sunday, February 11, home to Westmeath; Sunday, February 25, away to Longford; Sunday, March 4, home to Offaly; Sunday, March 18, away to Derry; Sunday, March 25, home to Armagh.
Leinster SFC draw: (1) Laois v. Wexford, winners v. Westmeath; (2) Louth v. Carlow, winners v. Kildare; (3) Offaly v. Wicklow, winners v. Dublin; (4) Longford v. Meath; semi-finals: 1 v. 2 and 3 v. 4.