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Tuesday 15 October 2019

No escaping the hard slog for vast majority of players

Alan Aherne: On The Line

Last week I loosely divided inter-county supporters into four categories; when you think about it, the same applies to the players to a certain extent, albeit with one key difference.

Please allow me to explain. Firstly, we have those who get a chance to impress in the early-season tournaments, with the Bord na Móna O'Byrne Cup a notable and topical case in point.

Some, but not all, of those players will graduate to phase two, namely making the panel for the Allianz League Division 3 campaign and seeing some action.

The brightest lights will gain recognition on the championship side, but the fourth category isn't guaranteed too often for a Wexford footballer: namely to compete at the business end of the summer when titles are at stake.

Clearly it's not as simple as being a supporter though, and that's where the difference lies. Players don't have the luxury of deciding when and where they can show the required interest, unlike the followers in the stand.

For the vast majority of footballers the muck, cold and misery of the last week is the only option available as permanent places are sought. Not too many players make their Senior inter-county debuts in the championship after not featuring earlier in the year, although exceptions do exist; it's not entirely uncommon for someone to join a Wexford panel at a late stage after impressing in club games in April and May.

To illustrate that point, how many footballers do you think have made their Senior debuts with Wexford in the championship over the past 20 years? Think about it and don't look down just yet to the bottom of this column where I will provide the answer.

The hard early-season slog cannot be avoided for most players, and in that regard the new Wexford football management must be complimented for giving so many a chance in the O'Byrne Cup.

No fewer than 35 lined out in the space of seven days including the grand total of 17 newcomers to the Senior inter-county scene: seven against D.I.T. and another five apiece versus Carlow I.T. and Wicklow.

Just one player lined out in every minute of all three games: the man with the best nickname on the squad, Colm 'Squingy' Kehoe of Cloughbawn.

Only ten men played some part in every outing, while three different captains were also utilised: Ciarán Lyng, Ben Brosnan and Michael Furlong.

It's clear that the entire county has been searched to unearth new talent, and it's good to see so many clubs represented. Indeed, of those 35 players used, no fewer than 17 of them will be playing at a level below Senior on the 2015 domestic scene.

The creation of such a competitive environment so early in the season sets the right tone for everybody. It means that the newcomers see they are getting a fair chance to impress, while the more established players must surely realise that they will be judged on their work right now, not on past exploits. That's the way it should be.

The start to the Allianz League Division 3 campaign couldn't be any tougher, let's be honest. Colm Collins is attracting the dual players exclusively to his set-up in Clare, and the news that the game has been moved from Cusack Park in Ennis to the western seaboard in Milltown Malbay means that the weather is going to have a huge part to play on February 1.

And then you'll have Kieran McGeeney and Armagh rolling into Wexford Park seven days later. We know that every game is important, but it really doesn't get much tougher than those for a start.

ANSWER - Just 15 players have made their Senior Wexford debuts in the championship since 1994: Robert Hassey in 1994 v. Meath; Jason Lawlor in 1995 v. Westmeath; Leigh O'Brien in 1996 v. Carlow; Paul Carley and Robert Mageean in 2001 v. Laois; John Hudson in 2002 v. Laois; Graeme Molloy in 2006 v. Meath; Shane Roche in 2006 v. Fermanagh; Brian Malone in 2006 v. Monaghan; John Mernagh in 2007 v. Laois; David O'Connor in 2007 v. Fermanagh; Garry Murphy in 2008 v. Down; John Leacy in 2012 v. Longford; David Dunne and Eoghan Nolan in 2014 v. Dublin.

Wexford People

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