Nolan calls for change
Minor football manager slams treatment of players
The relationship between the Wexford Minor football management and the G.A.A. officer board in the county is very much to the forefront after events in Innovate Wexford Park on Saturday.
While tension has been festering between the Minor hurling and football managements over recent weeks, the football mentors took their protests a step further after an incident less than an hour before their provincial championship clash with Wicklow.
Football boss John Nolan told this newspaper his patience has been severely tested over recent months by Wexford officials and his hurling counterpart, Eamon Scallan.
While the dual player has been a key bone of contention, that patience finally ran out on Saturday afternoon before his side's second game in the championship.
The Wexford Minor hurlers have been fully attired for their championship games to date, while the Senior hurlers and management depart these shores today (Tuesday) for a sun training camp in Portugal.
However, the Minor footballers, playing their second game in the provincial championship, were handed their tops and gear just an hour before throw-in against Wicklow, while the team management were presented with their official bibs at the same time. This was in stark contrast to the Wicklow players and management who arrived fully attired in their official county gear.
Eyebrows were raised when the Wexford players took to the pitch for the warm-up minus their county attire, while the team management chose not to accept the bibs in protest at the treatment they claim to have received in recent months, right up to an hour before their second championship outing.
Incidentally, for the opening round fixture with Offaly, the bibs and water bottles used were secured from a local Vocational School.
The Wexford Minor football management expressed their concern earlier in the year about what they view as the unfair treatment of dual players, and claimed there was a breakdown in communications between the managers.
They feel that those grievances were never ironed out though, with the football management unable to have a full squad of players until less than 48 hours before Wicklow clash.
Minor hurling manager Eamon Scallan, an All-Ireland winner with Wexford back in 1996, has come under scrutiny on various media platforms over recent weeks, while some parents have expressed concern that unfair demands are being placed on dual players, with claims some are being pressurised to choose hurling over football.
Football manager John Nolan has now hit out at the treatment meted out to players and mentors, claiming they deserve better.
'I'm not going to hide behind what has been going on,' he said. 'There is a massive amount of frustration with management, the players and parents. There are so many examples, all of which will have to be resolved by the County Board.
'Our first time together as a full squad was Thursday evening, less than 48 hours before the Wicklow game. I did not have access to the players for the Offaly game, or the build-up to Wicklow. Whether we won or lost is not the issue, it's simply not good enough, that's the reality of the situation,' he added.
'What I mean is getting access to the players. I did not give last week's interview to a national paper but I know where it came from. If that is what it takes for change, then that's the way to go.
'I want to see whoever is in charge given a realistic chance. We have the players. I look at Good Counsel College and St. Peter's College along with the other colleges and clubs in the county, and see the quality players are there. I know some of those players opted for hurling but still there is massive potential there.'
Nolan highlighted the effort his group of players have put in since January. 'It's crazy the workload players are given. Look back on the first round, Minor hurling on Saturday, and we play Offaly 48 hours later. Also we had players the following week playing club championships, yet requested to attend Minor hurling training that Sunday evening, having already played with their clubs, while the Minor hurlers also set a training schedule for Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Where does that leave the dual players and Minor football? It would not be my way of doing things.'
Nolan expressed his delight that their protest was noticed in Innovate Wexford Park. 'We as a management decided to take our protest a step further. When asked by selectors what to wear I told them their club attire. I refused to have the gear handed out to the players just before the game.
'I refused to have the official bibs worm by management. We brought them out, in case the officials in charge of the game ordered that they be worn. This did not occur so we left them on the sideline bench.'
When told those in attendance would not have known who was in charge, Nolan said: 'I'm delighted it was noticed. On match day I'm not going to start throwing gear around. I know gear does not win matches, but look at Wicklow, fully attired.
'Yes, the players have pride in wearing the county colours, so it should not be demeaned in any way. The players and management should be catered for. Yes we're annoyed, players, management and parents. Parents have brought players to training for which I thank them. We all deserve better.
'Major structural changes are needed. Now is the time for those changes and for Minor football to be given an equal chance. We deserve that, the players deserve it, and the parents deserve it.
'Yes, we took our protest to this stage to highlight what is happening in under-age football in the county.'