Tuesday 21 November 2017

Promotion without playing at our best the ideal scenario

On the Line with Alan Aherne

Alan Aherne
Alan Aherne

Sunday, March 12, 2017 will be remembered in years to come in the sporting history books as the day when Wexford's agonising wait for a return to the top table of the Allianz Hurling League finally came to an end.

However, the supporters who made the journey to a resplendent O'Connor Park to witness this vital breakthrough would have to acknowledge that the overall display wasn't of the vintage variety.

Then again, should we really complain about this state of affairs? After all, the first target of gaining promotion has been achieved with one game to spare, and Davy Fitzgerald has a metaphorical stick to beat the players with between now and the last group game at home to Laois on Sunday week when major improvements will be demanded and expected.

It may be a dead rubber clash but it will be a chance to improve the shooting for a start after 16 wides were struck last Sunday, including ten in the second-half when the wind was in our favour.

Galway and Limerick have registered huge tallies against the O'Moore men in recent weeks, 3-31 and 6-33 respectively, and it would be another encouraging sign to see Wexford showing no mercy either.

Speaking of the westerners, I had to smile to myself when I heard their manager Micheál Donoghue advocating a change to the Allianz League structures after Sunday's results confirmed that Wexford will be advancing to Division 1A for 2018.

We had to grit our teeth and take the medicine in 2011 after a fine draw away to Tipperary secured the point we thought would preserve our status in the top flight, only for a new structure to be brought in which left us confined to Division 1B.

It has been a long, hard struggle to emerge from that bear pit, and it has been achieved entirely on merit in this campaign.

However, I still wonder how far we have to travel in order to match the best in the business after watching that classic between Tipperary and Kilkenny on television last Saturday night.

There was one particularly memorable spell of perhaps two to three minutes during the second-half when the play continued relentlessly from end to end, superbly facilitated by referee James Owens who only blew for a free eventually when he couldn't avoid it after a blatant foul by Richie Hogan whose protestations were rightly ignored.

It was hell for leather stuff and as close to championship pace as one could hope for in the month of March. Do we have the speed of hurling and the general composure to cope in that type of atmosphere yet?

The answer is no in my opinion, but we are making progress in gradual increments and that's the important thing. The other point to note is that hopefully our average display last Sunday will reduce expectations a little because there's a tendency to get over-excited in these parts as we've waited so long for something to shout about.

Let's look forward to finding out our quarter-final opponents and measuring our true progress to date in that encounter, while always keeping in mind that a much hoped-for championship clash with Kilkenny in early June will provide the ultimate test.

Now the focus turns back to our footballers who should be able to secure promotion too with a win at home to the London side managed by Horeswood's Ciarán Deely on Sunday.

One more win will do it, as we have the advantage in head-to-heads on Waterford and Leitrim, and only one of that duo can potentially end on ten points as they will meet in the last round.

Finally this week, some readers will know that I served as an adult officer of the County Board from 1996 to 2006, under three Chairmen in all: Paddy Wickham, Sheamus Howlin and Seán Quirke.

Both Paddy and Sheamus are unfortunately unwell at present, and I want to wish them the very best.

Their personalities and leadership styles were different, but they shared an absolute passion for Wexford while in the hot seat and in particular had a keen understanding of the importance of maintaining good working relations with the local media.

They are in my thoughts at the present time and I've no doubt they also carry the very best wishes of the wider G.A.A. public.

Wexford People

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