Second thoughts on second team
WEXFORD LEARNED a lot on the hurling scene this year, so much so that they have finally accepted their mistake not to enter a team in the Leinster Intermediate championship.
As I saw it and suggested on so many times in this column in the intervening months, it was a backward step for hurling in the county, as it denied the players coming out of Under-21 who were not yet ready for Senior inter-county an opportunity to develop their game, turning them into the players with the quality and skills to eventually break through to Senior level.
Isn't it true of any sport that you provide the best possible platform for the players to progress to a higher level? The erratic manner in which Wexford were denied a presence in this year's provincial Intermediate hurling championship was never fully explained at County Board. In fact, even officers cannot explain when the decision was taken for Wexford to forfeit their participation in this grade.
The decision to deny players an opportunity to represent their county, and the vague explanation from Leinster Council delegate, Derek Kent, to a subsequent County Board meeting, makes for a pitiful response from the top level.
But the tempo has increased for hurling in the county, particularly in the wake of provincial title success at Under-21 level with a final victory over arch-rivals, Kilkenny, coupled with a Minor victory over the auld enemy. The Seniord held Dublin to a championship draw before losing out in the replay, subsequently losing out in phase three of the qualifiers to Clare after extra-time, following earlier victories over Antrim and Carlow.
People are once again optimistic about the future of Wexford hurling. The self-belief is back. This was further backed up with the excellence of the Oulart-The Ballagh v. Rathnure Senior game on Sunday evening last that produced a riveting 60 minutes.
The really great hurling counties, those down in Munster, still moved on with their own provincial Intermediate championship, with games being played before Senior inter-county matches. Wexford now want to be part of this. While Kilkenny may be the only provincial opposition at the moment, surely Dublin, where millions has been pumped into hurling development, could and should have a second team to justify this expenditure, while Leinster sides participating in the Christy Ring Cup could be given the added incentive to develop their hurling standard by inclusion in the Intermediate grade.
Now Wexford are to move ahead and re-enter provincial Intermediate hurling in 2014. That's a positive step and will be welcomed by players as it provides a platform to develop their game further, with a view to progressing to Senior level.
Wexford can field their second-best team in this grade, which can be looked upon as a 'B' side, which should provide sufficient strength in depth to make a bold bid for ultimate success.
For Wexford it's a question of having the right personnel at the helm. Now it's believed that Senior manager, Liam Dunne, is prepared to take the intermediate side in tow, which would suggest that members of the extended Senior panel and those on the fringes will be given every opportunity to show they are now ready to take on the bigger challenges.
For now this is the right move. I am certain that Wexford have the strengths to produce a seriously good team and long may the people responsible for this latest move continue to show such enthusiasm. The simple truth is the game of hurling must move on irrespective of the gripe of any individual(s).
With the inter-county scene now down to our Under-21 hurlers, the club show will be very much back on the road this weekend.
The really great thing about the club scene is that it brings out the best in everyone. It was heartening to see such a fine crowd in Bellefield on Sunday evening for the Oulart-The Ballagh v. Rathnure Senior hurling showdown. They certainly went home happy as this was an absorbing game of hurling.
Earlier in the afternoon one witnessed a youthful Rapparees side turn on the style. There's so much to club hurling and football that whets the appetite of those loyal supporters. Let's hope this is the start of a dazzling summer of club hurling and football.