Monday 22 January 2018

Time for hurlers to return to past style that served us well

Brendan Furlong's Hop Ball

Brendan Furlong
Brendan Furlong

As Wexford look ahead to the qualifiers, here are two teams in need of a whole new direction under their respective managers.

Whether rightly or wrongly, both were labelled as being devoid of ideas when they lost their respective provincial quarter-final games to Dublin (hurling) and Kildare (football). Both teams have been trying to achieve with possibly the same group of players for a while now, although it must be said that the Senior hurlers were decimated with injuries.

However, that only tells part of the story, as one has now only to reflect back a short few days to witness the decimation which Kilkenny inflicted on the very same Dublin outfit. After a stirring and battling opening 35 minutes, Kilkenny simply swept away the Dublin challenge inside the opening ten second-half minutes.

And Kilkenny were said to be at their most vulnerable going into this game, being without Richie Hogan, Ger Aylward and late withdrawal, Jackie Tyrrell, from last year's All-Ireland winning set-up.

Perhaps now one can take a deeper insight as to how other counties can overcome injuries, and rebuild a side while still remaining at the pinnacle of hurling. To get something right even once needs a good management team, and Kilkenny clearly have this and more led by Brian Cody, in his 18th season in charge, but it goes much deeper as it's also down to the playing personnel.

To get so many All-Ireland titles out of so many different groups of players is to my mind a minor miracle. But Cody has turned average under-age players into All-Ireland Senior winners.

Last year he thrust Ger Aylward onto the scene, and Wexford felt his scoring power in his very first game. This year it's Jonjo Farrell from the Thomastown club who emerged as the outstanding player in the demolition of Dublin.

While one must take into consideration that these are players coming into winning teams, what is the key to this success and why is it that counties such as Wexford cannot get the same response from its players?

The simple answer is that they lack belief.

Liam Dunne has had it tough with the exception of 2014 in his five-year reign at the helm. He has struggled in the shadow of the big sides, and players have been breaking down game on game, with not once a full squad being available to him.

But for me though it seems as much mental as physical, for they seem bedraggled and listless at times. In addition, Wexford have remained committed to a system that is alien to them. While one may admire their commitment to it, for me it has failed Wexford hurling.

Now we are just 70 minutes away from a season's end, another early summer conclusion, so why don't the players return to traditional Wexford hurling, enjoy their game, make the ball do the work, and go back to 15 on 15?

The wing-forwards can funnel into midfield to lend support when necessary, but they need to be smarter when moving on to the long, quick ball over their heads into space.

Kilkenny stuck to traditional hurling and played it physical but fair, kept the ball on the move quickly forward, with the wing-forwards adopting the gameplan as already mentioned. It was a simple Cody style which has proved so effective for his years at the helm.

The problem that Wexford has is that the passing system does not suit their style. We haven't got that delicate first touch so our ploy should be to get the ball forward long and quick, to create enough attacking problems in front of the opposing goal. That's traditional Wexford hurling which has brought so much success in the past.

Other counties such as Waterford and Clare may have their systems with sweepers and the like, but traditional hurlers like Kilkenny will blow those systems out the water.

After the Wexford-Dublin Under-21 game many spoke of the physicality and money which Dublin have brought to hurling. Well, for the hurling aristocrats it was Kilkenny who put those two theories to bed in O'Moore Park.

For Wexford they must come out in the opening qualifier rejuvenated, sacrifice their gameplan utilised up to this point and return to traditional hurling. Many sides may feel they need innovation, but for Wexford it's back to our traditional game and a new direction. If it works for Kilkenny it can for Wexford.

I will visit the football scene next week.

Wexford People

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