Friday 17 November 2017

Very small amount of Premier Minor sides is a concern

Brendan Furlong's Hop Ball

Brendan Furlong
Brendan Furlong

When you hear some of the talk about Wexford hurling and football, hurling in particular, you would think that the game had become somewhat obsolete in the county.

Yes, we as a county have gone through some difficult years, years where there was little input to bringing under-age to another level through quality coaching and fixtures structures.

While one is always determined for players to flourish, the systems in place led us through some lean years, with little success at under-age level of any real consequence, so the conveyer belt just about dried up.

Every time you look back, although it's not the most positive approach to dealing with the problems, you still had to eliminate the negatives that were in place, building a whole new positive platform on which to plan for the future.

This has been laid over the past four or more years, with a quality under-age coaching structure in place, leading to huge improvement at Minor level, which in turn brought three successive provincial Under-21 hurling titles to the county.

The production route is crucial to Wexford coming up with the talent to compete at Senior inter-county level in both hurling and football. While the league offers the opportunity to test new, young players, the pressure is also on management to deliver results, which will make the coming weeks so crucial for both hurling and football in the county.

For the footballers it's a continued battle towards promotion, while for the hurlers it's securing a quarter-final spot, which makes it even more difficult to introduce young players to the starting 15.

Wexford is facing a big challenge in the youth game, the need to come up with a decent competition structure. Currently that pathway is fraught with difficulties, particularly at under-age level, where the number of grades is clearly hampering the lifting of standards among clubs.

Take this year's Wexford People Premier Minor hurling championship where it is down to a handful of teams. This in turn leads to a lowering of standards, while clubs in the lower divisions are left in a position to win county championships without having to reach a standard that would in turn see them as having a promising future with a particular group of players.

The biggest challenge in the youth game is to come up with a competition structure that will lead to higher standards. The introduction of so many grades, backed up by subsidiary competitions, is just an opt out, as in the long run it does little for the standard of either hurling or football.

It might have the benefit of adding more players, but a restructuring of grades from Premier to Divisions 1 and 2 would surely suffice to provide enough games of real quality.

At the end of the day it's not about clubs winning county titles just for the sake of it by entering a lower grade, it's all about reaching a standard that would secure their future for the years ahead.

We have to understand that Wexford hurling is in need of a strong Minor structure to feed through to Under-21 level, eventually supplying players to Senior level. This is the type of conveyor belt that is available in successful counties such as Kilkenny, Waterford, Tipperary, Clare and Galway.

At the moment all one hears is whinging from individuals, particularly regarding the lack of Minor success, coupled with regrading, but perhaps the time has arrived for more dialogue which would be a starting point.

When he came in as County Chairman, a little over four years ago, Diarmuid Devereux certainly did not sit on the fence. He restructured the coaching systems in place, leading to success at Under-21 hurling, Junior football and Intermediate hurling.

It's easy for people to contribute nothing and say that won't work. Does that mean we don't do anything? Do we sit there and keep being reactive or do we actually become proactive and try to confront some of the challenges in the game head-on and see if we can actually make it work?

Doing nothing cannot be an option. Perhaps now is the time to look at the Wexford People Premier Minor hurling championship in the county. Surely in what is portrayed as a strong and developing hurling county clubs can offer more. Clubs here have much to answer for or is the grading system all wrong?

Wexford People

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