independent

Wednesday 13 December 2017

We can learn key lessons from Cork and drive forward

Brendan Furlong's Hop Ball

Brendan Furlong
Brendan Furlong

As one reflects on Wexford's season, one can take heart from Cork from where they are right now and where they came from just last February.

One can go back to just last March, when RTE pundit and 'Star' columnist Ger Loughnane, in his column referenced G.A.A. Director General Páraic Duffy as waxing lyrical about the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh. He (Duffy) was talking about a then visit he'd paid to the re-development and how it was going to be a fine stadium that would do Cork proud.

Loughnane spoke of being glad Cork had a stadium to take pride in, because on the pitch Cork G.A.A. is a mess. He wrote of Cork being a county with a massive population, as only Dublin and Antrim have more people. So for Cork to be in such a bad way is a crisis for the G.A.A. as a whole, not just Cork.

Now when Ger Loughnane reflects on those comments he must be left seething, wondering how Cork papered over those cracks to be where they are at present in the hurling world. For one they are now Munster champions, looking ahead to an All-Ireland semi-final, while also having won the Munster Minor title, leaving them with an All-Ireland semi-final to look forward to.

Also of significance they play a Munster Under-21 hurling final this Wednesday evening, while just last Sunday they lost out in the All-Ireland Intermediate hurling final to Kilkenny.

Cork have shown that they don't accept second best on or off the pitch. They have a magnificent stadium, one that would stand side-by-side with any of the major venues in Europe, but also importantly they have a hurling system that is now becoming a major force in all grades once again.

Cork have not alone bridged the gap but have made pundit Loughnane eat his words.

Now having reflected on Cork I did so as an example of what can be achieved. Cork are an example for Wexford to follow, a module on which to build their future, having landed a top manager in Davy Fitzgerald, and once again being heralded as a county that can consistently be labelled as serious Liam MacCarthy contenders.

Wexford are building to compete. Hurling in the past six months has sky-rocketed in the county. They have defied the odds, and Wexford is now a team which any player would like to be involved with.

Given the importance of competing in all grades, with an emphasis on winning, while also building a squad system to service one's main squad, it's interesting to read the latest Wexford G.A.A. Management committee bulletin questioning the viability of the Intermediate grade.

Wexford's treatment of the championship this year was farcical, yet the management committee agreed that the long-term viability of this competition needs to be considered, given that just Wexford and Kilkenny compete in Leinster, with no Munster final and Galway having withdrawn.

Kilkenny are an example to other counties as despite their accomplishments of recent years they give the same importance to Intermediate as all other grades, looking on it as a grooming ground for younger players. One could see how delighted they were to lift an All-Ireland trophy on Sunday, with two more still to contend for.

Wexford should not be looking towards an easy option. They should be encouraging the respective provincial councils to have all counties compete. We all hear of the money being poured into Dublin hurling, yet they don't field an Intermediate team.

Galway have been whinging over lack of inclusion in all grades in Leinster, yet snubbed the Intermediate grade this year, while one would expect more from the so-called home of hurling, Munster.

For Wexford to become a serous hurling county they must treat each grade with equal status. Wexford are now at a phase in their hurling make-up when it's do or die. Don't die wondering, Wexford should get all cards on the table, treat them equally, put systems and personnel in place for each grade, and together move on.

Wexford face significant challenges, particularly in under-age level in the urban areas, which has now spread to the adult grades. It's not a problem that will be solved with increased numbers at Cúl Camps. It's a problem that must be tackled with a whole new support base before the G.A.A. dies on its feet in the towns.

Wexford People

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