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Saturday 20 January 2018

Wexford clubs lack ruthless approach needed in Leinster

Brendan Furlong's Hop Ball

Brendan Furlong
Brendan Furlong

If anything, Wexford's championship structures are helping to widen the gap between clubs at provincial level.

For Wexford hurling it was a strange weekend, coming on the back of the football reversal seven days earlier, when it amply demonstrated how far Model county clubs are off the top levels required to attain provincial champion status.

On Sunday one witnessed Wexford Senior hurling champions, St. Martin's, heavily defeated by All-Ireland holders, Cuala, while 24 hours earlier Intermediate champions, St. Anne's, went under to Wicklow side, Glenealy, two huge setbacks for hurling clubs in the county.

You find yourself wondering why a Wexford club cannot leave an imprint on the provincial title race in either hurling or football, with Oulart-The Ballagh's solitary provincial title success three years back a poor return for years at the helm of club hurling in the county.

When it comes to the provincial championship, for some strange reason Wexford sides fail to show the ruthlessness that's required to take that extra step and keep them there.

The debate will rage on following another year of disappointment. While one cannot take from the achievements of the St. Martin's club this year, coupled with the fact that Starlights returned to the top of Senior football after an absence of 13 years, what has happened over the past seven days is an acknowledgement that Wexford club standards are not where they should be.

Fethard and Kilanerin apart, of course, will the latter now the solitary club which still attains hope of a provincial Intermediate football title.

There is no getting away from the fact that Wexford clubs struggle when it comes to stepping outside their own county. It's important for Wexford to acknowledge there is a problem, perhaps an underlying one, with the coaching structures at under-age level failing to provide the rounded player one would expect from a system given so much financial support and backing in personnel.

Perhaps they need more help from people who have proven themselves on the playing pitches, to pass on the professional coaching to match that of other counties. That's important in the development of a young player.

Logic also tells you that all is not right the championship in the county. While the structures, and the current grouping of sides, are excellent, the fixtures plan sees clubs frozen out for the best months of the year.

There have been concerns with a fixtures approach that sees clubs playing hurling and football on successive weekends, with the championship packed into a ten- to twelve-week period.

Inter-county players are now being asked to return to competitive action on the final weekend of December, just days following the Christmas dinner and with no opportunity to celebrate new year, with the provincial competitions in order to make later dates in January available for the commencement of the National League.

This is yet again an unhealthy situation for the clubs as their elite players now have their season almost transformed into year-round competitive action, particularly with the provincial hurling championships now also on a round-robin basis.

The willingness of the players to accept such a programme will be tested, but, more importantly, they will be expected to struggle once they return to clubs given the competitive and lengthy nature of the inter-county programme.

Because there are so many inter-county games listed from the end of December right through to July, the fact that the G.A.A. has set aside April for the clubs will be of little relevance. Inter-county managers will be looking towards a pre-championship training programme along with training camps to prepare for what will be a hectic month of May when many a county's destination will be decided.

The G.A.A. cannot get away from a trend towards elitism. Many counties have not got their fixtures structure right, including Wexford, but once the dual status prevails these counties will continue to drift backwards, particularly at club level. Of course, there has to be self-help but copper fastening the elitist system is against the core principles of the G.A.A.

Wexford's fixture structure is no longer fit for purpose, so 2018 will be so interesting in many ways. Lose April in its entirety and lose the clubs.

Wexford People

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