Monday 22 January 2018

Wexford hurling is not in crisis

Brendan Furlong's Hop Ball

Brendan Furlong
Brendan Furlong

Wexford senior hurlers departed the Leinster championship with a whimper. This was dreadful from Wexford. Dire, really.

Not for many years has one witnessed such a demoralising display from a Wexford hurling team in Croke Park. Wexford hurling has to be about more than this but once Dublin bagged two first half goals - GAME OVER.

Wexford heads alarmingly dropped but what has surfaced right now is that Wexford's problems lay far deeper than just spending a life in Division 1B.

We need to take a good look at where we are going and what we are at. We need to do something to make sure a performance like that doesn't happen again.

People will say Wexford hurling is in crisis. That is not so. The under-age foundation has been laid, three successive provincial Under-21 titles, while we meet Dublin, whom we have already defeated, in the Leinster Minor hurling final. We open the defence of our provincial Under-21 title on Wednesday week, June 1, in Innovate Wexford Park. This is where the critics should lend their support, instead of the negative, faceless comments on a local radio programme.

There's still pride in the purple and gold. The flag will simply not be thrown away.We will not be conceding. Amid all the soul searching one should not forget the work that's in progress at under-age levels throughout the county, leading to those Under-21 successes and hopefully a provincial Minor title in a short few weeks time.

Ignoring the actual hurling side and the day-to-day politics of Wexford G.A.A. one must ask where did it all go wrong?

Unfortunately, when Liam Dunne assumed the managerial role he took over a squad at its very lowest - coming on the back of the previous administration to sack one of our very own, John Meyler as Wexford Senior hurling manager. The officers took the decision to travel to Dungarvan to issue Meyler with his walking papers - all of this despite having brought the county to an All-Ireland quarter-final, losing narrowly to Waterford who went on to contest the All-Ireland final. These very same officers also saw fit to sack Paul Bealin from his football post. It was such decisions that helped dismantle what Wexford hurling was all about.

The player drain during that period of administration was alarming. No structures were put in place at under-age development level, let alone teams, while players were even opting out of Colm Bonnar's plan once he took charge from Meyler.

This is just one example. Liam Dunne was left to build a squad from scratch, mainly with a young bunch of players. We enjoyed a great 2014 but what has been subsequently learned it takes considerable time to build at adult level, particularly after those years of neglect at under-age.

It's only now that Wexford players are beginning to command places on their University sides. The lack of second level success has also been a problem. this is now been addressed with the Combined Colleges now participating in 'A' championship along with St. Peter's College and Good Counsel College, which has helped contribute to the progress of this year's Minor hurlers. It's the very first time Wexford has had three 'A' colleges sides. I had canvassed the idea of Combined Colleges for many years. Now it's a reality.

Wexford loves its sport but it's not hard to see the diversity of sports now available in the county. On a typical weekend on has Gaelic football and hurling, soccer, rugby, plus other sporting activities, such as handball and golf. With such a variety the pool of players is spread between multiple sports, in contrast to once having Gaelic football and hurling as the prime activity. This has a huge impact on Urban areas but is now spreading rapidly to rural parishes.

Wexford's current officer board has addressed the under-age structures with huge progress at Minor and Under-21 hurling.

I know nothing is going to change this year from a Wexford perspective. The calling for Liam Dunne's head is just idle gossip, coming from people who have little or no knowledge of what it takes to bring a group of young players to the highest level. It's difficult to see how they can bounce back in the qualifiers. But Dunne will do his best to lift his charges. He has given a lifetime to Wexford hurling both on and off the pitch and should be respected for that.

No one would envy him his task over the coming weeks.

Wexford People

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