Friday 20 September 2019

Gutsy new team should be backed in Down qualifier

Brendan Furlong's Hop Ball column

Wexford will head into the qualifiers with an opening game against Down which represents an opportunity for teams to extend their respective championship campaigns.

This is not to say that at least one or two counties will not emerge who will have a real impact on the eventual destination of the Sam Maguire Cup. While both Wexford and Down may not fit into that category they still have their own little championship to play for, they have pride to play for, but more importantly they will be anxious to prolong their summer.

The emerging Wexford team will compete, of that there is no doubt. David Power has brought positivity back to Wexford football.

There are players in the group who have played fewer matches than others, but they have worked hard to bring Wexford football back to a more firm footing, which makes the result of their championship defeat to Westmeath all the more difficult to accept.

It has been a fractured season up to this with relegation in the league as Power and his management team rebuilt a squad that was decimated through the retirements of some key players, while others were missing through injury.

Wexford simply to not have the player strength in depth to cope with such losses, while also taking into account the rising tide that is hurling, which includes so many players that would be automatic choices had they been available for the big ball game.

So that makes it all the more remarkable what Power is achieving. He has had to trawl through each and every grade of football in the county in his search for not just quality players but players of potential, players whom he deemed had a realistic chance of stepping up to top level football with proper coaching, a weights programme, and a level of fitness many of them could only have dreamed of last year.

There was an element of box-ticking through the National League. Power used some 36 players through that league. While relegation was their eventual lot he still learned much as he set about fashioning a championship squad.

Currently there doesn't appear to be much wriggle room for the majority of players to negotiate a championship path, but with the same dedication and determination, to go along with the quality of their football, one can embrace the future.

There is now a definite gameplan, a football plan enveloping the future, with Junior for the first time in many years providing a platform for the younger players, while also fast approaching is a plan for both Minor and Under-21.

It's here that the real problems lay as Wexford lost their way at both under-age levels, not bringing players through to Senior level which resulted in no Plan B once the more experienced players decided that their number was up.

But the mindset regarding Wexford football is changing. David Power is playing a huge role in all of this. He is now pointing the way for Wexford football but supporters should have patience.

The hurlers under Liam Dunne went through a similar revamp. Wexford were patient and they are now back competing at the top levels of hurling.

Wexford, with patience, can return as a strong footballing county. It's hardly too much to ask that Wexford remain patient given the neglect of nurturing the young talent of recent years. We have been hugely successful at colleges level, and now we must take that through to Minor and Under-21, creating opportunities for young players to flourish and develop their talents.

This Wexford v. Westmeath clash was not just another game. It was a huge game for Wexford. In the scheme of things a performance was important. Wexford gave a performance but the concession of 1-9 with just a point in reply through the closing ten minutes gave a really flattering look to the final scoreline.

It was easy for Westmeath to lay down a marker once they got that goal ten minutes from the end to turn a two-point deficit into a one-point lead, with the huge home support base behind them. Not only were Wexford in a winning position, but looking comfortable, which makes it all the more difficult to accept the end result.

It was tough for these Wexford players but they showed their character in the manner in which they embraced the Westmeath challenge for 60 minutes.The route back for Wexford is the qualifiers.

Wexford People

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