Wednesday 24 January 2018

Soccer flourishes locally as season draws to an end

Alan Aherne's On The Line

This time of year is always particularly manic in the sporting world. On the one hand, long seasons which started in most cases last September are coming to an end for numerous soccer and rugby teams across all divisions and age groups.

And on the other side of the coin, the club G.A.A. championship programme has sprung into life over the past fortnight and the focus will now switch from football to hurling which will be the dominant game throughout May.

All the while followers of the inter-county Senior teams will keep a close eye on the various domestic matches, wondering if a new, emerging talent will be unearthed and hoping that we are spared an unwanted list of troublesome injuries,

I'm not going to lie, it's a crazy time in this business as the pressure on space reaches its yearly high. And the fact that so many deserving sporting achievements are worthy of coverage leads to all sorts of headaches that we could do without.

However, I wouldn't have it any other way because it's at times like this when a true appreciation emerges of just how diverse and talented our sporting representatives are.

With the soccer season close to a finish, let's pause for a moment and reflect on some of the recent feats which testify to the fact that Wexford is consistently one of the strongest counties in the sport outside of Dublin.

I know I'm perceived to be a 'G.A.A. man' and it always amuses me when I occasionally hear myself referred to in that manner. Yes, G.A.A. is my first love and always will be, but that doesn't mean that I am anti-soccer, or any other sport for that matter.

In actual fact, I played soccer (briefly and badly) at schoolboys level with North End United and I had the privilege as a youngster of attending four FA Cup finals and two Charity Shields as my father's late uncle was an employee of the old Wembley Stadium and managed to procure the precious tickets during the 1980s.

I will always remember being behind the goal when Norman Whiteside curled in that winner for Manchester United against Everton in 1985, and two years earlier I was also on the terrace when Brighton's Gordon Smith couldn't beat Gary Bailey in a one-on-one situation when it looked like a shock of enormous proportions was on the cards.

That's enough of my soccer memories though; back to the present and to John Godkin and his North End squad who were so close to gracing the Aviva Stadium on F.A.I. Junior Cup final day.

I have no doubt they will be hurting right now as I always feel a semi-final is the worst possible stage in which to make an exit.

However, they should take a bow for performing to such consistent standards of excellence, and I wish them well on Sunday when they travel to the Mardkye to meet U.C.C. in the F.A.I. Senior Cup.

Can you imagine the buzz that would be created if they worked their way through the preliminary stages and ended up drawing an Airtricity League club?

That is one of the incentives for Goggy and his troops to bounce back, and of course the retention of their Premier League and Cup titles from last year is also very much on course.

A couple of miles out the road at Ferrycarrig Park, the place is buzzing thanks to the exploits of both men and women.

While the much sought-after top spot in Division 1 of the Airtricity League eluded the former following their 1-0 loss to Finn Harps on Saturday, that shouldn't detract from the overall quality of their recent displays.

That poor start which led to two early losses was quickly replaced with a four-game winning streak which only ended against the Donegal side, but the belief must surely be there to maintain a strong fight for promotion.

Officials of the club no doubt wonder constantly how attendances can be improved; well, if Premier Division football came to town, then the turnstiles would really get busy.

Lack of space (see, I wasn't joking above) prevents me from saying as much as I would like about the Youths Women. National champions for the first time though; it doesn't get much sweeter than that so congratulations to all concerned on a wonderful feat.

Wexford People

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