U-17s visit France
Pre-season ended on high with win
Wexford F.C's newly-formed Under-17 squad graced the shores of France last week as they continued their pre-season preparations ahead of their much-anticipated 2018 campaign.
Spending the bones of seven days in Dinard, a coastal town in Brittany, they travelled to play three games against Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 opposition of the equivalent age group.
Caellum Travers-Devlin and Seán Smithers struck in a 2-2 draw with Brest before things went downhill with a 6-0 thumping at the hands of Rennes.
Wexford ended the trip on a high, however, as a Darragh Levingston double and Seán Smithers' second goal of the tour earned them a 3-0 win over Guingamp.
Adding to the occasion was the presence of first team manager Damian Locke, who also made the trip to France with a keen eye on what could be the future of Wexford F.C.
It wasn't entirely a serious affair for Wexford's boys, and while training and classroom sessions supplemented the competitive matches, they also took some time out - most notably to play a spot of hurling on the local beach in Dinard and visit some of the local scenery.
They arrived back in Rosslare on Saturday, ready to continue their build-up on more familiar ground.
The squad that set foot on French soil last week is undoubtedly one of the youngest in the Under-17 league.
With 14 of their 20 still eligible for this age group in the 2019 season, one may consider their squad selection a gamble.
Ten of last season's successful Under-15 squad have made the transition up an age group. Wexford have uncharacteristically drawn players away from a host of rival clubs including three from Waterford and one each from Bray Wanderers, Shamrock Rovers and Longford Town.
The backroom team has followed a similar path - with last year's Under-15 manager (Billy Molloy), assistant manager (Mikael Allain) and head coach (Jason Goodison) stepping up a level. They are joined by UEFA 'A' licensed coach Mokhtar Addani who joins as technical advisor from Bray Wanderers.
While results in France were mixed, an early pre-season draw versus St. Patrick's Athletic, in a game which Wexford dominated, has aroused considerable attention.
There is a sneaking suspicion that this may be the Wexford team to watch, not just this season but next year too.
With half of the squad still hurting from last season's brutal exit in the quarter-finals, there will be motivation to go at least one better this year.
Their campaign beings just as last year's did - at home to Cobh Ramblers on March 18.
The full squad is: Aaron Hall, Seán Maher; Shane Gibson, Killian Flynn, Kevin Murphy, Kyle Scallan, Dylan Whelan, Cillian McDonald, Seán O'Brien-Murphy, Killian Griffin; Caellum Travers-Devlin, Luke Greene, Graham O'Reilly, Darragh Levingston, Ethan O'Neill; James Dowling, Seán Smithers, Robert Bulmer, Brian Byrne, Brody Murphy.