BEFORE COMMENTING on the Wexford Senior and Intermediate hurling draws, I must refer to the 'Irish Independent's 'G.A.A. Giants' competition which has been running over the past couple of months and their efforts to decide on the best hurling and football teams of the last 50 years.
It's always very difficult to gain universal approval when attempting a venture like this but I did feel a certain sense of injustice (again) to see no Wexford representation on the final hurling selection. Admittedly we haven't been flooded by honours in this county over the past 50 years but I don't think anybody could deny that the purple and gold has made a significant contribution to the game in the time frame selected.
I was brought up on a diet of Tony Doran, Martin Quigley and Mick Jacob to name but a few in my youth, and I suppose the most galling thing for me in the selection process was the fact that the Buffers Alley and Wexford full-forward was not in the shortlist of four nominees for that position. I am not going to go through Tony Doran's career, but suffice to say he was the second top goalscorer in hurling championship history (next only to the great Nickey Rackard if I have looked up Google correctly), winning his last All-Ireland medal at the young age of 43.
Everybody has an opinion on selections like this but I feel a lot of people who witnessed Tony's career would feel it a 'bit Irish' not to include him in the top four full-forwards since 1962. Going even further I feel when all elements are taken into account there is a very strong case to award him the number 14 jersey.
The draws for the hurling championships took place on Saturday last and threw up a number of interesting combinations. Last year I felt the draw was a little lopsided with one group certainly being stronger and I feel this was borne out with three of the four semi-finalists coming from that stream. On the flip side, however, it could be pointed out to me that the two relegation finalists came from this same pot.
This year again, however, I think that Group B, which is headed by Oulart, will be tougher to emerge from, but until the action begins we will have no idea of how teams are going to fare. There are a number of extra factors such as emigration, injuries etc. which must be taken into account when making predictions so I will refrain from this exercise until later in the year.
It will be particularly interesting to see if the Harriers, Shelmaliers and Ferns can build further on the promise shown last year or whether there is another kick in St. Martin's who certainly have talent in their ranks. If Oulart are to be unseated these teams must concentrate on strengthening their belief to do the job because only Ferns really had them sweating last year.
Talking to two of the Buffers Alley backroom men, Aidan O'Connor and Fintan Farrell, recently, we agreed that the Intermediate draw had the ability to make it very difficult for the Alley in their efforts to regain Senior status, and how this has come to pass. The Alley are facing a maze of local derbies with Blackwater (whom they drew with three years ago), Ballygarrett, St. Patrick's and Gorey, and all of these teams will ask serious questions of their desire to return to the top flight.
Ballygarrett supremo Seamus Byrne (although in no way complacent) seemed genuinely excited about crossing swords with his near neighbours when interviewed on South East Radio, and I think gave a good idea of the anticipation felt in the Gorey District for the year ahead. Group B will be tough also with two of the more fancied teams, Bunclody and Askamore, providing a mouth-watering prospect. Willie Carley's Craanford will want to build on last year's success and qualification from the group will be a minimum requirement expected of his charges from the Glynn man.
All in all there is so much to look forward to and again the season ticket looks particularly good value with the added bonus of cash back for the club if Diarmuid Devereux gets his excellent proposal through. Something tells me he will as he is a very persuasive man.
Well done to the Wexford hurlers on their first round Walsh Cup victory over D.I.T. on a bitterly cold afternoon in Blackwater. Some good performances were seen in a keenly-contested game, and the only downside for me was the decision to charge €10 to the die-hards that attended. Admittedly the money is going to a good cause but I feel that a fiver would be sufficient for games such as this. Here's to a great 2013.