Saturday 21 April 2018

Gerry's honest appraisal a real boost

IT was uplifting to read the interview with Gerry Grehan in this paper over the Christmas period in relation to proposed changes planned for the Football Development Squads.

Gerry was extremely honest and open and he accepts that currently many aspects of the county's development squads are in need of major restructuring.

The Garden County Academy committee project is under the stewardship of Gerry and he is ably supported and assisted by many strong and capable individuals including Joe and Niall O'Brien, Paudge McWalter, Gavin Wynne, Philip McGillycuddy and Martin Fitzgerald together with various sub-committees set up to address all the areas of concern.

Thankfully, for the future of Wicklow football, these people have decided that enough is enough and it's now or never if we are going to try and do things right.

It's refreshing to see this group taking such a strong initiative and they fully deserve complete support in order to give this project every possible opportunity to succeed. It's alarming to think that if this group wasn't prepared to intervene we probably would have continued with poor practices and a strong possibility of continual under-achievement. Why was this project or a similar project too daunting for the full-time staff and why did successive County Boards turn a blind eye to what was happening with development squads?

The failures of the past cannot be changed now but how great it would be for our young stars to be given every opportunity to make it to the very top of their chosen sport. We have done all the box ticking exercises for too many years with very poor returns so we must now prioritise this project as failure is just not an option.

We think we have problems with our football squads but unfortunately I would have even greater concerns about the hurling squads.

Disturbingly, from a young hurler's perspective, those who should, don't seem to be too worried about it. I compliment the current voluntary coaches who give their all in difficult circumstances.

Will we soon see a meaningful working group to address hurling concerns? I am not holding my breath.

Unfortunately, here in Wicklow, it looks like if hurling people want to improve standards they will have to take matters into their own hands.

In a fair and perfect world the new football initiatives should have been established simultaneously with new hurling ones even if on a smaller scale. The hurling fraternity could lose significant numbers to football if proper structures are not put in place on par with their football counterparts.

A disappointing result for the senior hurlers last Sunday in Trim against Meath. It's a long time since the team finished on the wrong side of such a poor result. Thankfully, it was in the Kehoe Cup and not the League.

Last Sunday was still only their second game of the year and they now have three weeks to prepare for their first National League game, ironically, against Meath. Wicklow played with the advantage of a strong wind in the first half however they could only register five points.

The wind increased in the second half and the double whammy of playing with 14 men for a large portion of the game contributed to them not registering a single score.

Missing through injury was team captain, Wayne O'Gorman, and John Henderson, who was also carrying a slight injury, could only play for part of the second half. The sending off in the first half of full-back Graham Keogh, which I felt was slightly harsh, didn't help the cause. While on the pitch, Graham had his hands full with the Meath full-forward, another worry was that some other Wicklow players seemed to labour with the pace of the game.

After the sending off, Wicklow had their best passage of play up to half time and restricted Meath to only two scores and passed up many scoring chances of their own.

Casey rotated his goalkeepers and Joe Murphy started. Joe made a fine reflex save in the first half but he will be disappointed with some of his puck-outs in both halves and this in turn put the backs under additional pressure.

Both Mikey Lee and Danny Staunton worked tirelessly throughout, however, they were forced to play very deep at times and this reduced scoring opportunities for the team.

Wicklow struggled to win first phase ball throughout and I feel more ball winners are needed especially in the half forward line. Sunday's game was a considerable step up from the Mayo match and some players struggled at the higher level.

Meath played a fast attacking style of hurling with intelligent distribution of the sliotar to their speedy forward line.

Casey has lined up for this week a valuable challenge match against current Leinster club champions, Mount Leinster Rangers, and this will undoubtedly sharpen up the team and give him another opportunity to have a look at other members of his large panel.

With three weeks to prepare for the start of the new League and with the return of his injured players, Casey will be confident of turning around this result on home soil in the tighter confines of Arklow.

Bray People