‘No excuses this year’
Manager McLoughlin looks ahead to Louth challenge
Having left a dismal 2018 behind them, Wexford Senior footballers start off the 2019 campaign in a more positive frame of mind as they look forward eagerly to their Bord na Móna O'Byrne Cup opener away to Louth on Saturday.
With Brian Malone still to decide on his future role, if any, manager Paul McLoughlin is expected to include many new faces from last season's set-up, with a particular emphasis on building a squad for the Division 4 National League campaign.
Wexford will be without some of their more experienced players like John Tubritt, Eoghan Nolan, Malone and Daithí Waters, who have been given an extended break following a lengthy club campaign.
Despite this, McLoughlin is still looking to field the best team that is available to him.
'We have a few injuries but what we contemplate doing is starting with players whom we believe are ready for this game. We have an average of 23 players training on a regular basis so we will be picking the best team from those training,' he said.
'Players like Niall Hughes, Jonatan Bealin and Michael O'Regan will all start, while Shane Doyle, Gavin Sheehan and Martin O'Connor are also likely to feature. They are shaping up well and are the future of Wexford football.'
Wexford had a pre-arranged challenge game with Offaly at their Centre of Excellence in Kilcormac on Sunday, but McLoughlin came away with mixed feelings.
'We trailed by seven points at half-time, led by three points going into the closing seven minutes, but in the end lost out by 3-13 to 1-16.
'It was a chronic day weather-wise, but these are the type of games we have to learn to close out. It's all about attitude and application.
'If we can get that right it would go a long way. A few wins would do so much for the team, for their confidence, so that is why it's important even to start winning challenge games,' he added.
This was Wexford's first game under the new rules, and McLoughlin is prepared to give all of them a chance.
'The players are adapting but still have some way to go. With the handpass the players have already learned to play the foot pass in between the three passes, to buy back the three handpasses.
'It may bring more positivity to the game but the big teams will still remain at the top,' he said.
Looking ahead to the Louth game, McLoughlin realises it will be a real challenge.
'We have Louth, Meath and Laois in our group, all difficult games, but that is what we need. We should not be afraid, as should the players get their attitude right they can make progress. We have made progress but now we just have to show it.
'This year there will be no excuses. We just have to show up and deliver and adopt the best possible attitude going into every game. Now it's about consistency and attitude but the players are buying into this,' he said.
'Like the Offaly game, it's disappointing not to see it out. That's what we have to bring to the table, seeing out games, as a couple of wins would be a tremendous boost to the players' confidence.
'We travel to play Louth, a real test. They were relegated from Division 2 last season, we were relegated from Division 3, so there is still a bit of a gap between us. What we need is to start closing the gap and getting some wins under our belt,' McLoughlin added.
The manager said the team will be named later in the week.