Wednesday 17 January 2018

24 hours of GAA entertainment

WHAT A magnificent 24 hours of entertainment Wexford G.A.A. supporters were treated to last weekend, as both of our Senior teams showed tremendous pride and passion in the county jersey.

Saturday evening in Wexford Park was an amazing occasion, where both Dublin and Wexford played their hearts out in front of a massive crowd in ideal summer conditions. It was a perfect advertisement for playing provincial games on a home and away basis. A thrilling draw was perhaps a fair result, but hopefully our hurlers will finish off the job next Saturday in Parnell Park.

On Sunday our footballers were in the opposite position as they had to travel to Drogheda to play Louth in front of a passionate local support. In my column last week I stated that I felt there was a big performance due from this team, and boy did they perform.

The disappointment of league relegation was firmly banished to a distant memory as Wexford fashioned a magnificent victory over a fancied Louth team. Louth started well, as you would expect any home team to do, and had our defence in trouble in the very early stages. Playing against a strong wind, an early Shane Lennon goal was a warning to Wexford that they needed to build up a decent half-time lead.

With 25 minutes gone the sides were level and I'm sure Louth would have been more than pleased to go in at half-time with a similar scoreline. However, a scoring burst from Wexford ensured that they went in at half-time with an invaluable five-point lead.

Included in those vital scores was a magnificent goal from Ciarán Lyng, which must be a candidate for goal of the season even at this early stage. If it was scored by Bernard Brogan, Michael Murphy or 'Gooch' Cooper it would have been the main story on the nine o'clock news, so hopefully it will get the full credit it deserves. On the subject of Lyng, he really looked to be back to his best, particularly in the first-half when he won a lot of possession and got crucial scores.

A tentative start in the second-half saw Louth gain the initiative and it was eleven minutes before James Holmes plundered our first score. Louth upped the pace and put unbelievable pressure on Wexford in every sector of the field, as you would expect from the home team.

From being seven points up Wexford were pegged back several times, but still had the resolve and the ability to get vital scores when it mattered. The relief for players and supporters was palpable when referee Fergal Kelly blew for time after playing three minutes of injury time that felt like 13 minutes.

To give credit to both teams, this was proper championship football, the way the game should be played. The teams played 15 against 15 with no spoiling tactics, sweeper systems or too much cynical tackling. There were tremendous scores, outstanding fielding and committed tackling. There were also lots of mistakes but they can be put down to intensity, exhaustion and nerves.

The Wexford squad will be thrilled with the victory and to a certain extent the manner in which it was achieved. In other games they have capitulated when under the type of pressure they were exposed to on Sunday, so that shows the character of the players. Every player ran themselves into the ground in draining conditions.

There are problems to be ironed out, but that's for another discussion another time. A few players deserve special mention in my mind. Ben Brosnan gave a flawless display of place kicking, which shows character and guts after his disappointments last year. The last free he scored was a real test of nerves and ability, and he stood up to the test with style.

Daithí Waters showed that he is one of the best midfielders in Leinster or indeed Ireland by producing another mammoth performance. What really helped him this time was the assistance he received from Rory Quinlivan, who seems fitter and more mobile than before. More performances like this will make them a formidable partnership in the championship.

Lee Chin also deserves praise for having the physical conditioning and the mental toughness (as well as skill) to play two Senior championship matches in less than 24 hours. He didn't look out of place on the 'Sunday Game' panel either. Aidan O'Brien and Liam Dunne look out, it could be Hollywood or hurling for Chinner!

New Ross Standard

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