Tuesday 24 April 2018

Don't mind Loughnane, focus on the positives!

HURLING REALLY came home to Wexford on Saturday evening as our team battled out a well-deserved draw in a beautifully scenic Wexford Park in front of a passionately supportive home crowd.

If Carlsberg were to make Saturday evenings in summer this would surely be in the 'almost' category with the only missing piece being a victory, but I think overall a draw was a fair result with maybe Anthony Daly breathing a deeper sigh of relief at the death.

Before I go any further I must give huge credit to everybody involved in making the event such an advertisement for this great hurling county. The pitch was carpet-like, the admission fee of €10 to the open side very reasonable, and all elements of stewarding made it a hugely-successful public relations exercise for the G.A.A.

On top of this my good friend (and top-class hurler in his day) Pat O'Callaghan brilliantly set the scene with a wonderful rendition of our National Anthem. The game itself was close and exciting with the Wexford following of old giving tremendous backing to their team.

Children hurling on the pitch at half-time further emphasised the feel good factor of the occasion and if any visitor was in doubt as to the love of the ancient game in this part of the world, their theories were well and truly dispelled.

Dublin started the game as red-hot favourites and the bookies (including local bookie Mylie Walsh) seemed to have called it right when Danny Sutcliffe pointed in the eleventh minute to put Dublin five ahead, leaving a lot of Wexford people moving nervously in their seats, fearing a repeat of the recent league game between the teams.

From this on however this young Wexford team adapted to the pace of the game and, aided by Jack Guiney's brilliant goal, were unlucky to go in a point down at half-time. Wexford at times dominated the second-half and Dublin as I predicted showed a brittleness that must be a serious source of worry to their management team.

With five minutes to go Wexford looked good for victory until Dublin's goal. This was a real game-changer and shouldn't have been allowed as Mark Schutte in the build-up dropped the hurl and used his two hands to execute the handpass, but sadly from Wexford's point of view it was missed by the referee.

On a different point, I raced home to watch my recording of the game and was at times tempted to throw at least my shoe at the screen as Ger Loughnane consistently pointed out the negatives of the game to his audience and the analysis seemed to be totally pre-occupied with where Dublin lost the game. Negativity like this can be a bit of a pain, particularly when you appreciate how much these players have put in to their game (yes, they are amateurs), and a little acknowledgement on Wexford's progress would not have gone amiss. The contentious Dublin goal only warranted brief mention and I wonder would this be the case if an incident like this occurred in a Tipp. versus Kilkenny championship game.

I was delighted to see Mark Fanning make his debut in goal (I remember asking his mother of all people in Oylegate six years ago who was that little lad in the goal, he's come a long way since then), and he was fronted by as exceptional an display as seen from six Wexford backs for a long time. They were brilliant and I won't go through them all, only to say that Mossy Waters exemplified their spirit as they almost completely nullified the Dublin attack in the second-half.

Young Ciarán O'Shaughnessy was thrown in at the deep end and this can be difficult, especially against an experienced Dublin midfield, and we will see plenty more of the Shels man as the summer progresses as he has undoubted talent.

Lee Chin offered huge strength here and electrified the crowd with his strong running. Some will say he should have tapped over when presented with a goal chance but whether right or wrong I was glad he went for the goal because if he had scored it the top of the Wexford Park stand would have landed in the Bullring.

Up front there were strong performances with young Jack, Garrett Sinnott and Rory Jacob all superb and ably supported by their hard-working colleagues.

All in all a great display and although there is still work to be done, pride has been restored greatly to Wexford hurling.

A word of caution must be added that Parnell Park will be no picnic, Dublin will most probably up their performance, will deservedly be favourites and all the problematic issues pondered on prior to last week will still be there. We must not sit on our laurels and further improvement will be necessary to carry us through.

New Ross Standard