Incredible win in first game
THE FIRST game of this year's Allianz League last Sunday at Wexford Park proved to be an incredible win for Wexford. With 32 minutes gone in the first-half, Wexford were trailing by nine points, and it looked like being a disastrous start for the new management.
A late burst in the closing stages of the first 35 minutes saw them get two important scores, a pointed free from Ben Brosnan and a coolly-taken goal by P.J. Banville. Up to that point the team had been totally outplayed in every sector and Longford were full value for their lead.
Longford started really well and were pressurising Wexford in to making bad decisions and turning over possession. At one stage we were talking about damage limitation such was the dominance of the men from the north of the province, and it was really hard to see how Wexford could salvage anything from the game. But that late burst proved to be a turning point and gave the Model men new impetus for the second-half. To their credit they hit the ground running in the second-half and somehow managed to win by one point.
From the stands it seemed that we all underestimated the strength of the wind, as Wexford struggled to get the ball in to the forward line to create any chances. However, in the second-half Longford suffered a similar fate, and took 15 minutes to get their first score, so the elements were a deciding factor. I believe though that the main reason for the turnaround was that the attitude and commitment of our team improved immensely in the second-half, and more than matched their opponents' intensity.
Daithí Waters proved to be a real star on Sunday, as he almost single-handedly dragged Wexford back in to the game with some magnificent fielding. Ben Brosnan's accuracy from placed balls proved crucial on an extremely difficult day for free-takers.
Graeme Molloy was outstanding once again as he patrolled the full-back line and made some vital interceptions and clearances. Paddy Byrne also worked hard, while Michael Furlong was the pick of the newcomers. Craig Doyle also showed he has lots to offer with a hard-working debut.
As we all know, to win this first game was crucial especially as it was at home, so at the end of the day that is all that matters. But Aidan O'Brien will recognise that a massive improvement will be needed. A similar first-half performance away to Armagh next Sunday will be severely punished, so I am sure the panel will be working on intensity and concentration levels this week.
Last year we started with a home win against Cavan only to lose to Sligo the following week, so the focus must be on taking something away from the Athletic Grounds next Sunday. Armagh will be hurting after a beating by Laois, but I believe Wexford are capable of winning next Sunday if they can cut down on the mistakes and play to their own strengths.
Talking to many people who went to Wexford Park on Sunday, a big bone of contention was the admission price of €13. It should be pointed out that this price is set by Croke Park and not by the County Board. This is too much to charge, especially in the current economic climate.
Ten euro is more than enough to pay to watch one league game. Perhaps they could introduce a sliding scale of admission prices, 13 for Division 1, ten for Division 2, eight for Divisions 3 and 4. The standard of entertainment varies according to the division, so it is not an unreasonable suggestion.
On Saturday night supporters at Croke Park were able to see two Division 1 games for €13 - now that is real value for money. A more common sense approach to pricing might entice more people to go to the games.
New Ross Standard