Friday 24 November 2017

Heartening display means hope is in the air as we prepare to challenge Cats


LEAVING BLACKWATER on Sunday last I met a fellow Gael who asked me half jokingly 'are we ready for Kilkenny?'. When we reflected on the performance against Offaly we agreed that possibly no team in the country is yet ready for the Cats, but going on the evidence provided by this young Wexford outfit over the past couple of weeks there is much to be optimistic about going forward.

Their performance, particularly in the second-half, was heartening as they completely blew away an experienced Offaly outfit and this achieved with only a sprinkling of the players that tasted championship action in 2012. There were strong performances all over the field, with young Gary Moore again leading the scoring stakes and with Eoin Moore, Richie Kehoe, Andrew Shore and Harry Kehoe amongst others stamping their authority, the result was in no doubt well before the final whistle. Young Andrew Kenny fitted in like a man that was playing at this level all his life, and I have no doubt that there is a great inter-county career ahead of the talented Buffers Alley man.

The most pleasing aspect of Sunday's game for me was the collective effort from all the Wexford players. Liam Dunne and his backroom team have instilled a great spirit into their charges and the workrate when not in possession was superb, with no Offaly player being afforded a free stroke. This was particularly evident in the forwards and by the end of the 70 minutes this, allied to our superior fitness, ensured that Offaly offered very little resistance in the last quarter.

I've also noticed over the last two weeks that when we fall behind (seven points down at one stage in the first-half on Sunday) the heads don't drop and this will be a vital component of our armoury later on. So, in short, although we still have work to do I feel our graph is certainly going in the right direction with the Dublin championship game in the summer being a real barometer of our progress.

As we digest the local championship draw, a lot of clubs will be intensifying their preparation over the next few weeks. Managers all over the county will be implementing strict codes of discipline on players' social activities in an effort to have them in prime condition for the big games. A little story related to me recently and attributed to Irish rugby coach Declan Kidney (I haven't validated its truth) when speaking at a coaching forum went as follows.

In his early days Declan was manager of Presentation Brothers College in Cork who had qualified for the Schools Cup final. Their top scorer, and player most depended on, was a young Ronan O'Gara. Declan was a bit worried about some of the team's smoking habits so he held a players' meeting and announced that anyone caught smoking would be dropped.

A week before the final he was walking down the street in Cork when he met a group of lads in the distance coming the opposite way, and lo and behold who was in the middle of them totally oblivious to his manager but Ronan O'Gara with a cigarette in his mouth. If the manager confronted the player he would have to drop him and all but finish their chance of victory on Saturday.

When asked by the audience how he handled this dilemma, Declan smiled and said 'the manager hid'. The take home message for managers is: don't make rules you might have to break so be careful when setting them.

Finally, I finish on a very sad note this week. The clouds and rain in Bunclody on Saturday last matched the feelings of anyone who was lucky enough to have known Jimmy Kehoe. The G.A.A. has been blessed over the years to have people like Jimmy within their ranks and he gave so much of his time to both Wexford and his beloved Half Way House-Bunclody, achieving so much both on and off the field.

Jimmy had the ability to have a positive effect on you whether you met him socially or on the field. He along with the rest of the Kehoe family have been a gift to the community and county that they have lived in. Jimmy touched the lives of many people and he will never be forgotten.

All our thoughts are with Jimmy's wife, children, parents, brothers and sisters and extended family. May he rest in peace.

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