Wexford in awful crisis -- Dunne
Wexford are on such a slide that they may soon plummet into the realms of Christy Ring Cup hurling, former Model County centre-back Liam Dunne warned yesterday.
The defeat to Offaly in Tullamore on Sunday has effectively condemned Wexford to Division 2 once again, just 12 months after gaining promotion from the lower tier.
And the drop to the lower tier for the second time in three years threatens to cause serious long-term damage to the county's hurling fabric.
But Dunne fears that the slump is so great that relegation from the top flight of the league may be the least of their worries by the end of the season.
"I absolutely hate saying this, but there has to be a danger that we could slip back to Christy Ring competition standard in the near future," stressed Dunne. "I'm the Oulart-The Ballagh manager and we have eight or nine players involved in the squad so I don't take any pleasure in saying it. But we have to be really careful now."
Wexford need to beat Cork on Sunday and Tipperary in their final game and hope that Offaly don't pick up any more points to avoid relegation. On the head-to-head, Offaly are assured of safety if the teams finish level.
Dunne says there is a level of apathy around the county for hurling that he has never seen before.
"I've never seen so little talk about hurling around the county. Everyone is disillusioned with it. I was listening to the local radio this morning and there was no more than five minutes devoted to it before they moved on," he said.
Dunne would like to see the GAA revert to the league system that applied when he was in his prime as a player.
"The first and second divisions were linked through quarter-finals and semi-finals and I'd like to see that link return. I'd also like to see the leagues revert to an autumn start and no pre-season competitions like the Walsh Cup and Waterford Crystal League.
"I don't know what the hang-up is about a closed season when the fellas that need it most are involved with third-level colleges who run them right through November and December."
Wexford have lost all five league matches, and with key players like Diarmuid Lyng not committing this season it is hard to see how it will turn for them in 2011 now.
Manager Colm Bonnar talked about the problems of motivating players when they were a Division 2 team; Dunne fears serious motivation will be required for the championship.
"We have the winners of Antrim and Laois and right now that doesn't look like an easy game either way. But the prize is a game against Kilkenny in Wexford Park.
"I wouldn't lay the blame at Colm Bonnar's door. But he was a manager chosen for a county in a crisis, despite having never managed an inter-county team before (Bonnar was involved with Waterford during Justin McCarthy's management). I thought the treatment of John Meyler (Bonnar's predecessor) was scandalous and I still say it now.
"But the problems in Wexford are from the top right down.
"But I wouldn't blame the GAA or anyone else for Wexford's ills. I blame ourselves. We're in an awful crisis now. We've won just two Leinster minor titles in the last 31 years and that is not acceptable. We are not producing players."
Bonnar has vowed to fight on to preserve Division 1 status but it won't help their cause if Dublin manage to beat Kilkenny on Saturday night to throw open the whole division again and give the Rebels something to play for.