Negative analysis will only embolden this Wexford group

The language barrier

The language of our game is often a constant battle between the traditionalist and the revisionist. The supporter who wants things done how they were always done. 

And who knows what should have been done after things go wrong. Both live side by side. 

Test yourself and arrive at a GAA field over the next week and record how many times you hear:

a. Will you get out in front

b. Two hands on the hurley

c. He’s your man, just follow him.

d. Will you effin’ stay in the corner

e. Will you just hit the effin’ ball.

The reality is there’s a place for all of us at the table. The hope, particularly at juvenile level, is that the imparting of such ‘advice’ can be conveyed with clarity, instruction, and with a more appropriate register. 

The question really is when it needs to change and more pertinently why.

In the 2017 All-Ireland senior hurling final, there were two pickups in the whole game performed under pressure with ‘two hands on the hurley’.

I can see the horror on faces of coaches now when you encourage players to use one hand but there must come a time in a player’s development that they adapt to the conditions that ultimately they will encounter. 

The contradictory instructions about getting out in front and staying in are evident in most fields but there are ways of doing both and ensuring there is enjoyment and thought.

Beauty and functionality

Lucky Liam Óg McGovern wasn’t listening in the 68th minute on Sunday as the hitherto malfunctioning Wexford puckout was beautifully executed, with Mark Fanning going short to Liam Ryan, before he transferred to McGovern who was now 100 yards from the goal. 

A beautiful point ensued. Populism purports the ugliness of the mistake-ridden game and maybe there’s an element of realism too. 

However Jim Bolger and Ger Cushe’s musings may have furthered the belief of Wexford that what they are doing is cutting their cloth to measure.

Yes Wexford did eventually push up on the Galway puckout but it’s not simply a matter of pushing up, it’s a choreographed, planned execution of individual roles that saw Kevin Foley go to midfield, Aidan Nolan to 11, and Chin to the corner. 

Subsequent to the puckout, when danger arrives on the doorstep, Foley is back in the pocket with Nolan resuming midfield duties and Chin also out in the middle third.

As Wexford’s work ethic improved, learnings from earlier decisions did also. After 61 minutes and five seconds Conor McDonald had an opportunity to play Cathal Dunbar in for a handy point. 

Paul Morris learned from this mistake on 62 min 50 secs when his simple ground ball to Shaun Murphy resulted in a great score.

Wexford’s last-quarter push was a mirror image of their league game against Kikenny. 

It’s the presence of a definite plan when they are playing with and against the breeze that gets lost in the negative connotations concerning systems. 

Davy’s assertion that “he doesn’t care what anyone thinks” , is echoed in the defiance and unity of his players. 

The unity of their set-up is often ignored and I for one have never seen body language of a disgruntled nature from his players — no suggestion this is monotonous system that has served its purpose.

Wexford are a very dangerous team and a week dominated by discussion of how poor the game was no doubt serve to heighten their insular motivation.

Davy pays price of his previous

Talk of Davy serving a lengthy ban for his confrontation with the fourth official is hyperbolic. Damien Reck’s tracking was halted with a clothesline but the whole incident seemed to have a look of ‘just gimme a chance Davy, and I’ll send you to the stand’.

Davy gave the referee a glimpse of light and that was enough. Davy’s previous as opposed to the present likely resulted in his dismissal. 

The issue itself raises more immediate questions concerning the role of linesmen, umpires, et al.

Although I am out of it less than a year, I was struck by the number of times I conversed with a linesman or fourth official in the most conciliatory tone possible and they only say to you “I can’t give it Derek, I am not the referee”. 

It frustrated me, because they were often in a perfect position to see the flight of the ball, so why not overrule. 

Hopefully things will change and hopefully Kieran McGeeney’s unpunished infraction from last week’s championship game also sees Davy escape a potential ban.

Classy Conway

Beauty was unfolding in Cusack Park on Saturday also in the form of two highly-motivated, well-organised and skillful teams in Westmeath and Kerry.

Shane Conway’s sleight of hand and elusive style have been rightly lauded. 

I saw him up close for UCC v DCU in a game scattered with inter-county stars and none shone brighter than him. 

Allied to the obvious skillset, there’s a hardy edge and what seems like a vivacious personality.

Two minutes into the second half with four Westmeath wolves hunting him he sublimely hopped the ball off the ground without breaking stride and coolly played a 20-yard stick pass backwards to Michael O’Leary for a fine point. 

When the need was greatest heading into injury-time he stepped forward to land the insurance point.

What now for Offaly?

Enough column inches have been dedicated to the Offaly saga over the last 10 days. The question for them is what now?

James Kerr’s famed book Legacy references the starting point for the cultural overhaul of the All Blacks’ mentality and Offaly could do worse than follow that maxim.

It must begin with self-analysis, admittance from all parties linked to the GAA scene in the county that mistakes have been made. 

A merger of minds at every level involving clubs, schools, board, and sponsors would ensure an open and transparent way forward.

Implicit in everyone’s mindset must be that adversity will be part of the path forward and succession planning must be integrated to reinforce a long-term shared vision.

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