‘A period of transition’ may be a phrase thrown around all too often, but in the case of Wexford inter-county football, this transition is certainly evident.
Under the watchful eye of Seamus McEnaney in 2017, Wexford gained promotion from Division 4 of the National Football League. A step in the right direction for the Model County, but the tricky task of remaining in that division now lies ahead for new manager Paul McLoughlin and his charges.
In a division consisting of high-quality teams such as Armagh, Fermanagh, Sligo and Derry, the Wexford Senior football team will have their sights firmly on remaining in the division – and considering the amount of first year inter-county footballers on their panel this year, that would be a fair achievement too.
Speaking to Dublin City FM of late, Paul McLoughlin revealed the extent of the ongoing footballing revolution in Wexford:
“We’ve a panel of 38. 22 are first-time inter-county players. So it’s going to take a while for our lads to find our feet. It’s going to take time, and I expressed this last week as well. GAA people in Wexford have to give us time.”
Before the Yellowbellies 2018 campaign even began, Wexford were dealt some major sucker-punches, with experienced stalwarts PJ Banville, Shane Roche and Joey Wadding announcing their retirements, while question marks still remain over the immediate future of other experienced players.
The decisions of Jake Firman, Colm Kehoe and Michael O’Regan opting to switch codes to play for Davy Fitzgerald’s resurgent hurling panel didn’t help the situation, but like life, football moves on and other opportunities arise.
Even though the difficulty levels of the imminent task has exponentially risen, Kildare native Paul McLoughlin is under no illusions ahead of the new season:
“We’ve lost a lot of players over the last twelve months. A lot of those lads were probably coming to the end of their playing careers, so the time for that transition is there. It sort of all happened at the one time, it’s not happening gradually.”
“Our squad is reasonably well settled. There’s maybe 2 or 3 guys we’d be interested in talking to over the next while and we’ll take it from there – but I certainly have no interest at all in dropping anybody off the panel. It’s work-in-progress,” he said to Dublin City FM.
2018 won’t be about attaining All-Ireland, Leinster or National League silverware for the Wexford footballers, but more importantly, it will be about the progression and development of the newly introduced players as they embark on a new era of Wexford football.
After last weeks victory against Dublin, the Wexford faithful will be hoping that their county’s progression continues into the League and Championship, and that their performances warrant some reward.
Jason Redmond, Pundit Arena.