Many new faces ex­posed to rigours of county foot­ball

New Ross Standard - - SPORT -

LAST SUN­DAY was the first chance this year for Wex­ford sup­port­ers to see our new-look foot­ball team play at home in a proper com­pet­i­tive game. A small loyal band of die-hard sup­port­ers braved the ice-cold Fe­bru­ary day in or­der to as­sess what the fu­ture holds for our Se­nior county team.

Re­al­is­ti­cally, Wex­ford were not ex­pected to win this game, even though from the point of view of sur­vival in Di­vi­sion 3 it was a must­win oc­ca­sion.

What we wit­nessed was an en­cour­ag­ing dis­play by an in­ex­pe­ri­enced team against a su­pe­rior op­po­si­tion that have been the sec­ond best team in Le­in­ster for the last two years.

The team which started con­tained a num­ber of play­ers who only es­tab­lished them­selves at in­ter-county foot­ball last year, namely James Stafford, Paul Cur­tis, Jim Ros­siter and Eoghan Nolan.

Also in­cluded were six play­ers in their de­but sea­son who were later joined by four sub­sti­tutes playing their first year at this level too.

That is a mas­sive tran­si­tion for any team to cope with and is an in­di­ca­tion of the mag­ni­tude of the task ahead.

Two tough away games against Fermanagh and Sligo were a harsh start to the cam­paign, but Sun­day’s home game was never go­ing to see an eas­ing of the re­lent­less pres­sure that ev­ery game in this di­vi­sion will bring.

Daithí Wa­ters and Brian Malone are prob­a­bly two of the most ded­i­cated and com­mit­ted foot­ballers ever to wear the Wex­ford jersey, as well as both hav­ing all the at­tributes of a top-class player.

Last Sun­day they played ev­ery minute like it was a cham­pi­onship game and demon­strated the de­sire and pas­sion that is re­quired to play at the top level.

It is an old cliché but cer­tainly ap­pro­pri­ate to these two leg­ends to say that they cer­tainly lead by ex­am­ple.

If a few of the new play­ers go on to have half the ca­reer these two men have had, Wex­ford foot­ball will be in a good place.

Back to the game and, de­spite playing with the wind, af­ter 20 min­utes Wex­ford trailed by 0-4 to 0-1, mainly due to in­de­ci­sion in front of goal but also due to the ag­gres­sive de­fend­ing of the West­meath backs.

A two-point deficit at half-time was a fair re­flec­tion of the first-half per­for­mance, and a backs to the wall dis­play was ex­pected in the sec­ond-half.

Af­ter 50 min­utes there were still only two points be­tween the teams and Wex­ford were cop­ing well with the on­slaught while cre­at­ing chances them­selves.

Un­for­tu­nately, a five-minute spell saw full-for­ward Luke Lough­lin score three unan­swered points that took away any mo­men­tum from the Wex­ford play.

West­meath took con­trol and stretched their lead to seven points, look­ing com­fort­able as they headed for vic­tory.

How­ever, to give great credit to this young Wex­ford team, they bat­tled to the end and scored a goal and a point to re­duce the deficit to three.

Prior to these scores a bril­liant save from Eoin Car­berry had de­nied cor­ner-back Conor Carty a goal, so Wex­ford al­most snatched an un­likely draw.

It would have been an amaz­ing re­sult had they drawn as West­meath were the bet­ter team, but it just shows that you can be re­warded for a never-say-die at­ti­tude.

De­spite the loss on Sun­day, I think the man­age­ment can be pleased with the per­for­mance.

They used the op­por­tu­nity to ex­pose many new play­ers to the rigours of foot­ball at this level and it was ob­vi­ous that given time these play­ers are more than ca­pa­ble.

Wex­ford have a de­served break next week­end and a chance to re­cover af­ter three tough as­sign­ments in 15 days.

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