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New Blog spot – ‘Club Championship musings!’

In the first of our ‘Blog Spot’ articles, which we hope will be a regular feature on www.wexfordgaa.ie, we’ve asked  a keen observer of the Wexford Championships to give us their take on the results and tussles to date and their fancies overall for 2012.

Anyone who was at Bellefield last week, to witness Buffers Alley steal victory from Shelmaliers, took in one of those games that you get every now and then.
It was one of those ties when the winner is evident from the early stages until the dying embers. You’re so sure about who’s going to come out on top. Yet, something unexplainable happens to upset the apple-cart.

I, personally, had started to edge my way down the sideline from my initial midfield perch. I stopped after about three metres to write notes on the first goal but soon kept strolling. I needed to be closer to the action should anything unbelieveable happen. I got down level with the twenty when the winning goal went in. What scenes.

Just a couple of feet from me were a pair of young Alley lads, carrying water bottles, who went berserk when the ball hit the net. It was almost like one of those slow motion moments, I think only the improbable can produce such joy for a game that will, in all probability, not mean much in the grand scheme of things.

The game itself brings up interesting sub-plots. For the winners, it really was a horrific performance. The Buffers Alley supporters are not known to be the most patient group when things are going badly on the field and plenty of their apathy was put across ferociously from those in attendance. I did wonder, while watching the two young lads celebrate on the sideline, how the old guard reacted to the late win as they continued to prop up the wall on the town side of Bellefield; probably with a chuckle I’d imagine. It’s hard to believe they were impressed with anything but their sides resolve.

Of the five points Buffers Alley scored none came from play. I think the answer as to why is pretty clear and fairly worrying for the Monamolin side. Simply put, Shelmaliers had too much athleticism to give them free shots. Personally, I lost count of the ample examples of frontal sliothar block to shots at the posts. They were so sharp, so energetic. The Alley were lethargic, slow, ponderous and a bit disjointed. Some of the positional decisions were weird to me – Willie Doran at full back for example – surely a key player and talented hurler like Doran needs to be involved more? Having said that I’m quick to admit that their manager and selectors know their players better than I do. I’d hope and expect they were worried by this showing.

Anyone who saw my preview in the People/Guardian/Standard prior to the start of the championship will know I picked Shels to win the football. Ironically, part of my reasoning for that pick was a very similar, dominant performance against Castletown in last years senior football quarter-final. They lost that day too, in extra time, but, like last weekend, they should have won. I though that experience would stand to them and with a little improvement they were right in line for a shot at the title.

I’ve no idea who thought of blowing off the football this year in preference for the hurling but, unless they win the county championship, it was a baffling decision.

That said, they proved again, regardless of the code, athletically they can match, if not surpass, the other clubs in the county. Unfortunately they are not going to the Olympics, they are trying to win a county championship – athleticism is clearly not everything. You’d have to wonder how demoralised the defeat has left them. If they give up on football after a extra time loss to Castletown, what happens after they get mugged by the Alley. I do hope they bounce back, it was such an impressive performance, but you’d have to wonder.

Another team who impressed in the second round of games was Ferns. From the outside, looking at their one point loss to Shels in the opening round, I wondered if it was a blow that might put them under pressure to qualify for the knockouts. However, I was impressed by them against Glynn-Barntown, really impressed. Now if we concede that Glynn are a little young to make an impact, hence the quality of the opposition might not have been there, the line of form against the Hollymount side in the opening game suggest that they can make a run at the established giants and get amongst  them. I fully expect, if they are focussed, Ferns to beat Buffers Alley in their next outing. They are a great side to watch. I’d be worried a little defensively but the options they boast in the forward ranks can compare favourable with anyone, and I include Oulart-The Ballagh in that. They are a team to keep an eye on that’s for sure.

Talking of the county champions, they were so efficient in disposing of Rapparees it’s almost easy to forget about them. It’s hard to pin-point a side that has the talent from 1-15, as well as the depth, that Oulart can boast and they proved it again last week with another cog stepping up to the plate in Peter Murphy.

The Rapparees have a long road to travel to come close to matching up. Their opening day draw with Cloughbawn has left them with a chance to make the knockouts, but it will take a massive effort to realise that dream this year with such youth in-and-around the side.

The other game I took in was the battle of the Saints, Martin’s and Anne’s. It was a peculiar game, the Piercestown side will be a little disappointed to not win the tie, conceding a late goal, but their opponents had a couple of later chances to claim, what would have been, a crucial victory.

St Martin’s will eventually reach the quarter-finals, they certainly have enough to get that far. The Rathangan boys, on the other hand, have very much a fifty/fifty chance. They have talent, but that loss to Adamstown may prove to big a hurdle to overcome eventually.

Having not seen Faythe Harries beat Rathnure it’s difficult to make much of a deduction. The Wexford Town side are probably a bit ahead in the ball work stakes at the moment and they will expect to push on now and claim a knockout place.

Their Blackstairmountain rivals have started the championship slow but it’s not something to be unduly concerned about. Rathnure’s hurling got better as they year went on in 2011 and there is no reason to believe that history won’t repeat itself this time around.

The final game, between Cloughbawn and Adamstown, was low scoring. Not surprising as the 2011 Intermediate champions have turned low scoring games and tough battles into an art form in the last couple of years. They deserve all the plaudits for the start they have managed and they will get one big chance to make the knockouts – they will fancy their chances of causing another upset against Rapparees. On the day, it could just happen.

That leaves Cloughbawn. A side that are probably capable of more than they have show in the two games to date. No doubt relieved to get away with a win against Adamstown, beating Oulart is probably out of the equation meaning that they’ll need at least one win from their two games against St Martin’s and St Anne’s. Will they do it? Well, that’s the beauty of the summer, we’ll find out soon enough.

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