Saturday 23 February 2019

League survival is Wexford's priority after Dub ambush

Wexford manager Paul McLoughlin. Photo: Sportsfile
Wexford manager Paul McLoughlin. Photo: Sportsfile

Just as well that Paul McLoughlin comes across as a very level-headed individual - it should help the Wexford football manager make sense of a wildly oscillating first week at the competitive coalface.

Eight days after watching his new charges demolished by Offaly to the tune of 16 points, he witnessed a grandstand stoppage-time finish that turned looming one-point defeat into one-point victory over Dublin on Sunday.

But afterwards, McLoughlin took it all in his stride. Partly, you sense, because he knew Wexford had just beaten a Dublin team as opposed to the Dubs, aka the three-in-a-row All-Ireland champions. Partly, too, because it's far too early in the year to be getting carried away.

"Of course I was beaten a good few times by Dublin teams, sure it hurt," says the former Kildare player, who has made Wexford his home for the past 14 years.

"They're the team that sets the standard for all the other teams in the country at the minute and they are the top team in the country.


"Even though it would be their third team, there are still a lot of very good players and there's one or two on the panel; there's one or two more that are definitely going to be close to the panel. So they have a lot of quality players.

"The Dublin club scene is unbelievably strong; most of the club teams in Dublin would beat most of the inter-county teams that are playing. It's a bit of a yardstick for us and gives us something to aim at."

That something to aim for, to begin with, will be consolidation of their Division 3 Allianz League status.

One of the perverse features of Seamus McEnaney's first and last season in the Wexford hotseat is that a pretty miserable summer was preceded by promotion from the basement division - albeit even that campaign petered out quite badly, ending in a Division 4 final filleting by Westmeath.

"Westmeath beat Wexford last year by a combined score of around 36 points, 38 points. It's going to be savagely tough. We have to go away to Derry. We have to go away to Fermanagh in the first game," McLoughlin points out.

"We saw them (Fermanagh) last week in the McKenna Cup against Monaghan. A few of us went up there for the drive and they were outstanding, in really good shape.

"They have some fine players, like Séamus Quigley and that. They are really strong. They'd be one of the two or three favourites to go up. You could pick four teams that have a good chance and it's going to be savagely competitive at the top and, sure, we are trying to survive at that level."

McLoughlin previously managed the Wexford minors for one season and also served on the backroom team of two previous senior bosses, Jason Ryan and Aidan O'Brien.

With St Peter's reaching last year's All-Ireland Colleges SFC 'A' final, he knows there is a cohort of fine emerging talent in the county - even if several of them have opted for hurling.


"I think we have 12 under-20s in our panel which is a huge amount. They are just finished school and in first year of college," he explains. "We are trying to develop all our young lads to play at that level, because we've lost a lot of players over the last 12 months.

"A lot of lads were probably coming to the end of their playing careers so it was a time for that transition. It's there, but it all sort of happened at the one time."

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