Sports

Davy Fitzgerald column: Darragh Egan deserves credit for shoring Wexford up


You could really feel the buzz over the weekend just past. Matches were back and, just as importantly, crowds were too.

Ok, the games themselves were average in quality, as you’d expect in February, but they will improve.

The standout result was that of my old team, Wexford. In their two Walsh Cup games, Wexford played a style that maybe the older folk in the county would warm to more, but the reality is they conceded 4-54. That’s way too much at any time of year, let alone January.

But fair play to Darragh Egan. He was right to try something different and then he was vindicated for playing a cover defender against Limerick.

I say ‘cover defender’ because there are not always seven at the back, as some defenders come forward to join the attack, whereas other teams that don’t play cover defenders have their midfield and half-forward line inside their own 65. In these scenarios, you effectively have five sweepers but, yet, people believe that it’s 15 on 15. It’s not.

Ultimately, does it matter? No, it doesn’t. If it works for your team, go for it.

Matthew O’Hanlon, Diarmuid O’Keeffe and Mikie Dwyer stood out for Wexford, who made the middle third a battle ground; at one stage I counted 18 bodies between the two 65s. That cuts out the space and prevents Limerick from working the short ball. It forced them to hit their deep passes out towards the sideline, eliminating their goal threat.

On top of that, Limerick’s long shooting was off but it’s early in the year and that’ll come right.

However, looking at their management, they didn’t seem too bothered on the sideline, which surprised me. Perhaps they took Wexford for granted and if they did it was a grave error as Wexford can beat anyone when they’re right.

Still, I expect to see a very different Limerick in front of their own crowd against Galway next Saturday.

Galway cruised past Offaly, and it could have been worse for Michael Fennelly. He’s made progress but I fear the jump to this level is too big for them.

I was at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday and while Clare started brilliantly, especially Cathal Malone and Shane Meehan, and looked to have Cork in real trouble, they were torched from the 21st minute to half-time, outscored 1-11 to 0-0.

They were beaten in all areas, especially in puckouts where Cork won 76% of theirs compared to just 46% for Clare. I could see Cork’s method of play as they worked the ball and ran at pace.

I couldn’t see Clare’s, though it’s early days yet and they still have Tony Kelly, John Conlon, Aidan McCarthy and Peter Duggan to come back. Still, they have talent and those that played on Saturday will look to bounce back.

Cork looked very slick but whether they have solved the problems from last year’s All-Ireland final remains to be seen.

At Parnell Park, Dublin’s short game looked good and the fight was evident against Waterford, while Darren Gleeson hasn’t got due credit for his work with Antrim; they pushed Kilkenny all the way and hopefully they’ll continue on an upward curve.

Tipperary-Kilkenny next Sunday in Thurles will be very interesting, with question marks hovering over the two camps as they slip down the pack after dominating for so long. It’s a big year for both teams.

NEW BATCH OF REFEREES SHOWING UP WELL



Referee Colum Cunning shows a black card to Dublin goalkeeper Seán Brennan

It was encouraging to see some new referees getting games over the weekend.

Colum Cunning did a decent job on Dublin-Waterford; he may have flashed too many cards but he got the big calls right.

He awarded two sin bin penalties to Waterford and he was bang on. I think the rule has worked – it’s good for the game.

Rory McGann let Galway-Offaly flow – he’s good enough to become one of the top refs.

Generally, I feel that Johnny Murphy blows too many frees but he had a solid game in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday.

Fergal Horgan is the gold standard for me; he’s not too fussy and lets the game flow. All in all, it was a good weekend for referees, with a number showing the potential to reach Horgan’s level.

FRESH TALENT EMERGING IN CLARE

Massive congratulations to St Joseph’s, Tulla on winning their first ever Harty Cup on Saturday.

You just can’t beat hunger and a well-prepared team. They’ve fought ever so hard in each of their games and these young Clare men really deserve it.

Tomas Kelly is a class trainer, with Aidan Harte and Terence Fahy working well with him. Terence did a fine job with Whitegate and is a smart choice as Clare Under-20 manager.

The only thing I’ll say to Terence is that he should stay away from the videos, which don’t come across well, and stick to what he’s good at on the training field.

It’s worth noting that Tulla’s opponents, Ardscoil Rís, had a good share of Clare lads as well. St Flannan’s won the Harty recently too so Clare have good players coming, for which the colleges, clubs and development squad system deserve credit.

MAHER LEFT IT ALL ON THE FIELD

When your inter-county career finishes up it’s important that you can reflect and say that you gave absolutely everything that you could to the cause and left everything out there.

Pádraic Maher will have no trouble sleeping on that basis. He’s been an outstanding servant to Tipperary.

His ability to win high ball, create scores and even take them has been phenomenal. He will be admired for years to come and I congratulate him on an unbelievable career.

CLARE WILL BADLY MISS ULTIMATE TEAM PLAYER GALVIN



Clare’s Colm Galvin

I’m very sad to learn that Colm Galvin is retiring from Clare duty, though I can see why he’s arrived at this decision given his injury history.

I worked with him for five years and he’s a very unique and special player. He’s not big in stature but has a massive heart.

He had a terrific ability to win dirty ball and create scoring opportunities. There was nothing selfish about his play, a real team player, and he’ll be sorely missed in the Clare set up.

What he achieved at minor, under-21 and senior level is incredible and he was central to our success in 2013 when he was still a very young player.

Well done, Colm, you’ve had a fantastic career and I hope you go back and enjoy your club hurling now.

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