IT’S STILL UNCLEAR what shape the inter-county season will take, but Wexford football boss Shane Roche remains hopeful teams will be afforded a National League campaign before the championship kicks off. 

Director General Tom Ryan admitted at last weekend’s Congress that there remains some doubt around whether there will be enough room in the calendar for the second-tier Tailteann Cup to take place.

From Roche’s point of view, running off the league is more imperative for his young squad than the Tailteann Cup, even though he’d prefer for both competitions to be completed.

“We would be still pushing a league format where we can get games,” he said.

“We have a very young panel so for these guys to be exposed to week-on-week competitive action at high levels is key. The league format, the Leinster championship and then the Tailteann Cup, to be playing competitive games in hopefully warm weather, it is days like that that kids want to see.  

“At the minute, we’re eager just for 5 April to come around to get back and play. From that, whatever is outlined for the rest of the year, we’ll have to just go with it.

“For the group we have, we’d like to get as many games as possible, but with a condensed season, and them going back to the clubs, that mightn’t be an option.  

“I’d obviously love [for the Tailteann Cup to take place] but we have to be cognisant that it’s going to be very condensed and the club scene needs ample time as well to run out as well. If it was to go, we would just have to respond in a positive way and plan for 2022.” 

Roche was confirmed as Wexford manager ahead of 2021 after take charge on an interim basis for last year’s championship following the abrupt departure of Paul Galvin in September. 

“It was a fantastic opportunity, first of all to play for your county, then to train and very quickly be managing. I really enjoyed the interim basis. It gave me a very quick introduction into what it would be like.

“It’s something that I don’t view as a challenge. It’s a great opportunity. We are in Division Four. For me, it’s to provide that framework for each player in the squad to get the very, very best out of themselves. To constantly improve.

“And with that then, you’re hoping that the results and the score would follow, would take care of itself.

“That we would be in a position then for promotion. To rise up then through the league ranks. We have, as the plan goes through, a vision for the footballers to be playing at a much higher grade. That’s where we’re at at the minute, trying to implement plans and strategies to get us there.”

A secondary school PE teacher in St Peter’s College in Wexford town, he has seen first hand the impact a lack of sporting activity has had on the wellness of his students. 

Former Waterford hurling manager Derek McGrath, who teaches at De La Salle College recently told the Mike Quirke Podcast that he felt his pupils had become “very demotivated” and “muted”.

“I’d have to agree with Derek on that. When we returned to school in September, we weren’t sure if it was to do with the new guidelines – a one-way policy, kids being masked up – but we can see as we’ve gone into it again that there has been a bit of a difference. 

“We all embraced the 5k or 10k challenge in the first lockdown but now it’s very difficult to get any strength and conditioning equipment and it seems to have had a quietening effect on the kids for sure. 

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Shane Roche and Matthew O’Hanlon at the launch of the Wexford GAA Strategic Plan.

Source: Noel Reddy Photography

“In the first term of the lockdown, we would have done online conditioning classes, a HIIT class etc, had a Strava app for physical activity. But this term, since we’ve come back in February, I’ve implemented more mindfulness and yoga because are maybe finding being locked down in houses, without games, without sport, they are finding it a lot more stressful.

“That’s an area you have to be cognisant of, is there well-being. That’s key.”

He feels the GAA should be pushing to resume underage training in tandem with the reopening of schools. 

“I think so. I would have had to bring a lot of my students into a classroom today, 24 guys inside. That’s the guidelines we have been given.

“You could bring them outside to do some skills, some non-contact space out drills, technical, tactical or physical work outside in the fresh air. As the schools come back, I would be in favour of aligning some physical activity for kids. I think it’s paramount to be honest.”

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