The 2020 club and intercounty championships, were uncomfortably overshadowed by the bleakness of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The argument proposed by most GAA supporters that the championships should proceed, even in an unfamiliar format for the purposes of national relief, was equally contrasted by the argument of critics who referenced public health advice which suggested that every sector should adopt a conservative approach.
The result, at least from the point of view of the intercounty championship, was that it was an unmemorable affair, in conditions which were counteractive to gaelic games, in sadly empty stadiums where the puck of a ball would break the deafening silence.
The return of summer hurling for the 2021 championship, was most clearly embodied in Wexford’s disappointing exit to Clare in a sweltering Semple Stadium, when even the hotly contested water break proved a necessity.
After a second consecutive year of disappointment for Wexford, having only won one championship game against Laois in Davy Fitzgerald’s final two years in charge, his exit was a matter of when not if.
Fitzgerald has left Wexford with his record as a proven and serial winner intact, but facing serious questions about the sustainability and adaptability of his style of play.
The contest to succeed Davy, from the outside, appeared to be a deflated process.
Rumours that Eddie Brennan, a comparatively young manager who appears to possess a knowledge of the game greater than most, might actually apply for the post were quickly dashed.
At one stage the Jason Ryan of the football world was tipped to be immediately appointed.
After the former Waterford manager Derek Mcgrath withdrew from the race, I anticipated that the former Tipperary U21 manager Willy Maher would be announced as the new manager. As a manager Maher captured the Munster and All-Ireland Minor Championships for Tipperary and later managed Cuala to consecutive Dublin Senior Hurling Championships in 2019 and 2020, and on that level his management credentials must be held in the highest regard.
Admittedly, across Wexford there was surprise rather than shock when Darragh Egan, a relative unknown outside Tipperary and a manager with no intercounty credentials was announced as Fitzgerald’s replacement.
The exit of Fitzgerald has left a void in Wexford hurling, and the concern I have is that based on a fundamental lack of experience, and not having a universally recognised unique approach to the game, Egan might fall into the void, rather than fill it.
While it might appear elitist, I would not endorse Wexford hurling as a ‘student hospital’. I suspect Egan himself is quietly lining up the Tipperary manager job.
A successful spell with Wexford would make him a front runner candidate. However, Egan’s involvement in Tipperary’s 2019 All-Ireland Championship win, a feat which Wexford have not achieved in more than a quarter of a century, demands that my mind remains open, and it does.
Image Credit: Wexford People