If Round 1 of the Wexford Senior Hurling Championship, had all the heady excitement and giddiness of the first day back at school, Round 2 was a bit of a damp squib in comparison.
It appeared that the harsh reality of the long trudge that is the school year had well and truly dawned on the somewhat weary boys. After the excitement of the games back in May, the teachers had been warning the lads that exams were on the way and they must knuckle down or else they wouldn’t be ready when the time came. Because of all the seemingly idle threats over a long 12 week period, some of the lads had completely switched off. A sense of complacency had crept in as exam weather arrived with not a hint of an exam in the air. There was even a rumour going around that the threats were just a ploy to keep them turning up every day and doing their homework.
Suddenly the rumour mill exploded. Word spread like wildfire that the weekend of July 29th/30th would be the all-important weekend. Sure enough, venues and times were confirmed and superintendents put in place shortly afterwards.
Who was ready and who would be found out though?
Bellefield on Saturday, July 29th hosted the first piece of the action. A Shelmalier side who were much better organised than in Round 1 had a convincing win over Cloughbawn who can’t seem to find the form that saw a Runner-Up Student of the Year bestowed on them in 2016. The good thing about these exams is the instant results and therefore the ability to analyse what went wrong and how to put it right. Cloughbawn will know that their performances in Round 1 and 2 will unacceptable going into the rest of the campaign. Worryingly for them, the steeliness they had last year seems to have all but disappeared. A study plan is necessary before Round 3 if they want to emulate their achievements from 2016. On the other hand, Tom Mullally has the Shels looking like they know that you can’t get through exams unless you put the work in. However, bigger tests are fast approaching…
Buffers Alley and Oylegate/Glenbrien were next up and this encounter had very little drama apart from Podge Doran’s cameo appearance 5 minutes from the end which resulted in him scoring a goal and assisting greatly with another. Buffers Alley should have been able to put the game beyond the Young Pretenders in the first half, but a cart load of missed chances saw them only 3 points up at the break. In the second half, they continued to be off target and paid dearly for their lack of sharpness. Oylegate now sit on top of the table with 4 points and they won’t be afraid of the three big exams to come as they grow in confidence mixing it with the big boys. Buffers Alley had produced a sparkling display in the Leinster League final V Kilcormac/Kiloughey of Offaly on May 28th, however, they need to rediscover that form before the next exam if they want to stake a claim for the Student of the Year Award.
Bellefield on Sunday 30th saw defending champions Oulart/The Ballagh do enough to overcome the threat of the Faythe Harriers. While they never looked in real trouble, they had a sluggishness about them that possibly came from having a night out before the exams instead of after. Having said that, the main-man in the pre-match celebration gave a man of the match performance and congratulations to the newly married Eoin Moore. For the Faythe Harriers, Lee Chin and Richie Kehoe are the men that everything revolves around but it is time for some of their classmates to step up to the plate and add some depth to the Harriers challenge. Oulart remain contenders of considerable note and now that they’re back on track, nothing less than passing their next three exams with flying colours will be acceptable for them.
For the second game in Bellefield it was the turn of St Martins and Ferns to bring to the table the plans they had been hatching during the past 12 weeks. St. Martin’s without being spectacular, appeared to have enough to keep the Ferns challenge at bay. It was good to see the recently returned Ian Byrne in action and I’m sure he gave the St. Martin’s contingent something to think about with his early goal. A theme of the weekend was the wayward shooting and both Ferns and St. Martin’s were as guilty of it as some of the other teams who had been in action earlier in the weekend. An eminent St. Martin’s ex-player who shall remain nameless was not happy with the off target shooting and was heard complaining bitterly about the character and some of the other attributes of one of his dear clubmates. Exams do that to you – a very stressful time for all concerned! I’m sure though, that on reflection he will be very happy with the fact that St. Martin’s sit pretty at the top of the table with 4 points before the next stressful exam arrives. Ferns have a way of getting through stressful times too and they’re not going to worry about the exam at the weekend that just didn’t suit them. Round 3 is fast approaching and they’ll be ready for it.
A cold, blustery Wexford Park was the venue for the last two senior championship games of the weekend. Rathnure probably were the pick of the performers over the six weekend games and looked the sharpest and most prepared for their Round 2 exam. While they always appeared in control, a screamer of a Gary Moore goal brought the Glynn/Barntown challenge back to life with 10 minutes remaining. For a finish, only 2 points separated the sides as the Rathnure mentors began to despair that Sean Whelan was ever going to signal that the exam was over. Rathnure now sit alongside Oylegate/Glenbrien at the top of the table with 4 points and await their next exam with confidence.
Principal Skinner had been reminding his charges that the exams were on the way but he can never tell how seriously those lads are taking his instructions. The Rapparees did badly in Round 1 and wanted to knuckle down for the next exam, but all the distractions in the town when they should have been studying proved too much to cope with. Their opponents, also a town team looked in control for much of the game and having failed to achieve highly in Round 1 they were eager to make amends. While Naomh Eanna of Gorey looked the better team for most of the game, a trademark Darragh Pepper goal gave the Enniscorthy side renewed hope in the final 10 minutes. The Rapparees will rue some wayward shooting in the second half which could have seen them steal the points at the death. However, it was much to the relief of a thoroughly rain-soaked Louis Cullen, that Gorey emerged with 2 points from this tense encounter to get them off the bottom of the table ahead of Round 3.
Exams are never easy and as the next date has already been set, nobody is in any doubt that exams are not idle threats but reals tests that must be prepared for.
This article was submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org under the pseudonym “Mismatch”.
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