February 5th 2005, a new inter-county football manager by the name of Seamus McEnaney was about to embark on a voyage through the choppy waters of Division four in the Allianz football league.
A lot of water has passed under the bridge during the past twelve years and after playing a huge part in reviving the fortunes of his native Monaghan “The Banty” went on to manager Meath, and now on Sunday he will take charge of another Leinster county in the Allianz Football league for the first time in an away game when Wexford visit Carrick-on-Shannon to play Leitrim.
There is no doubt that the mileage involved in traveling from Monaghan to Wexford is a day’s work in itself and when the Shannonside Northernsound Sports department caught up with McEnaney during the week he described football management as a “bad disease” and after he reignited the hunger for management last summer by attending championship games it was always likely that he was going to be running the line again in 2017 for some team and that side just turned out to be the Wexford football team.
Just like Monaghan back in 2005 the “model county” find themselves in Division four and a far cry away from their most recent glory era where under Jason Ryan they were contesting Provincial finals against Dublin.
So what attracted a manger back into inter-county football that had experienced it all down through the years? Passion, the passion of the players and it was them that convinced the Monaghan native to row in with them for the season ahead.
McEnaney pulls no punches about the task in hand. Wexford are long way off he admits from challenging Dublin in Leinster. However he feels that with the players buying into his master plan they can make progress.
It was not just the Wexford footballers that signed up a new manager in 2017, the hurling team also recruited a certain Davey Fitzgerald to try and bring back the glory days of “96” when they danced at the cross roads after enjoying All Ireland glory at the expense of Limerick.
With Wexford being a dual County you might have thought that there could be friction between the football and hurling mangers for the services of certain players. McEnaney has rejected this speculation and praises the working relationship between himself and the former All Ireland winning hurling manager from the banner county. Agreement has been reached that County squads have been finalised and no players will attempt to combine both codes which in this day and age is impossible to do according to the new Wexford manager.
So far in 2017 Wexford have used the O’Byrne Cup to test out the pool of talent available to them with everyone involved in the squad being afforded time to impress and make the final cut for the league.
Reflecting on that Dublin defeat in the O’Byrne Cup McEnaney admitted to not playing his strongest team. He was worried that if Dublin’s development squad won the game it could have had a negative impact on the season. So instead the veteran manager deployed a somewhat weakened side of his own.
Wexford defeated Limerick last week in the opening round of the laague and when it comes to the game in Carrick on Sunday McEnaney is warning his team of the challenge Leitrim will present to them. He has heaped praise on the Connacht side for their victory over Wicklow in round one and even goes as far as describing their current management team as the best one ever to take charge of the fortunes of the football team.
One thing for sure the mind games are in full swing ahead of this round two encounter, and the tactical battle will also make for compelling viewing on Sunday.
Take a listen to the full interview, it makes for interesting listening