'It's a breath of fresh air to focus fully on football' - O'Hanlon backs Wexford's divisive club championship 3 months ago

'It's a breath of fresh air to focus fully on football' - O'Hanlon backs Wexford's divisive club championship

The Wexford championship is unusual in that hurling is ran off before the football even starts.

The same system is deployed in Waterford and Carlow and the one thing they all have in common is that, within the county, the format is widely debated.

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There are pros and cons to the system, there is no doubt about that, but in St James' hurler and footballer Matthew O'Hanlon, it has one of its foremost backers.

Some Wexford footballers, like PJ Banville, say the football should get a chance to go first. From a hurling perspective, others say that the hurling is ran off too quickly. They feel it's rushed, that it leads to injuries and, on top of all that, that the county hurling champions have a detrimentally long lay-off before starting their Leinster hurling campaign.

Ferns, after all, won the county hurling championship almost two months ago while, last year, having gone ten weeks without a competitive hurling game, the Wexford champs Rapparees were well-beaten in their provincial opener by Clough-Ballacolla.

On the other side, Ballygunner in Waterford have had no such issues but you could argue that, having won nine county championsips in-a-row, they're an exception to the rule.

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"We have done it both ways in Wexford previously," says O'Hanlon, who is taking part in the Plant For The Planet Games.

"but I'm a big fan of the current format. About 95 per cent of the clubs and players in Wexford are dual players. Most players are playing both codes.

Ultimately, the lay-out gave the likes of Matthew O'Hanlon a better opportunity to focus on football, which he did this year as, with his club St James', he made it the senior semi-finals.

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"So there is definitely benefits there, and from my own perspective getting a clear run at football... I would have played hurling and football with Wexford all the way up to U21 and Sigerson and Fitzgibbon.

"Then hurling was my main focus since. So having the ability to focus fully on football at club level has been a breath of fresh air for me in some ways, to be able to do that.

"I would have played football all the way through with Wexford, and with UCD with Sigerson and Fitzgibbon too. My club is senior football and would have won a senior championship in 2015 too.

"So it's always a sport I enjoyed and it's maybe a sport I haven't been able to fully focus on, given my involvement in hurling and the way the championship is structured too. There was a couple of seasons where I missed out too, 2019 too, due to a knee injury and then there was a couple of seasons when we didn't progress as much.

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"I definitely find, having played so much hurling, to focus on a different sport is, it's great. It's a breath of fresh air. And it's a great way to keep up your level of fitness to without having to run the roads.

"I see inter-county football, it can be very defensive, but club football in Wexford is a bit more free-flowing and open, especially in the earlier stages, so that's enjoyable in itself. I think it's nice being part of that club environment too. We're a senior football club so it's highly regarded where I'm from."

O'Hanlon also feels that the stand-alone championship gave his club's a greater opportunity to improve their skills.

Typically the majority of our training would be football focused given that we play at a higher level. Having the ability to focus solely on hurling, I can see the improvement in our guys playing hurling week in, week out consistently."

"Equally the hurling first clubs in Wexford that play football, you can see the progression in allowing them to play football. For example Oulart entered a team for the first time in a while, Rathnure and Buffers Alley, who are typically hurling first clubs, they entered teams getting to the latter end of their championships."

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So what do we think? In dual counties, should the championships go every second week or should they have their own stand-alone period? Let us know in the comments.

Wexford hurler Matthew O’Hanlon will take part in Plant For The Planet Games this November in Kenya. The games are the brainchild of Warriors for Humanity founder and former Galway dual player Alan Kerins and are in partnership with Self Help Africa and the GPA. The games will feature 50 male and female inter-county Gaelic Games players from all four codes. Each player participating in the games has committed to raising €10,000. The funds raised will go to Self Help Africa to support the planting of trees, essential not only to combating the increasing impact of climate change but also as a way of providing sustainable income for local communities. Donations to the Plant For The Planet Games can be made at www.idonate.ie/event/planttheplanet.