Wexford plan to Power on towards promotion

Footballers drive to return to Division Three begins Sunday with home tie against Leitrim

"You can't hold back," says David Power, "you have to just go for it" - and he's not talking about the drive from Clonmel to Wexford Park three times a week, to take charge of the county footballers.

He’s talking about Wexford’s drive for promotion out of division four, which begins on Sunday with a home tie against Leitrim: after finishing bottom of division three last year, Power is both determined and confident his team can perform an immediate rebound, not that it’s going to be easy.

“You’re not going to get relegated again, so every game you go out, it’s about performing to your best. I’m also 12 months down the road, and remember this time last year, heading down to Clare for our first game. Looking at our likely starting team to play Leitrim this Sunday, we’ll have at least 10 personnel changes.

“So I feel we’ve done a lot of work over the last 12 months, tightening up the panel, working with a long of young players, and to have the likes of PJ Banville and Daithí Waters back on board certainly adds to that. They have great experience. We’d certainly be well more prepared, because when it comes to training, instead of actually looking at players and wondering if they’re up to it, we’re getting down to the nuts and bolts, the tactics, and how we want to play football. And I feel we’re way more organised too.”

Indeed the Tipperary native - who guided his county to All-Ireland minor glory in 2010 - makes no secret of his ambitions for promotion: “Absolutely. Our number one aim is to give a good performance in every game, and secondly to get out of division four. I know it won’t be easy. For a number of years my own county, Tipp, were fancied for promotion, but it took them a few years to do it.

"So we have to be careful. Leitrim are under a very good manager, Shane Ward, Antrim and Louth too, and we have to play Waterford away on a Saturday night. So every game will have its own challenges. But if we can perform to what we're capable of then I feel we can beat any team in the division, to be honest."

Indeed Wexford are the bookies favourite for promotion - although that means little to Power: "We have no right to win any game, we have to earn it. If we're not up for every game, mentally and physically, we will be beaten.

“But again, last year, we used 37 different players in the league, thinking long-term. Wexford needed to rebuild, and I think 12 months down the road, Sunday is the real start of that now. And I think people can start judging us from now on. We’re still a young team. We’ll have maybe five under-21s starting on Sunday, but we’ve worked hard, and I’d certainly be way more confident than this time last year. We know the other seven counties have been working just as hard, but I’d be hopeful our quality will come out over the next seven or eight weeks.

“I feel there’s some good young talent there, and even the first day out against Dublin in the O’Byrne Cup (which Wexford drew), I know Dublin were looking at new players too, but that result gave us some confidence. I’m 14 or 15 months in the job and enjoying it, because all the lads are willing to work so hard. Hopefully they’ll get the rewards. We’ve four home matches too, but really will be takAntrim, Carlow, Leitrim, London, Louth, Waterford, Wexford, Wicklow Division Four: The lowdown Theme: We never saw the Boom. The recent dull, heard-it-all-before, proposal for the football championship was the latest illustration of the fact that the GAA has no idea how to make the marginalised counties feel included. Most likely to hear? ‘Our lads train just as hard as the Kerrys and Dublins of this world.’ Least likely to hear? “The GAA couldn’t do any more for the so-called weaker counties.” Best neutral fare? Inconsistency has dogged Carlow in this division but they are capable of big results. They visit Wexford Park on April 3rd, when the promotion race will be at full tilt. Who most needs promotion? Wexford were Leinster finalists in 2011. Their fall illustrates just how difficult it is for the middle-tier counties to maintain a consistent challenge. Who needs to survive? There is nowhere to drop to when you are in the basement but Leitrim have had bright results in this level without pushing into a promotion place. One to watch? David Power became the youngest inter-county manager in the country when he accepted the Wexford post last year. Showed his worth with the Tipperary minors and will be keen to set Wexford in the right direction. Bookies favourite: Wexford are 15/8 and Antrim are 2/1 to go up in second place.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics