Redmond Barry: ‘There is a good balance'
By Cian O’Connell
Redmond Barry spent 13 years on the inter-county beat for Wexford so the versatile St Anne’s man is ideally placed to assess the dashing start that has been made under Seamus ‘Banty’ McEnaney.
A perfect Allianz Football League Division Four record ensure Wexford, who face London at Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday, are beginning to believe in themselves again.
McEnaney has Wexford confident once more and Barry senses that there is a real buzz around the county. “It was there from the appointment of the two managers,” Barry says.
“A tweet that sticks out for me was one by Colm Parkinson when he said that one thing was for sure, that Wexford would be interesting to follow with Banty and Davy (Fitzgerald) on the sidelines. While it hasn't been all about them, but he has been right in that the two appointments seem to have brought the best out of the players in both codes.”
The hurlers have already secured promotion to Division 1A and McEnaney has the footballers moving in the right direction too. “Yeah, definitely in all fairness to him,” Barry states.
“I saw the first game in the Park. They were maybe six points to two or three down, but from then on in the game they didn't really give Limerick a sniff of it. They got themselves into a position to win the game and then conceded a relatively soft goal, a goal they wouldn't be happy with anyway. They showed a good bit of guile to comeback from it to get a couple of scores to close it out.”
Barry is adamant that the experienced performers are occupying valuable roles for Wexford under McEnaney. “Over half the team were there when I was playing,” Barry remarks.
“There would be a few guys going right back to some of our best days or whatever. They have introduced a few nice young lads as well and they seem to have got a good balance there at the minute.
“What Banty has got and maybe what was missing for the last few years, they are all in it together and they are all pulling in the one direction. It is good to see.”
Barry sampled action in a Division One Allianz League decider and was involved in the latter stages of the All Ireland Championships too. How far can the current crop go?
“Looking in from the outside at underage teams there is a lot of talent in them. Three or four good players are there every year. I won't say it is a problem, but there is an issue with regards to most of the good lads are good at both.
“It all depends which way lads sway. We are in Division Four now, we have got ourselves into a great position to get out of it. When you get up to Division Three, in my opinion there is no great difference now between Division Three and Division Two.
“When I say no real difference I mean that the gulf has definitely narrowed. You see teams going up to Division Two and they won't struggle as much as say a team going from Division Two to Division One.
“If you are in and around Division Two and Three you are getting good competitive games, if you are winning four to five games a season your confidence will be up and going into Championship then.
“In the Qualifiers realistically anyone can beat anyone on the day, it just depends on what way the year has gone or what way lads are with injuries. You just need a bit of luck to get a run like Tipp did last year or even like we did a few years ago.”
Wexford’s Leinster Championship opener is against Carlow with the winners set to face Dublin. It is a significant carrot according to Barry, who reckons Gaelic Football in Wexford would benefit tremendously if the standard bearers had to travel to the south east this summer.
“If they beat Carlow and the game ends up in Wexford Park or even if Carlow win for them, you'll get parents from the county who will bring children to the game in the home or local pitch,” Barry answers.
“It isn't as big an expense or a haul to bring them all to Dublin for the day etc. I think whoever wins that game between Wexford and Carlow has a massive incentive, they have a game against the greatest team, I suppose, for the last 10, 15 or 20 years in the Dubs.
“Those are the sort of games kids will remember and will help to mould children, to bring them on, to want them to aspire to being out in that field. I think there is a possibility of the hurlers playing at home to Kilkenny, it could be a massive summer for Wexford.
“It is highly unlikely that the Dubs are going to be bet at all this year again, but at the same time it would still be a spectacle that would remain in impressionable youngsters heads for a while.”
Barry was involved with Wexford at the highest level in both codes before retiring from the inter-county game in 2013. St Anne’s, though, still holds an important place for him. “I'm still tipping away with the club, I retired in 2013 and we got to both County Finals in the senior, in hurling and football, in 2014,” Barry says about how he dealt with retiring from Wexford duty.
“That softened the cough, and I suppose if the team had been going well, competing in Leinster and League Finals and stuff like that it probably would have been a lot harder. It would have made it tougher.
“Whatever way it went, the camaraderie, the craic, whatever you hear from every inter-county player that is something you miss. That is the hardest thing to replace, the craic on the way to training, the craic on the way to matches. That is the part you'd miss the most, but you have to be realistic too. You had your time, it is gone.
“You'd only get yourself down if you are not willing to accept that is the way life progresses. You have to accept it.”
In April 2016 Barry acted as a jockey for a Gordon Elliott trained horse in the last race of the Punchestown Festival as a charity fundraiser. As a teenager Barry was a renowned rugby player with Cistercian College Roscrea, where he also won an All Ireland Post Primary Senior B Hurling medal so is sporting credentials are top class.
“It was brilliant, I really enjoyed it,” Barry admits about helping earn money for the Punchestown Kidney Research Fund. “I'm not doing it this year, but I hope to try to get back to do it again next year. From eight or nine up to 18, 19 I would have been into ponies and horses, it would have been up there, it probably would have been number two regards my sports.
“Number one would have been rugby, I'd have been all summer long going here, there and everywhere with the horses. Obviously it wasn't easy with boarding school being two hours from home, but horses would have been number one in the summer and rugby number two in the winter. That is the way it was right through my teenage years really.”
Fortunately Wexford hurlers and footballers subsequently benefited from his sterling service. Barry is hopeful that bright days are edging closer for the Purple and Gold again.