Seamus McEnaney: ‘I’m absolutely loving it’
By Cian O'Connell
“I'm absolutely loving it,” Wexford manager Seamus McEnaney remarks about his welcome return to the inter-county arena.
Four summers not being involved at the highest level offered McEnaney plenty of space and time to reflect, but the former Monaghan and Meath boss remains adamant that Wexford can embark on an interesting adventure.
Travelling from Carrickmacross to Wexford is a long and winding road, but McEnaney is relishing the opportunity. “The travelling aspect is obviously tough,” McEnaney admits. “It is quite a journey for me from Carrickmacross, but I work in Dublin some days and I make my way on down from there or I make my way back to Dublin some nights and work there the next day.
“There are different ways of working around it, but certainly the travel aspect is quite demanding. It is really, really enjoyable when I get there.
“The facilities are top class, the Wexford County Board are top class, and the players attitude is top class. Sometimes there is more to life than just work and you have to go on these journeys to get what you want.”
Now as the first steps are being taken McEnaney is simply looking forward to Wexford’s Allianz Football League Division Four campaign. Experimentation will occur during the Bord Na Mona O’Byrne Cup commencing with Sunday’s encounter against UCD in Gorey. “The O'Byrne Cup will be used to finalise our panel,” McEnaney says regarding Wexford who have 36 players training currently.
“I will be cutting my panel at the end of the O'Byrne Cup. It will be used for formulating the panel for the League. The only game we have any interest in talking about is the first game of the League against Limerick at Wexford Park. That is an important game for Wexford football, it is the only game of any interest to us at the moment.
“The reaction has been very positive, I am really enjoying the football part of it. The technology part is different, though, I haven't been involved at inter-county level now for four years and it is amazing how certain things have changed, especially scientifically.
“It has changed a lot so I suppose I have enjoyed getting up to speed on that as well. Most importantly, the thing that has impressed me most is the attitude of the Wexford players.”
Adapting to the different circumstances is a task that McEnaney is happy to embrace. “I think there is a huge difference in the science of how the game has gone. Things like video analysis, GPS systems, loading and systems.
“All the science behind injury prevention and rehabilitation. It has come on an awful lot, but the basics of the game haven't changed. The systems within the game can change if you change them yourself, but scientifically wise it has come on leaps and bounds. I would say that GAA teams are on a par with Premier League teams.
“I'm using a company called DBSM Centre of Excellence in Clontibret in County Monaghan. I have a physio Shane McAleer, who was Head Physio with Munster Rugby at one time. He has an awful lot of experience at this level.
“My strength and conditioning comes from DBSM as well, they have a lot of experience. All my life I have always listened, and I always have taken as much on board as I possibly can to make up my own mind from there. It is no different on this occasion.”
Wexford collide with Carlow in the preliminary round of the Leinster SFC with the winners facing All Ireland champions Dublin. The possibility of a glamour clash with Dublin at Wexford Park is there, but Wexford’s current focus is on the Spring.
“There is a lot to look forward to with this group of players because they are a very good group of players,” McEnaney says about Wexford’s future. “Their attitude is absolutely brilliant, they are good footballers and there is a lot to look forward to in relation to improvement.
“Listen, we haven't even talked about or even thought of the Championship. We play Carlow in Carlow and nobody will be stupid enough to think beyond Carlow. They are the only team in relation to Championship that we will be thinking about.
“I'm being 100 per cent truthful when I say that we have spoken about no other team or game only the Limerick match because we will take it one game at a time and that is the only game that is in our mind at the moment.”
Appointing McEnaney and Davy Fitzgerald to manage the flagship inter-county teams is a serious statement of intent from the Wexford County Board. “For sure Davy Fitzgerald is a brilliant appointment for the Wexford hurlers, I can see that among the Wexford hurlers,” McEnaney acknowledges. “It is great for the Wexford people, I'm not quite sure that I'm as high a profile as Davy Fitz is, but Davy Fitz is a big appointment for them.”
McEnaney’s brief is plain and simple: Wexford must develop under his stewardship. “They are in Division Four and they have stayed a year in Division Four,” McEnaney states about Wexford, who suffered narrow Championship losses in 2016 against Kildare and Fermanagh.
“They are there for a reason and the reason is they haven't been good enough for the last couple of years. Yes, I certainly see that they are a team that I'd like to think that I would be able to improve. That is where the enjoyment comes for me.”
McEnaney was a key figure in raising the standard of the game in Monaghan, who made strides when he was in charge. Similarities exist with Wexford according to McEnaney. “I actually see this group of players as very similar to the Monaghan group of players that I came into in 2004,” is McEnaney’s assessment.
“They have the same enthusiasm, the same drive, the same attitude. I see a lot of similarities here even between Wexford people and Monaghan people. I have to say they are very nice people, the Wexford people. I've mentioned this 10 times, but attitude is number one for me and I couldn't ask for any more from this group of players.
“There are an awful lot of similarities with Monaghan in 2004. We are in Division Four, the equivalent to where Monaghan were at during that time. What I vividly remember is that we played Carlow in Clontibret in the first round of the National Football League.
“Liam Hayes was managing Carlow the same day - it was a very important game for me at that time. Limerick is a very important game for Wexford in the first round of the National Football League in front of their home crowd.
“I'm as excited today years later managing Wexford in the first round of the National League against Limerick as I was that day when I stepped out in Clontibret.” Still scheming and dreaming, McEnaney’s passion for the game endures.