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The Wexford Senior Hurling Championship commences on Friday evening.
The Wexford Senior Hurling Championship commences on Friday evening.

McCormack enjoying Rathnure role

By Cian O’Connell

Friday July 17

Wexford Senior Hurling Championship Group C

Rathnure v St Anne's, Rathangan, Bellefield, 7.15pm

On the eve of the Wexford Senior Championship, hope exists throughout the county with the most decorated team of them all, Rathnure, eager to make an impact again.

A haul of 20 titles ensures,Rathnure remain a celebrated outfit in the south east, but they haven’t been perched on the summit since 2006.

Expectation, though, is attached once more with the highly regarded Dunnamaggin native Anthony McCormack now in his second campaign in charge.

McCormack has forged an interesting coaching career notably earning silverware with Celbridge and St Mullins’ in Kildare and Carlow.

“It is my second year with them, we were beaten in the quarter final last year, we were beaten by a point seven minutes into injury time,” McCormack says. “So it was a bit of a sickener. It has been a strange old year, but we are ready to go again.”

Friday’s Group C opener against St Anne’s Rathangan in Bellefield promises to be a revealing encounter. “We hadn't planned on being back the first weekend that games were available I suppose,” McCormack adds.

“In terms of July 17 we were expecting maybe for the Wexford Championship to start. Realistically we have only two quality games one against Midleton and Roanmore. You'd like another one or two games, but everyone is in the same boat. So we will just plough on with it.”

Rathnure - always synonmous with the Rackards, Quigleys, Guineys, and Codds - have invested heavily in youth and McCormack is excited about his current sporting project. “We have a very young team to be honest,” McCormack admits.

“It is strange, we have maybe two or three players max in their very early 30s. Then you are down to 24 and below.

AJ Redmond is viewed as a promising emerging hurler in Wexford.
AJ Redmond is viewed as a promising emerging hurler in Wexford.

“We have three Under 20s, we have three minors on the panel with one of them possibly starting. So it is fairly young. If you were to take an average you are probably looking at an average age of 23 overall.”

During his own playing career McCormack enjoyed a successful stint in Kilkenny with Dunnamaggin. “We won back in '97, I was playing in goal that day - it is a long time ago now,” McCormack laughs.

“That was a great day, our only one. We went on a good run back at the time. We won Junior in '94, Intermediate in '95, beaten in Senior Semi-Final in '96, and won it in '97.

“We got a good crop of players there together the likes of Tom Hickey, Ken O'Shea, Noel Hickey, they all would have started at the time then. Good times.”

McCormack has derived plenty of satisfaction from preparing teams at various levels in the subsequent years.

“To be honest I get pleasure training teams outside of Kilkenny,” McCormack states. “I don't know what it is, I trained a couple of teams in Kilkenny, but you just don't get the same enjoyment out of it.

“I was with Celbridge for two years in Kildare, we won two Championships there. I don't know what it is, you tend to get a better response.

“In Kilkenny you have so many people going around with 10 All Ireland medals etc. here. Everyone in Kilkenny has opinions on what way things should be done, no more than any other county, I suppose.

“When you go into a club you are always dealing with guys who have All Ireland experience, stuff like that. When you go outside of Kilkenny - Kildare was brilliant and Wexford, the guys in Rathnure are brilliant, absolutely everything revolves around the hurling club down there.

Rathnure players and supporters pictured at the launch of the Nicky Rackard Cup last year.
Rathnure players and supporters pictured at the launch of the Nicky Rackard Cup last year.

“It is a real focal point for the parish, it is just a great place to be, being quite honest. The history there obviously, everyone wants to do well down there.”

McCormack’s willingness to embrace new challenges has served him well throughout the past decade. “I love training teams - the coaching element,” McCormack remarks.

“When you are with a club team coaching and managing is much the same thing. It is lovely to be out on the pitch, not giving knowledge, but trying to improve players. At the end of the day only one team is ever going to win something.

“Your goal would always be to leave the place in a better position than when you started or to see some improvement in players. It is very enjoyable, probably I get more enjoyment when I'm oustide Kilkenny.”

“Maybe nobody knows you and you go in and you have a blank slate to start with. You don't know any of the players when you are going to a club, everything is fresh, a blank canvas, particularly when you get a young team that is developing, it is great to be with them.

“Whether previously someone might have had a falling out, that baggage is gone straightaway. You don't have any history. It is purely a case of we are going in, starting afresh, if you impress you get your jersey. If you don't, you won't. It is as simple as that.

“Everyone knows where they stand. It has served me well, just the way I operate. You will often see a guy that hasn't made a team previously pushing his way on to it because he is giving that little bit extra to get on.

"There is no politics or anything stopping him from getting on to the team.”

With McCormack at the helm Rathnure’s month is worth monitoring.

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