Wexford Youths manager Tom Elmes: 'Sometimes you might think it's not that known how successful the team are'

Fri, Nov 02 2018

Elmes leads the side in celebrations following their Shield victory over Cork City. Credit: Steve Alfred

With a league title and three cup finals already in his first season, Tom Elmes could be forgiven for thinking management is easier than it looks.

The Englishman took over the reins at Wexford Youths this season following the resignation of Laura Heffernan mere days after guiding the club to a third league title in four seasons.

Elmes, an FAI coach at Carlow IT and a striker who played with the men's during their first season in the League of Ireland, was a somewhat under-the-radar choice to replace Heffernan.

The understated coach has taken on the mantle with seeming ease, however, guiding them to back-to-back titles and a Women's National League Shield.

During the summer, Youths travelled north to Belfast, where they took on the might of Ajax, Thor/KA and Linfield in the Champions League, finishing third in the group.

Key to that has been the leadership core, led by Kylie Murphy, who have backboned the club's success over the past few years and helped make his transition to senior management easier.

“It is the biggest job I've had,” Elmes tells extratime.ie.

“I'm always learning. The girls have been great. In the training sessions they're always asking questions and want to know more. That brings out more in myself then.

“I've got to look at solutions and answers to their questions. Even during matches, what's gone right and how to tweak things, but the players have been great.

“They've made my job easier. Their attention to detail and the way they want to learn is top class.”

Inheriting a dressing room of proven winners can be something of a poisoned chalice – as Stephen Kenny found out at Shamrock Rovers and, more recently, Julen Lopetegui at Real Madrid.

It helps, therefore, that Wexford's dressing room culture is so strong and, despite winning everything there is to win in domestic football, the will to win and drive to improve remains.

“They are a very tight group,” Elmes adds.

“One of our great strengths is how tight the group are. I think it shows in our performance week-in week-out.

“If one's not quite at the races, the others will pick their game up. The dressing room is really important for us. Any player we're looking to bring in has needed to fit that mould.

“We found some that fit in great – Doireann Fahey came in and she's been fantastic. She fits the mould completely.

“Some others have come in and haven't quite fit, and we've had to say goodbye to those players.

“It is important for Wexford Youths that the players we bring in do fit in to what we're looking to continue doing here.

“That identity, that work ethic, all starts in the dressing room and how tight the girls are.”

That identity, regrettably, hasn't always extended to the wider community in Wexford, where Youths' remarkable achievements struggle to compete for attention with hurling and camogie.

And it's perhaps a stretch to see the involvement of four time All-Ireland camogie champion Katrina Parrock with Youths as a sign of the tide turning.

However the club will be hoping for a big travelling support as they take on a hometown side in Peamount United at the Aviva Stadium in Sunday's FAI Cup final.

The sort of success Youths have enjoyed over the past four years has been unprecedented, and Elmes is in no doubt that continued success is far from guaranteed.

“For those that follow us it's absolutely great. Sometimes you might think it's not that known how successful the team are.

“For those that do follow us, it's a great achievement to have won four titles in the last five years and the only title they did lose was that short season when it transitioned into calendar football.

“To keep dominating and progressing for that length of time is a great achievement.

“But we're not stupid – we know the club is going to go through a transition period at some stage and that's just the way football is, so we won't get too carried away.

“It's important that we get young players in there, or make sure we get the best out of some of the maturer players who've given so much for so long.

“We've some great players here and we need to make sure we stay on that path.”