We're out to beat big guns – Rossiter
Published 17/07/2014 | 02:30
Wexford's marathon men must dig deep into their reserves of strength and stamina for Saturday's qualifier battle against Waterford, but county stalwart Keith Rossiter is loving the challenge.
Liam Dunne's shock troops left the hurling world in awe by eliminating reigning All-Ireland champions Clare and their 'prize' is another mammoth task.
Rossiter (30) will take that any day. He's been too long on the road experiencing more heartache than happiness in the Wexford jersey.
When the qualifier draw was made, nobody gave Wexford a real chance of ousting Clare, particularly as the Banner had home advantage last Saturday week.
Even after the extra-time and draw, the expectation was that Davy Fitzgerald's men would have learned lessons and sorted out these cheeky upstarts who dared to trouble them in Cusack Park.
"After the drawn game I suppose a lot of people were thinking we'd missed the boat, that we'd lost our chance, but we were happy with the way we performed," said Rossiter.
"We felt if we performed like that again and added another bit to it and cut down on a few mistakes, that we'd be right in it. Luckily that's the way it turned out."
Tipsters, bar a few, including RTE analyst Michael Duignan, favoured Clare in the pre-replay speculation, but that didn't affect the Wexford team.
"Outside of your panel and your management team, you're going to play Clare, so who would have given you hope really?" Rossiter admitted.
"But we knew things were going fairly well for us. We had a strong panel to pick from, and we were confident going up to Ennis the first day.
"People might think we're mad saying that, but we're not training to just get within 10 points of Clare or Kilkenny or Tipp or Waterford or any of these guys.
"We're training to be competitive and to win. There's no point in us training if we don't think we can compete with the bigger teams," he said.
They don't come much bigger than the Liam MacCarthy Cup holders, so it was no wonder grown men shed tears of joy after the final whistle in the replay.
"The Wexford supporters have been crying out for a win. They're just dying to follow us. The feeling was that if you got the win, they'd row in behind you.
"There were big expectations when we hurled Dublin in the Leinster semi-final. It didn't work out, but it was one of those occasions when the supporters stayed until the final minute, because there was a bit of hope there still.
"We were disappointed in that match, but we were just delighted we gave them something to shout and roar about last Saturday. It was great to see the outpouring on to the field, and people crying and shouting," said Rossiter.
The Oulart-The Ballagh club man has hung tough, especially through the last few seasons when the Yellowbellies were mostly brushed aside by the big guns in championship hurling.
"The barren years were tough. We didn't win a lot of matches. It's been tough but you only get one chance to hurl for Wexford. It doesn't last forever. That's the motivation.
"You always want to hurl for your county when you're a young lad and when you get a chance, you do it. Other counties have tough years – look at Laois, look at Offaly at the minute. There's nothing easy there," added Rossiter.
The pairing with Waterford offers a rare opportunity for these counties to meet in championship fare.
Only twice have they clashed – in 2003 in the qualifiers which Wexford won by 1-20 to 0-18, and in the 2008 All-Ireland quarter-final. Waterford won that game by 2-19 to 3-15.
Rossiter didn't feature in '03, and came on as a sub for Stephen Nolan in 2008. "Waterford have had a couple of weeks since they hurled, so they're going to like playing us, I presume. From their perspective, I'm sure they'd rather play Wexford than the All-Ireland champions.
"We've had a couple of tough weeks on the trot and our U-21s were out last week as well in the Leinster final win, but we'll go out to give a good account of ourselves next Saturday."
Full-time professionals could rest and recover from the rigours of the last few weeks, but Rossiter, like most of the Wexford players, has a day job that requires attention. He is employed as a sales representative with Kilsaran Concrete, based in Dublin, and will work through the week before spending Saturday on Wexford hurling business.
"You're going to be sore, you have the hits and the knocks and with the ground you'd be covering, your legs are going to be a bit tired, but sometimes playing a Saturday match works in your favour because you don't have time to think about it too much."