Stamp adamant Wexford will have no fear of Kilkenny
IN A GAA world where players are increasingly gagged by managers who usually speak a fairly watery shade of vanilla themselves, Wexford hurling captain Darren Stamp isn't afraid to tell some home truths.
Kilkenny make a rare championship visit to the Yellowbellies' home turf tonight -- the last time was in 1944 when Wexford beat them in New Ross -- for what he describes as "probably the biggest day in the Park since it was opened."
So, did his team give Kilkenny too much respect in the first half of their league meeting this year?
"We're paying them too much respect for the last f***ing 10 years, never mind that first half," Stamp exclaims ruefully. "That's the thing, giving them too much respect the whole time."
The Oulart-The Ballagh centre-back is entitled to be getting impatient.
Eleven years of inter-county action have earned the 30-year-old just one Division 2 and two Leinster U-21 medals.
He even missed Wexford's last championship defeat of Kilkenny, with Mick Jacob's late game-stealer in the 2004 semi-final, because he'd taken a year off.
"Aw, Mick's goal, I'm sick hearing about that," he chuckles.
Wexford have suffered some horrific maulings since: a 19-point margin in 2008 and two defeats in 2007 by double figures.
The last time Wexford really put it up to the Cats was back in 2005 (1-16 to 0-22) and Stamp reckons some of Wexford's problems have been between their own ears.
"Before some of those games, we were bet before we went out," he insists. "The real low was getting relegated (to Division 2) two years ago.
"Everyone was fierce negative in the county after that. John Meyler (ex-manager) said he never came to a more negative county in his life.
"The pace (in Division 2) is an awful lot slower and lads are probably getting away with too much. You know you're going to win by 10 or 15 points in some games and then some lads will get carried away with their performances.
"Lads might score two or three goals against a Mickey Mouse back-line and, next thing, they're making headlines all over the county.
"But come the championship, they'll go up against Galway or somebody and mightn't get a stroke of the ball. It was no good for us.
"We used always be able to compete with Kilkenny, but since 2004-2005 we were told at every turn that Kilkenny were going to beat us.
"We just weren't competitive enough and I think it was the players themselves who weren't putting in enough of an effort.
"We were feeling sorry for ourselves. Kilkenny found a team, a good bunch of fellas, that played together in a way we might never see again," he stresses, pointing out that Kilkenny were also strengthened annually with some players off an underage conveyor belt that Wexford couldn't match.
The sight of Kilkenny losing the league final and Wexford's U-21s beating the Cats by a point this week, has certainly changed perceptions of Kilkenny nationally and Stamp indicates how Wexford will approach them.
"You look at what Dublin did in the league final. They just showed no fear whatsoever of Kilkenny and took the ball and went at them," he reflects.
Stamp acknowledges that Dublin have a physicality about them this season that no one else has matched, but hopes home advantage, and Wexford's return to Division 1, will help make a difference tonight.
"Offaly beat us by two points, Waterford beat us by two points, okay Dublin gave us a good beating and the Galway game was a complete mismatch.
"But Kilkenny only beat us by five and we weren't that far away. I think it takes a year or two years for teams coming out of Division 2 to get back up to that speed of hurling. It is ferocious stuff compared to Division 2."