Friday 19 April 2019

Ambitious players will stop at nothing

WEXFORD captain Matthew O'Hanlon has no doubt that his team is still good enough to push on in the All-Ireland title race.

As beads of sweat rolled down his face and shoulders, only minutes after surviving the mad rush of Wexford supporters, the St. James' stalwart took time out to speak for a few minutes before retiring to the dressing-room for a hard-earned rest and welcome shower.

'We are an ambitious outfit. We may be a young side but we are ambitious. We have shown this in the championship. Perhaps things did not go to plan against Dublin, but we got back together, studied the game and took it on from there.

'Those two games against Clare were massive. They were the All-Ireland champions so we knew we faced the best in the country. But as I said, this is an ambitious young side. We felt we could win, even in Ennis. We did it in Wexford Park which was huge for the confidence of the team in front of 15,000 supporters.'

Looking at the Waterford game he said: 'we knew Waterford were very good so it was a massive achievement to get over the line. We knew it was going to be close, they came back again, but we had confidence in ourselves.

'We kept our focus. We knew Waterford would come at us but from the Clare games we learned how to close a game out.'

Now clearly looking forward to next Sunday's clash with Limerick, Matthew welcomes yet another challenge despite the demands it's placing on the players.

'It's all about recovery now. It's a great place to be in looking forward to an All-Ireland quarter-final. It's massive for Wexford hurling and the players.

'While the games are coming thick and fast it helps us to keep our focus. This week is all about recovery, and with just seven days between games, that helps us. Yes, it's a wonderful feeling for the players and the supporters. They (supporters) were massive today. They really pushed us over the line. The support through that final five minutes was phenomenal, it drove the team on, and there was no going back, no panic, as we had learned how to close out a game.

'Now it's Limerick. Another massive challenge. But we are a young side and relishing what is happening. We are clearly looking forward to Limerick. There may be tired bodies in the morning but we'll take to the sea tomorrow (Sunday) morning. That will help,' said a joyous O'Hanlon.

Without a doubt this has been one of the greatest seasons for Wexford hurling in the past ten years. It's pretty much a fairytale as when Liam Dunne, now in his third year in charge, took over at the helm the game was at its lowest ebb in the county.

Who for one moment, even at the start of 2014, would have though that Wexford would be up there with the 'big boys' in the All-Ireland knockout series?

Of course the reality is that Wexford had to do it the hard way. They had to come through the qualifiers, eliminating reigning All-Ireland champions, Clare, after two games, with extra-time in both, and then dumping Waterford out, and now facing up to 2013 Munster champions, Limerick, who lost their provincial crown to Cork in the final.

Years of frustration have been cast to the bin. Now the traveling Wexford army will descend on Semple Stadium in their thousands as the county aims to continue this fairytale story.

It will not be too difficult to motivate this Wexford team given their exploits of recent weeks. This has all come to a head in the space of two weeks, Wexford being catapulted back on to the big stage. This year Wexford have secured the victories they have been dreaming of.

They always felt that the time was fast approaching to take a big scalp. They have achieved this on successive Saturdays and now the time is righte to take on the might of Shannonside.

It should be another colourful and glorious day in Semple Stadium, and Wexford get the verdict to continue their glorious roll along the championship highways.

Enniscorthy Guardian