Hurlers ready for 1A
Walsh Cup win a boost ahead of Sunday's league opener
Davy Fitzgerald senses that Wexford are ready to take on Division 1A, but still warns there are some tough days ahead.
Fitzgerald needs no reminding how Waterford fared last season in qualifying for the All-Ireland final, losing to Galway, while seven days later his side will face the might of Munster hurling, in provincial champions Cork. One could not ask for two more daunting games in such a short timespan.
Following the Walsh Cup final, his views were mixed, though he could not hide his delight at the county lifting their first piece of silverware under his management. He's still convinced so much has still to be put right, though, even following their third successive defeat of Kilkenny.
It was a case of the good and the bad as he assessed his side's dramatic victory. Extra-time could not separate the sides at Nowlan Park, and it took 'keeper Mark Fanning to step up and fire over the decisive point in a free-taking shoot-out to decide the destination of the cup.
The Cats started the brighter, building up a commanding early lead of eight points on three different occasions, but Fitzgerald sent out a transformed side for the second-half.
'In the first 20 minutes, Mark Fanning made two or three incredible saves so we could have been down 13 or 14 points, we were absolutely pathetic,' he said.
Now Fitzgerald has sent out a warning to his players ahead of the Waterford game.
'If we start that way against Waterford we'll be out the door and gone - we'd be hammered. We cannot afford to start that lackadaisical, we did it against Dublin also.'
Outlining the positives, Fitzgerald said: 'After the first 20 minutes we settled and started to pull back the lead and were well in touch by half-time.
'We were down eight or nine points once or twice, we were down six points twice, so I'm happy we were able to pull it back.'
While Davy is full of praise for his players and the preparation put in for the league, he still realises they are entering something of a minefield.
'No one is giving us a chance. You could see this over the weeks as we've been ranked outsiders for the championship, and tipped for relegation by the G.A.A. pundits, so you can see where we are coming from.
'Waterford have been back training earlier than us, so they are ready, they are in great shape. They have been winning their challenge games so for us it's going to be a huge ask.
'Waterford are champing at the bit but we'll be ready to meet whatever challenge is thrown at us.
'Derek McGrath's men have vast experience which is something we acknowledge but we've also got a lot of work done at this stage. This has to count for something. We had a close call with Kilkenny but after a dreadful start I was hugely happy with our display.
'This is a very difficult opener, while seven days later we have Munster champions, Cork. It's very difficult, it's a minefield, but it's one we're delighted to be in.
'Our aim is to retain our Division 1A status by whatever means so if we achieve that I will be delighted. We're looking forward to the trip down to Walsh Park.
'It's a difficult place to go but we'll be ready to meet the challenge,' Fitzgerald added.