Friday 15 December 2017

O'Brien guards against hype as Croker awaits

WEXFORD ARE the last Division 2 team left in the provincial championship - but manager Aidan O'Brien has moved to play down the hype after moving within touching distance of the Leinster final.

He maintained that Division 1 sides like Dublin, whom they could yet meet in the decider, are streets ahead.

'The evidence points to the fact that Divison 1 teams are a long way ahead of Division 2,' he said.

'Both of this year's promoted teams from Division 2, Westmeath and Derry, got wiped. Westmeath were well beaten by Dublin and Derry got comfortably beaten by Down, who had been relegated from Division 1 themselves.

'All of this would suggest there is a big gap there, there is no point in denying it, but at least if you know what's in front of you, you can go about tackling it.'

Looking back on Wexford's victory, O'Brien, who was registering his first championship success, said: 'it's just a quarter-final of a Leinster championship. It's a good win for us. We put a lot of hard work into it and we are just grateful to be in a semi-final'.

Five points in front at the break and seven to the good after P.J. Banville's goal 20 minutes from the end, Wexford would have certainly been overtaken had the game lasted five minutes longer, but O'Brien felt he knew why.

'The fact was that we had expended so much energy getting into a lead in the first instance and we were very tired at the end. There was a significant breeze. You mightn't appreciate it until you are out on the field.

'We were playing against a very good quality opposition as well. All of those factors meant it was never going to be a case of just getting into a six-point lead and then just strolling home.'

But O'Brien didn't feel that the absence of any win since their defeat of Louth in the league in Drogheda on March 19 had any bearing.

'It certainly wasn't in my head. Going into the last few minutes down the stretch, maybe the fact that we had won here before helped because we knew what it felt like to win here.

'Look, we have been operating in a division where there were games we could have won ten minutes out but failed to see it home. In fairness to the lads today I felt they kept knocking away.'

However, Ciarán Lyng's left-footed wonder shot from the first-half was uppermost in O'Brien's mind.

'It's no secret that he has got a bit of quality. And that goal he scored, I don't know if many more of us would be capable of pulling that one out of the bag. It was a bit of magic.

'But I am sure that Meath and Wicklow were looking at us and saying, "whichever of us wins next weekend, we only have to play Wexford to get to a Leinster final". But we'll show up and see what we can do.'

New Ross Standard

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