WEXFORD MANAGER Darragh Egan was left to rue the enforced late withdrawal of some key players as his side exited from the All-Ireland Senior hurling race in Saturday’s quarter-final loss to Clare in Thurles.
“We ran out of bodies there at the finish,” he said. “I thought the two Recks (Damien and Shane) were absolutely outstanding.
“Shane Reck, who was after having a 16-week recovery from a hamstring, did an unbelievable job on Tony Kelly, as he always does. He is a great player.
“The two boys, we could not get them off the pitch quick enough, it was that type of game. When the two boys went off a few holes started to appear.
“We also had to take out both Dee (O’Keeffe) and Liam Óg (McGovern). Their bodies were done, they had played themselves to a standstill. They had put in huge shifts.
“But, to be fair to Clare, they started to up it through the gears and started to come at us in waves from the half-back line and midfield. All credit to them for how they finished the game.
“We just could not wrest it back from them during the closing minutes which was disappointing, but our lads had given their all, you would have to be proud of them.”
“We were really on top in the first-half and should have gone in a couple of points clear. We owned the game for long periods.
“Tactically we had got it right, something we have been working on all year. Clare were always going to come with a purple patch. That’s how it worked out.”
Reflecting on Rory O’Connor’s early injury, Egan said: “He is a brilliant player, looks like a significant enough injury. He’ll have a scan, so hopefully for Rory’s sake he will be ok for the club championship.
“He has been top class for us all year and he was a big loss for us today. He did look lively and looked like he was going to do damage down that wing.”
Clare may have stuttered up to the closing ten minutes, with Diarmuid O’Keeffe’s sweeping role stifling their approach, but the loss of those four players late on really hurt Wexford as the Banner county sensed victory for the first time in the game.
“We were six up and people say, ‘oh, we left the lead behind us’, but that is not the way hurling works. We always knew we were going to be under pressure coming down the home straight. Ultimately, that is how it was.
“We also had to move Lee Chin inside. He was having problems with his hamstring. But given that he has been 70% all season, he had a great second-half.
“His goal proved inspiring and he was denied a penalty at a crucial stage. It was definitely a black card and penalty, no doubt. He was hauled down by Cian Nolan when racing through on goal, but it wasn’t to be. It was a dead cert penalty.”
Egan was reasonably positive when summing up Wexford’s season but felt they could have left more of an imprint on the championship.
“We had a 16-game run this year and we only lost three games. There’s not too many counties that can say that.
“But ultimately we finished the year without silverware. It was on us that we weren’t in the Leinster final, that was a Leinster final we could have competed for properly. So that one was on us.
“Again, today we are bitterly disappointed we didn’t get over the line because we came here thinking we were going to beat Clare and we were very confident we were going to beat them.
“Unfortunately, a few things didn’t go our way and that’s the way it panned out.’
Egan reflected on his first season. “It’s such an experience. I’ve had the luxury of watching it from a close seat with Liam Sheedy, the former Tipperary manager, over the last three years, but when you get into the melting pot of it there’s an amount of work in it. It was still unbelievably enjoyable.
“Now, I will say, the group we have, they are just immense. They’re really great fellas. We blooded a few players into that, we brought on a lot of our younger lads. We’ve twelve Under-20s in our 41-man panel and it’s now about development.
“Development starts today. They need to be ready for when we get back training in December. Some of those lads have been given gym programmes. They were in the gym in Ferns last week.
“A lot of them are still Under-20 but they need to get to another level physically. That also goes for the Senior squad as we need to bring it to a higher level. Those younger players will be brought through a gym programme because we don’t want to wait until December when they return as a squad. It’s important to reach that higher level as a squad.
“I will meet with the players both collectively and individually over the coming weeks. We will look at where we have got to and where we can take it from here.
“There’s no talk of retirements so hopefully we will have all available come December. It will be interesting what the younger players bring back to their clubs for the championship. There’s many interesting games there, so we will be monitoring their progress.
“I have heard nothing regarding rumours of Paudie Foley travelling. He’s on holidays now so I take it that he’s looking forward to the club championship, especially with Crossabeg-Ballymurn competing in both Senior hurling and football.”