Friday 19 January 2018

Leinster set completed as long drought ends in purple and gold oasis

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

It has taken a long time, but Wexford have finally completed the Leinster football championship title set.

Some 121 years after winning their first senior title, exactly 100 years after their initial junior success and 74 years after making the minor breakthrough, the U-21s have taken their place on the Leinster Roll of Honour. Four Wexford U-21 squads had previously reached the final, only for the big prize to elude them.

That record left supporters wondering if the frustrating sequence would continue last night, although there was lots of confidence around too after wins over Louth, Kildare and Carlow.

The fans need not have worried. This was a squad on a mission, which ended in triumph in Portlaoise last night.

O'Moore Park became a purple and gold oasis as elated supporters joined in celebration with the heroic youngsters who had created history.

It was an emotional occasion for Wexford as they joined Dublin, Offaly and Laois as winners of the Leinster U-21 title in both codes, leaving Longford, Carlow, Wicklow and Kilkenny still outside the football loop.

But even in their glory hour they would have felt some sympathy for opponents who were also seeking to complete the Leinster title set. It wasn't to be for Longford, but their quest is far from over, as they are the reigning Leinster minor champions.


However, last night was all about Wexford. A squad that had carefully picked its way through a competitive campaign weren't going to take no for an answer.

It was a victory for persistence as 12 players were aboard the squad which lost to Louth by 20 points in the first round of last year's Leinster championship.

It was an unlikely starting point for a historic drive to glory, but the re-build was carefully crafted by manager Kevin Kehoe and his support team.

Wexford football has had so many false dawns and setbacks that it would be easy for them to think of themselves as victims.

That's not the Wexford way, however, and now that they have finally landed a big prize it will be a huge incentive to kick on -- the U-21s play the Ulster champions in the All-Ireland semi-final on Saturday week.

For now, though, it's all about savouring a special success which will send the county's spirits soaring. Not that the players will be allowed much time in that zone before Kehoe refocuses them for the even bigger challenge ahead.

It's one which, on the evidence of their superbly-run Leinster campaign, they will approach with real conviction.

Irish Independent

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