Thursday 23 November 2017

Masterson keeps the faith as Wexford set their sights on Leinster semi-final

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

ASK goalkeeper Anthony Masterson if a Division 3 side like Wexford can realistically win the Leinster football title and he nearly knocks you over with positivity.

"Of course we can," he enthuses, pointing out that this year's Leinster draw has helped their cause.

Remember they did lead Dublin by seven points well into the second-half in last year's Leinster quarter-finals and this year's draw sees Wexford on the softer side of a lopsided provincial championship.

Beat Westmeath on Saturday and the surprise 2008 Leinster finalists are into a semi-final against Carlow or Louth.

"When the draw was made the whole county was talking about it," Masterson (28) said. "We knew we'd a hard game having to go to Tullamore against Offaly, but then it was going to be Westmeath, at home in Wexford Park."

And that home advantage excites him as the match will be part of a double-header -- with the Wexford hurlers taking on Kilkenny after the football.


"Obviously, we're the poor relations to the hurlers, we're used to having 1,500 watch us, but we're going to get 15,000 or 20,000 in our own ground. The last big day here was the day Matty (Forde) scored 2-10 against Offaly (2004), so I'm hoping to God that Ciaran (Lyng) or Red (Barry) or Ben (Brosnan) scores 2-10 this weekend," he quipped.

Masterson is looking forward to an expected full house, as opposed to the sparse crowds that are normally behind him when he is between the Wexford posts.

"You might have one or two stewards on the terrace shouting at you, but you never have a crowd on Hill 16, so this is massive for us," he said.

"Obviously, as the cliche goes, we can't look further down the line, but this is a really good chance for us.

"Kildare are flying, people are saying they're going to have a real crack at Dublin and if we could just get to a Leinster final, you just don't know what'll happen.

"Look at Louth beating Kildare last year. If things go right for you on the day anything can happen in football."

Masterson's infectious 'yes we can' attitude isn't just confined to the world of football.

Even when Wexford were capturing the headlines in 2008, the qualified electrician struggled badly to find work.

"By 2009 there was nothing. Eventually I got up off my a**e and went to England for a course," he explained.

Manager Jason Ryan gave him time off from the panel to re-train and he is self-employed now with a thriving domestic appliance repair business. The football has also been a bit of a rollercoaster since.

The heights of 2008 were followed by lows in 2009 -- and despite this year's decent league campaign (when they finished third on eight points) -- the heartbreak of failing to win promotion for the second year running hit Wexford hard.

Louth pipped them to second place and Westmeath, whom Wexford beat 0-13 to 1-7 in Mullingar, topped the table on nine points.

They haven't beaten Westmeath in championship football since 1976 and this is their first such meeting since 2004, when the Lake County went on to claim their historic first title.

"When we beat them in the league it was a dirty, windy day. They'd a good few chances early on, missed a few 21-yard frees and goal chances and we cleared the ball off the line in injury-time," Masterson recalled.

"We were probably seven or eight up, but had let them back into the game," he said of Wexford's tendency to surrender leads -- something they've worked hard since to eradicate.

When Westmeath won back in 2004 Forde scored 0-8 to Dessie Dolan's 1-7, but he has now retired and shares a house with Masterson in Gorey.

So, goalkeeper versus super-striker Forde -- who's the resident Playstation king then?

"We don't play it ," said Masterson, laughing. "The Nintendo Wii came into it a bit a while ago, but it's usually 'The Sunday Game' or 'Match of the Day' that's on our telly."

Irish Independent

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