O'Brien insists lower division sides 'have to dream' of defying the odds
WHOEVER wins between Wexford and Louth next Sunday will be the last Division 2 side remaining in the provincial football championships – just one week into June.
"The winner, literally, will be last man standing," said Wexford manager Aidan O'Brien of the frightening statistic which has sent all but two of the Division 2 sides to the qualifiers already.
"Before the championship started I don't think anyone would have foreseen that, but that is how it has materialised. When you see what happened Westmeath against Dublin last week it is pretty frightening. We've also seen Limerick, the Division 4 champions, losing to Cork by 18 points and Kerry beating Tipperary by 17 and they're the two teams who knocked Wexford out of the qualifiers in the last two years.
"It is certainly chastening but no matter what division you come from you have to believe you can take out anyone, you have to dream," added O'Brien, who took over from Jason Ryan as Wexford senior boss last year.
"Given what has happened so far people will assume that teams from the lower divisions are just not at the races, but we cannot think like that and we don't. In a knockout competition it is always possible for any given team to cause a surprise on the day and that is our attitude."
His side have the consolation that their opener is against another Division 2 side, even if their opponents are the team that caused major ripples by knocking Laois out by a 10-point margin.
"I actually fancied Louth to win that," O'Brien said. "They are a very passionate side, very feisty and courageous and while Laois, on paper, have a lot of well-known players, to me they can lack that bit of passion."
Louth finished fourth in Division 2 while Wexford were second-last, taking the drop with Longford. But O'Brien's team enter the championship buoyed up by the fact that they actually beat Aidan O'Rourke's side in the fourth round of the league (2-13 to 2-9) in Drogheda, where they meet again this time.
"It was a very unusual game, played in a gale-force wind," said O'Brien. "We were playing against it but got two early goals to give us a platform and were still leading by a point at half-time and managed to hold on against it in the second half."
Two of Wexford's key defenders – Graeme Molloy and Brian Malone – haven't been able to train for the last eight days, however.
Molloy picked up a nasty hand injury and Malone has been hamstrung, but O'Brien said he is "very hopeful" that both will be fit for selection.