Wednesday 23 October 2019

Cyril Farrell: Davy launched a new Model prototype last year - now it must be refined

Being at home against a Dublin team that's coming off a bruising clash with Kilkenny is ideal for Wexford

Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Cyril Farrell

If Wexford needed any reminding of the difference between League and Championship, they got it last Sunday when Dublin came so close to pulling off the first surprise of the summer.

Few - if indeed any - team other than Kilkenny would have found a way out of the tightest of corners as Dublin turned in their best performance for a long time. That was encouraging for them but, in the end, they didn't win.

A team would usually have a few weeks to re-group after a championship defeat but it's straight back to business for Dublin against opposition who have been pawing the ground waiting for the off ever since they lost to Kilkenny in the League semi-final.

Wexford would have thought that the days of losing by nine points to anyone were over but, apart from the occasional spell, they hurled very poorly. Unusually too, they seemed to accept defeat far too readily once their second-half comeback didn't dislodge Kilkenny.

You can imagine what Davy Fitzgerald has been saying to them since then. He has huge faith in the squad, but they let themselves down that day.

They will be determined to show is was a one-off glitch and, with home advantage against a Dublin team that used an awful lot of energy last Sunday, they are in a great position to start their climb towards a top three finish in the group.

That's the initial target for all the teams because it's the real starting point in the All-Ireland race. Provincial titles are nice stop-offs on the journey, but the big prize is what really matters.

Wexford made solid progress last year but they know that more is required if they are to win Leinster, let alone the All-Ireland. Their basic skills could be slicker, they need a higher conversion rate from chances created and a bit more adventure wouldn't go amiss.

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Those are all fixable problems - indeed, you would expect them to be corrected - so then it's down to getting the rest of the game right on a particular day.

It's hard to know how Dublin will react to last Sunday's disappointment. It was a hard, grind and while lads are incredibly fit these days, a game like that is still very draining physically and psychologically.

Of course, both body and mind recover much quicker when you win, so after losing in such a tight marginal it's demanding a lot from Dublin to reach that level again so soon. Still, the big pressure is on Wexford, but given what they have built in the last 15 months, it will be a big surprise if they lose.

It would be an even bigger shock if Kilkenny lost to Offaly in Nowlan Park. Kevin Martin is building steadily, but it's work than cannot be rushed.

Offaly were handed the hardest opening of the ten counties in the All-Ireland race, pitted against the All-Ireland champions in the first round, followed by the League champions eight days later.

Emerging without too much damage would have been the target before the home tie with Wexford and the crucial clash with Dublin in Parnell Park.

They ran Kilkenny close in the League quarter-final this year and with Dublin doing the same last Sunday, Offaly won't be as nervous about this challenge as when they took a terrible hammering from Kilkenny four years ago.

Galway, Kilkenny and Wexford have been fancied for the three All-Ireland qualification slots from Leinster ever the since the new format was agreed on, but there's no such consensus in Munster where all five fancy their chances.

No home games leave Waterford at a disadvantage, but then they are used to travelling in the championship and will just get on with it. They will have a chance to check out their four opponents tomorrow in games where I have a slight fancy for Tipperary and Clare to take the opening points.

There's a lot of confidence in the Limerick camp and it may well be justified but playing Tipperary is the hardest start they could have got.

Clare had a good League and while that doesn't always count in the championship, the mood is very positive ahead of their visit to Cork. I think it will be even more upbeat after it.

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