Saturday 7 December 2019

Cyril Farrell: High-flying Wexford can build on this success

Wexford's Liam Óg McGovern gets away from Colm Galvin of Clare in their qualifier replay. Photo: Dáire Brennan / SPORTSFILE
Wexford's Liam Óg McGovern gets away from Colm Galvin of Clare in their qualifier replay. Photo: Dáire Brennan / SPORTSFILE

Cyril Farrell

The atmosphere around Wexford Park last Saturday evening was the best I've seen so far this year. Wexford men, women and children all joined in celebrating a great win, while already looking forward to the next outing.

It shows that, however long a county like Wexford is outside the main loop, one big win changes a mindset.

That it came in Wexford Park in such dramatic circumstances against the All-Ireland champions added to the delight, while also heightening expectations.

That's as it should be. If you eliminate the champions after 180 minutes of furious action over two Saturdays, then you've got to believe there is more to come.

However, it won't happen of its own accord. Wexford's games with Clare took on a life of their own and Liam Dunne's boys responded in a manner that suggested they are moving on to the next level.


The danger for them this evening is that Waterford will present a different type of challenge to Clare and after so much fire and brimstone over the previous two weeks, Wexford have to ensure that they maintain the same intensity levels. Anything less could be fatal.

Playing in Nowlan Park helps Wexford. They will bring a massive following who can make themselves heard much better at a smaller stadium than at a bigger ground like Thurles, where even 20,000 doesn't half fill the place.

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Waterford will have lots of support, too, but I'd expect Wexford to outnumber them and make their voices heard.

The big plus Wexford will have taken from the win over Clare rests in their confidence levels. Coming close to Dublin and Clare last year was all very fine, but they won neither game.

They needed a breakthrough victory and now that they've got it, they must make it count. Otherwise, beating Clare will be no more than a one-week wonder.

The likes of Andrew Shore, Lee Chin, Liam Og McGovern, Paul Morris and Eoin Moore really pressed on against Clare, while Keith Rossiter has been a revelation. He reads the game intelligently so he's ideally suited to 'sweeping' duties, a role made all the easier for him when Clare lost players in both games.

Having beaten Clare, Wexford are now taking all the attention, which suits Waterford perfectly.

So much has happened since late May that it's easy to forget how Waterford led Cork by nine points well into the second half of the Munster quarter-final. They didn't hold out and Cork earned a replay, which they won.

Cork went on to take the title, which in its own way is a boost for Waterford. Derek McGrath sets his team up intelligently and they will certainly be very fresh, having had a few weeks since their win over Laois.

Waterford have a lot of good young talent and will see this as an ideal opportunity to get back into the quarter-finals after missing out last year.

I still think the initiative is with Wexford. The last two Saturdays will have really boosted their confidence and now the test is to match it with a consistent performance.

They need to improve their accuracy, but the fact that they beat the All-Ireland champions after shooting so many wides underlines the amount of possession they won.

I expect Wexford to book a clash with Limerick on Sunday week.


Barry-Murphy deserves moment in sun

The sight of Jimmy Barry-Murphy beaming broadly after Cork's win last Sunday would have pleased a lot of hurling people well beyond Rebel-land. That has nothing to do with Limerick, but rather with a sense of good will towards a really genuine hurling person.

The cameras were trained on JBM in the closing seconds of last year's All-Ireland final, ready for action when the final whistle sounded, but up popped Domhnall O'Donovan to score Clare's equalising point.

Typical of JBM, there was no complaining about added time or anything else. He took the disappointment and had to deal with even more three weeks later when Cork lost the replay.

Win, lose or draw, JBM acts the same – with dignity and sportsmanship. He made some hard decisions with the Cork squad over the last two years, taking plenty of criticism as he went, but he held true to his beliefs and principles and got his first big reward last Sunday.

He carried out a lot of restructuring work this year with new players on board and it's working well as the likes of Aidan Walsh, Mark Ellis, Bill Cooper, Alan Cadogan and Damien Cahalane – although not at his best on Sunday – are making a considerable impact.

Also, Paudie O'Sullivan's return from injury is like acquiring a star name on a free transfer.

Limerick's disappointment at surrendering the Munster title is understandable, but they are still in with a real chance of making Croke Park next month.

Cork took their goal chances, Limerick didn't and ultimately that was the difference. It still leaves Limerick as serious contenders.


Step back can be the making of this Clare squad

There seems to be a view in some quarters that Davy Fitzgerald's heart-on-the-sleeve managerial style may have turned referees and linesmen against him and that this works against the Clare team too.

It's being argued that since Fitzy calls it as he sees it – often quite forcibly – some 50/50 decisions go against Clare because referees aren't well disposed to him. Human nature and all that.

If that is the case, then the problem rests with referees. Certainly, the players should not be penalised.

Clare could have no complaints over the dismissal of Podge Collins and Brendan Bugler over the last two Saturdays (under the rules they had to walk), but I thought they were very unlucky to lose Jack Browne.

I can't figure out why he got his first yellow card, which, of course, was crucial when he picked up a second one later on and was sent off.

Clare are still stunned at being out of the All-Ireland, but, in the long run, it could be the making of this squad.

The demands which go with winning an All-Ireland in a county like Clare are huge, which makes it very difficult in the following season.

The fluency of last year was never quite there for Clare this year and now that they are out of the All-Ireland, they can get away from each other, return to their clubs and take it from there.

When they regroup next year, everything will be a lot clearer. Clare have surrendered the All-Ireland, but this group, plus some others, will be back, probably even better than before.

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