Fitzgibbon first for Foley despite scheduling clash
When the GAA announced their revamped fixture list for the 2018 inter-county season to much fanfare last year, they were very clear that they expected teething problems.
There would be parts of it that they expected to work well that would fall flat, they said, while other areas would surprise them.
The tighter schedule has already seen the weather cause significant problems. Postponed games have seen January competitions finishing in February and, in the case of the O'Byrne Cup, March.
The fixture list faces another hurdle this weekend. The Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup final between DCU and UL and takes place on Saturday afternoon in Mallow with a host of players from both sides also due to be in action with their county sides in the Allianz hurling League the following day.
DCU and Wexford star Paudie Foley admits it's not the ideal scenario for players. And he's unsure as to whether he'll be on duty with Wexford when they face Clare just 24 hours after the Fitzgibbon decider. Previously, the Fitzgibbon Cup semi-finals and finals were held on a weekend that only saw football league action.
"I do disagree with it," Foley says of the scheduling conflict.
"I thought the weekend worked well in previous years. But there's not much we can do about it, we'll see after Saturday.
"We haven't really spoken about it yet. What has been said between myself and Davy (Fitzgerald) was worry about Saturday and we'll decide after that. My full focus, and the other Wexford players involved's full focus, is on Fitzgibbon final on Saturday and after that we'll worry about other things.
"There's (DCU) lads with Waterford, Kilkenny, Wexford and Dublin all involved with games on Sunday. There are four Wexford and a good few Dublin lads. And I'm sure UL are in the same position. We'll just have to make a decision after the game on Saturday.
"It's a Fitzgibbon Cup final. It's an All-Ireland final. That will come first in the majority of players' minds.
"To be honest, I always think one game at a time. I don't think too far past the next game in front of me. And I think a lot of lads are on the same page."
Foley has enjoyed a fruitful start to 2018. As well as helping the northside Dublin university to a first Fitzgibbon Cup final appearance, he has also been key part of the Wexford team that has looked comfortable on its return to Division 1A, winning two of their first three games.
He wasn't available to Wexford last season. After discussing it with Fitzgerald, Crossabeg-Ballymurn clubman Foley sat out 2017 to go travelling. And after heading stateside with the blessing of the Wexford manager, he reckons he is reaping the rewards now.
"I had a few different conversations with him," says the third year PE and Biology student.
"And a lot of them were not based around hurling at all. It was talking a bit about my personal goals, personal issues, just general talk.
"More like a talk you'd have with a counsellor or a psychiatrist. It was just a general talk. I think as men, we don't talk enough. So that was great, to have this relationship on a personal basis. And he knew 100pc by the way I was talking that I wasn't in the right mindset to go playing.
"I kept in touch with him that year, always wishing him the best of luck. And then he re-approached me this year and I was delighted to be asked back in the set-up.
"I just felt playing county, playing U-21s up to September and then back into the club, and my club has been there or thereabouts in the intermediate championship, county semi-finals and finals going on until November.
"Then you are back training two weeks after that and it was just a constant wheel, constant go and I wanted a complete break from it, just time away to think. It definitely has brought a new hunger into my game."
And after watching Wexford beat Kilkenny on a mobile phone in San Francisco, he's delighted to be back to help the Slaneysiders push on to even greater things in 2018.
"I was up at 8am in the morning watching it. Watching it on an app on the phone with a few of the lads.
"But yeah, all through my time when I was at home, I would still go to the game. I would still support the lads, text the lads, be 100pc behind them.
"Because I knew the effort they were putting in in training. I was delighted for the progress that Wexford made last year. I know there was no silverware or anything but it is progress. We're becoming one of the top teams in the country."