Monday 18 December 2017

High-scoring Tribesmen can crack Wexford's defensive code

Click to enlarge the graphic
Click to enlarge the graphic
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Wexford's spirited recovery against Galway in an Allianz League clash in Pearse Stadium last February attracted attention but not nearly as much as Clare's 13-point over Kilkenny in Ennis on the same day.

Davy Fitzgerald spoke after watching his side recover from a seven-point deficit to win by two of how good they would be 'once I can get 70 minutes out of them the way I want them to play.' It sounded like a long-term project, even if they had just beaten one of the top-ranked sides.

Four months later, Fitzgerald, who stood suspended for a somewhat over-exuberant method of motivating his players during the League semi-final clash with Tipperary, watched from the 'bold boy's box' in Innovate Wexford Park as Wexford beat Kilkenny in the Leinster semi-final.

They may not have played exactly as he wanted for the full 70 minutes but it was as good as what might be reasonably expected against opposition who had inflicted so much misery on Wexford for so long.

Fitzgerald has since gone back into downplay mode, highlighting Galway's strengths and experience while presenting Wexford as a work-in-progress whose time may not yet have come. Don't believe a word of it.

The moment to seize an opportunity is when it arises, not when you think it you will be better prepared. Having won eight of nine League and Championship games this year so there's no doubt about Wexford's state of readiness.

Liam Dunne left Wexford in a better state than his critics gave him credit for so it wasn't as if Fitzgerald was starting with a blank sheet. But just as he had demonstrated when he went into Waterford and Clare at various stages over the last nine years, he was the right man at the right time.

In addition to bringing his systems and style, he has also imposed his personality on a squad whose self-belief is rock solid. A bad start against Kilkenny might have derailed them in the past but they worked calmly through the challenge three weeks ago. It was quite an achievement against opposition who are usually so good at controlling games if they open an early lead.

And when Wexford recall how they out-scored Galway by 1-6 to 0-1 against the wind in the final quarter of their League clash in February, it will give them lots of encouragement if they fall behind tomorrow.

Ironically, that game may also benefit Galway. The manner in which Wexford battled back against the odds provided a harsh lesson on the dangers of taking anything for granted.

It was Galway's only defeat in a League where they improved all the way, eventually taking the title with a demolition of Tipperary in the final.

Neither Dublin nor Offaly were able to match them in the championship so, effectively, they go into tomorrow's game without a real test since recovering from a 10-point deficit against Waterford in the League quarter-final.

Still, it can't be ignored that they scored a total of 8-125 (average 29.8 points) in their last five games against Offaly, Dublin, Tipperary, Limerick and Waterford, while conceding 5-72 (average 17.4 points).

It's an impressive differential and while they may find Wexford's defensive alignment more difficult to crack, they still have enough power to take them to a second Leinster title.

Verdict: Galway

Irish Independent

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