Wednesday 21 August 2019

'I don't fear Kilkenny anymore and we've a great chance to overturn them' - O'Gorman

Larry O’Gorman: ‘No reason to fear’. Photo: Photocall Ireland
Larry O’Gorman: ‘No reason to fear’. Photo: Photocall Ireland
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

American wrestling icon Hulk Hogan was billed as having red, white and blue running through his veins - such was his love of Uncle Sam. One could similarly believe that Larry O'Gorman's blood type is purple and gold.

His passion for Wexford hurling oozes from every pore and if Father Time hadn't caught up with him in 2004 after a superb 17-year inter-county career, there's a sense that 'Larry O' would still be strutting his stuff for the Model men.

O'Gorman was one of the driving forces when Wexford secured their sixth All-Ireland hurling triumph in 1996 - winning Hurler of the Year - but 23 years have since passed with only glimpses of the glory days when they went dancing at the crossroads.

Hosting Kilkenny and sending them packing from Leinster in 2017 was one of the brighter spots since and they renew rivalries with Brian Cody's men tonight with a Leinster final place up for grabs for the winner.

The Model legend was on the receiving end of many hidings from Kilkenny during his playing days but he insists things are different now and that they have no reason to fear the Cats with Davy Fitzgerald at the helm.

"We've liked playing Kilkenny this past few years. When I was playing against them we used to hate playing them because you were nearly guaranteed that you'd only win one out of 10, but Kilkenny have gone down a bit slightly compared to what they were," O'Gorman says.

"That's to be expected, every team in the world does it and we're on a little bit of an up as well. To me, we're equal, we're as equal as Kilkenny are. TJ Reid is a danger man, Lee (Chin) is with us. So is Conor Mac (McDonald). I don't fear Kilkenny any more.

"We know it's do-or-die and Davy will get that into the players. He'll say, 'This could be our big hurrah or it could be our sad goodbye to hurling'. So I think we're in with a great chance, we have a great chance to overturn them."

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Facing Kilkenny with some degree of optimism was not always the case, however, and O'Gorman compares the belief instilled by Liam Griffin back in '96 to that which Fitzgerald has fostered in the current crop.

"When I was playing we were hoping to beat Kilkenny. From a Kilkenny point of view, they knew they could beat Wexford. So we had to turn that, slowly but surely we had to get it into our heads that we're as good as them. We can't bow to them all the time," the Faythe Harriers club man recalls.

"We can't give in to them, we can't throw in the towel. Even when Liam Griffin came in, he sort of changed that mentality within the players. He changed it around to say, 'Look it, we are as good as these, sometimes we're better than them but we don't believe in ourselves'.

"Davy has instilled it in the players, the same frame of mind that we had back then. We didn't fear them. Eventually we didn't fear them. But then they got on a roll after that, after '98, '99 it looked like the whole country feared them and they were saying, 'Please Kilkenny, stop hurling, give everyone else a chance'. A bit like Dublin in the football at the moment."

Mentioning Griffin and Fitzgerald in the one breath immediately leads to comparisons between the pair while O'Gorman scoffs at the notion suggested by Clare legend Brian Lohan that Fitzgerald's actions on the sideline may not be "genuine passion".

"Davy's a little bit wilder now, I must say, than Liam Griffin. A little bit. Liam has a little more coolness about him. Davy is me actually, what I am sometimes with some teams. I lose the run of myself," O'Gorman chuckles.

"Davy is very smart, very passionate, very driven about it, a bit like John Mullane when he played for Waterford. There's certain individuals that have that gift, that never-say-die attitude. Liam had that but in a quieter way.

"Fellas can say what they like. They said I was a showboat, that I was a bit of a jackass, or whatever you want to call it. I went out to do my stuff when it counted. When you put on the jersey, the best of you comes out.

"Davy sometimes... he likes to jump up and down, he likes to cause a racket. That's him. He'd probably do the same if he was over a tug-of-war team. He'd probably do the same if he was over a ladies' rugby team. He's just passionately driven to win."

With huge doubts over Fitzgerald's future on Slaneyside for 2020 given the draining commute from his home in Clare, O'Gorman would love to see a Leinster trophy won this season, although he doesn't feel Fitzgerald's reign should be defined by silverware.

"He has risen the county in terms of backsides on seats, greater attendances at matches, more kids interested in the game. He's letting the players mingle with supporters after matches and it's a great spectacle.

"We're in a great position to overturn Kilkenny and if we do it will mean an awful lot for hurling. I don't care about Kilkenny, they've won enough. They can just sit back on their horse and ride off into the sun. We deserve a little bit more silverware for the amount of effort and commitment that these players have put in over recent years." Larry O'Gorman was speaking as Faythe Harriers launched their 'Win A House' fundraiser where a €400,000 property can be won for €100. Tickets can be bought at www.winthehouse.ie with the draw on December 31

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