Tuesday 12 December 2017

It's about time we went and finished the job - Wexford boss JJ Doyle

Wexford tyros out to end county’s 19-year wait for an All-Ireland title in Saturday’s U-21 final

Wexford U-21 manager JJ Doyle is preparing for his sixth All-Ireland final with the county
Wexford U-21 manager JJ Doyle is preparing for his sixth All-Ireland final with the county
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

He's been down this road before but he doesn't necessarily enjoy this part.

Between his stints with the camogie and U-21 teams, this is JJ Doyle's sixth All-Ireland final as a Wexford manager. This time Limerick are on the horizon but the build-up doesn't get any easier. The clock turns slower this week than any other.

"At this stage everything needs to be ready," Doyle says. "It is just putting in the days because the hard training is done, it's putting in time and waiting until Saturday. It's not a week I'd enjoy to be honest with you. All the preparation work is done at this stage.

"This is my sixth final including the camogie. I have been there and it's not that you get complacent - you never would when it comes to an All-Ireland - but you know the routine even with things like this (media work). There are parts of it enjoyable and parts of it that aren't but everyone is different. Every preparation and every team is different."

It feels like Wexford have been building towards this final for three years. In 2013, they won their first provincial title at the grade in more than a decade but were stunned by Antrim in the All-Ireland semi-final.

The following year they reached the decider but were seen off by a Clare side putting the finishing touches on their own incredible run. This time around they have looked more likely but Doyle doesn't agree that Saturday's final is the culmination of three years' work.

"We have 10 lads available for next year from the team that will start on Saturday," he explained.

"It's a new team but there are 10 guys from last year available so it is always about progression.

"Three of them have played in the three years some of them have been there for two years and for some it's their first year.

"We are looking at Saturday and we are not concerned about what happened in the last two years. It will be a motivation from some guys and it's about time we went and finished the job.


"But we won Leinster and got beat in a semi-final, we got beat in a final but neither of them will really impact on whether we win or lose on Saturday. It's about what happens on the day."

The Treaty men go into the game as favourites, based on their impressive run to the final.

Tipperary, Clare and Galway were all put to the sword by a panel backboned by the Munster-winning minor teams of 2013 and 2014.

But Wexford have made their own waves, not least by their 17-point hammering of Kilkenny while they also produced a special goal against Offaly that set tongues wagging.

"That (goal) is down to natural ability," Doyle said.

"Any person that says that was practised on a training field is taking credit for something they should never … it doesn't happen. You don't train for things like that.

"That score is down to lads being able to express themselves and not being afraid to try things. That is what we try to get into lads, to go out and play within the system we have, but not be confined by it.

"It is brilliant to have players in that team who have had that ability. If it is happens on Saturday and it creates scores, brilliant. If it happens and doesn't create scores, but was the right thing to do, I am never going to criticise it.

"I look back at the goal against Offaly and the most important part of that score was the work the defenders did to get the ball away from our goal. What happened after that was a result of the defending. Had Ollie (O'Leary) not made the save in goal, that ball would never have wound up at the other end."

On paper, Limerick are more battle-hardened. Wexford enjoyed a comprehensive dismissal of Kilkenny in the Leinster final which was followed by a comfortable win over Antrim in the All-Ireland semi-final.

They might go into this a little cold but Doyle reckons his team thrive in big-game scenarios.

"You can only beat the teams that are put in front of you. The boys went back the following week (after the Antrim game) and played (club) championship and it was basically knockout.

"It decided whether teams were in quarter-finals, relegation or gone from it so that upped it as well.

"That upped it as well and it has gone up three or four levels. These guys know what it takes on the big day," he adds.

"The Kilkenny game has been overlooked by a lot of people. We won by 17 points and people think it is easy. Anyone who knows Kilkenny, it certainly wasn't easy.

"Our lads, when the challenge is put up to them is when the really react. In the last three years I can count on one hand the amount of challenge games we have won.

"When the gauntlet is thrown down they step up and that's what you want. Some guys when the pressure comes on - they fold. Our guys seem to be the opposite and we are hoping the same thing happens on Saturday but there are never any guarantees."

A win would bring the end to a long wait. Back in 1996, Doyle was in the Hill when Wexford last claimed an All-Ireland. Back then, he was the same age of some of the players he is coaching are now.

None of them have clear memories of the last time they climbed the summit. It's been too long.

"Next year is 20 years. It is sad for a hurling county. We haven't won an underage All-Ireland, a minor or U-21, since 1968. It is 47 years. It is a long time for a hurling county. It is time now.

"We had a decent summer, but I was saying to someone that we didn't win anything really. For it to be a really decent summer, you have to win an All-Ireland.

"We are the last chance in the county this year to do it. That is what we are aiming to do."

Irish Independent

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