Laois can shock my old mentor Davy Fitz, insists Hyland
Had things worked out differently Willie Hyland could have been renewing acquaintances with his old master Davy Fitzgerald in O'Moore Park on Sunday, but a hip injury forced him to call time on his inter-county career last year at just 28.
During his 11 inter-county seasons, Hyland experienced high and lows in a Laois jersey from the humiliation of conceding ten goals en route to a 34-point defeat to Cork in 2011 to a first Championship defeat of Offaly in 43 years.
Widely regarded as one of the game's most lethal finishers, the Clough-Ballacolla attacker owes much to his former Limerick IT manager Fitzgerald and admits his game was "like chalk and cheese" when his studies were completed.
Fitzgerald's instant impact with Wexford hasn't surprised him.
"He's always looking for an edge in terms of preparation. When we were in LIT all you brought was your boots, hurl and helmet. You had your two sets of training gear laid out for you, and small things like that make a difference," Hyland said.
"He's very much into the analysis of the game and studying other teams and tactics; his teams are very hard to break down and he creates a buzz wherever he goes and that's what's happening in Wexford. He's brought them to a new level."
Hyland recalls some extreme training in Cratloe Wood and being introduced to the infamous hill in Shannon, where Clare toiled in the '90s, but one particular memory highlights the lengths the former Banner boss will go to.
"We went training in Lisdoonvarna one time and we weren't long in the bed when we got the call at 2.30 or 3.0, waking us up to go running and do a sparring session on the tackle bags in the middle of the town centre. We couldn't get Gavin O'Mahony (Limerick) up out of bed," he joked.
Having bumped into his mentor when Laois faced Westmeath last month, Hyland expects meticulous research to have been done on the O'Moore men but he insists that "Laois shouldn't fear Wexford", and the young attacking talent in the county excites him for the future.
"I hurled with a lot of good players in Laois but the difference is now we seem to be producing a lot of good forwards," he said.
"We're good going forward but I do worry about us at the back a bit, we seem to score heavily but concede heavily as well.
"It'll be interesting to see if Davy plays with a sweeper or not against Laois; if he does it might play into our hands and if we can hold Conor McDonald and Lee Chin then we'll give ourselves a chance.
"We have to earn people's respect and maybe we haven't over the past few years but these are the games you're judged upon and I'd be quietly confident that the lads could maybe pull off a shock."