Monday 22 January 2018

Model a long way off winning All-Ireland, warns Dempsey

Wexford players warm down in front of supporters after victory over Kilkenny in Nowlan Park. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Wexford players warm down in front of supporters after victory over Kilkenny in Nowlan Park. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

There's an AA Roadwatch warning doing the rounds on social media in Wexford stating that all motorists should take particular care at crossroads in the county over the next two weeks, such is the enthusiasm with which Sunday's defeat of Kilkenny has been treated.

While clearly posted in jest, it's 21 years since they were 'Dancing at the Crossroads' and after two decades of torment there's every reason to suggest that Davy Fitzgerald is bringing the good times back to the sunny south east; every victory against the odds is making it harder for the Model to "chill the beans", as he so eloquently puts it.

Their turnaround has been astonishing, and a first win in Nowlan Park in 60 years has blown their expectations out of the water after a spring campaign which already yielded promotion to the top tier, something few predicted when he took the reins.

Under Fitzgerald they look a different outfit to the one which showed promise under Liam Dunne in 2014 before limping through the following two seasons, and the 'hurling mad' county is now reinvigorated by their fortunes and clinging to every move.


Conor McDonald looks every bit the star that he was predicted to develop into when bursting onto the scene three years ago, while a host of players such as Shaun Murphy and Paul Morris are starting to fulfill their potential.

As a team they have purpose, organisation and a plan - the trademark of teams playing under the two-time All-Ireland winning Clare goalkeeper.

As part of the last Model side to reach hurling's summit, Tom Dempsey acknowledges that they are some way off the game's big hitters but he feels Fitzgerald has brought the buzz back to Slaneyside and has already over-achieved during his honeymoon period.

"A good performance after achieving promotion would have sufficed for most Wexford people on Sunday but to get the victory surpassed our wildest dreams," Dempsey said.

"Davy and the players have worked so hard since he came here and it was just rewards for their efforts - they are in amazing physical condition.

"And when you marry his passion for the game with the passion we have for hurling down here, it's a good formula. We'll keep our feet on the ground, but at this stage of the year we deserve a day or two to be happy about things and bring back that feelgood factor.

"They deserved to win the game but we're not foolish either. We're enjoying the ride but we know we're a long way off winning an All-Ireland and probably a Leinster title but promotion and a League semi-final against the reigning All-Ireland champions isn't a bad place to be right now.

"Davy has played a really smart game so far. As part of our development we need to get to Division 1A, and I'd say Davy took the lads aside early and said 'we'll try and get a better level of conditioning early in the year' and try get promotion and have something to really work with next year."

Wexford's free-flowing style "based on movement and fitness" has enthused Dempsey, but the Buffers Alley clubman feels they may have "stirred a hornet's nest" in Kilkenny, with the two likely to collide in a titanic Leinster SHC clash in Wexford Park on June 10.

Getting one up on Brian Cody is something few have accomplished and while Dempsey believes the Cats will be a different prospect come summer, there's a worry that Wexford's form may plateau, but he believes their tactical hand has not been shown.

"Championship will be an altogether different prospect and there's no doubt Brian Cody will come back with a bang.

"They were a different side to the one which played in Thurles a few weeks back and he'll be plotting and planning ways to get around the sweeper. Sunday will have hurt him and that's not a great way to have him," he said.

"You won't get any Wexford man that will ever rule Kilkenny out of anything so we're expecting a different animal if we do get to meet them again, we've learned the hard way with the Cats before. They're not where they want to be or where they're going to be, but psychologically it has to be a benefit for us in the long term to finally get one up on them, even in the League."

Dempsey expects them to "hit a wall in two weeks", however, against "the best team in the country by a distance" (fixed for April 16 in Nowlan Park while Limerick and Galway collide in the Gaelic Grounds on the same day) with a good performance against Tipp possibly meaning "a substantial beating".

"There will be ups and downs in this Wexford run and all I'm looking for is for us to be competitive.

"They're a good united group and that's all we want, we're just looking for lads to keep going at it hammer and tongs."

Irish Independent

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