Saturday 23 March 2019

Model man O'Hanlon seeing light at end of injury tunnel

Matthew O’Hanlon is hoping that he and his Wexford team-mates can build on the momentum created by Sunday’s narrow league win over Tipperary. Photo: Sportsfile
Matthew O’Hanlon is hoping that he and his Wexford team-mates can build on the momentum created by Sunday’s narrow league win over Tipperary. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Wexford joint-captain Matthew O'Hanlon is hopeful he can find his best form this season after admitting disappointment with his showings in 2018.

The St James' clubman has been dogged with injury recently and stepped away from work last summer to help him fully concentrate on his game.

After Wexford's interest in the championship ended with defeat to Clare at the All-Ireland quarter-final stage, O'Hanlon spent time travelling in South America before linking up with the rest of the squad in Boston for the Fenway Classic in November.

After a productive winter spent working on his fitness, the centre-back is ready to deliver a big year for Davy Fitzgerald's side.

"Last year I was disappointed with my season," said O'Hanlon, who skippers the Model men along with Lee Chin.

Injuries

"I had a lot of injuries. I tore my MCL (medial collateral ligament), tore my calf and pulled my hamstring three or four times.

"I couldn't really get the momentum to get my fitness up to where it needed to be.

"This year I came back in a lot better shape and I think I'm reaping the rewards from it now and I'm able to last the full 70 minutes at a high-octane pace.

"I'm in good shape, hopefully I can keep it going now and touch wood, I won't pick up any knocks as I go."

O'Hanlon put down the full 70 minutes as Wexford claimed their second league win of the season against Tipperary thanks to an injury-time winner from Aidan Nolan.

The Premier men played the majority of the game with 14 men after Noel McGrath was sent off on a second yellow card just before half-time.

"We knew directly after half-time they were going to come with whatever they had, try and get up a bit of a lead and hold on to it. In fairness they did that, they got three or four scores directly after half-time.

"But we dug deep, I thought we used the ball really well and we tried to make the numerical advantage play to our favour.

"At the end, we just really fought it out and dug it out. The difficult and hard balls that needed to be won were won by us, and we were coming out with them.

"We grabbed the momentum at the very end. We were delighted to get the win by a point. The league is about building, a lot of guys got a chance there so we were delighted to get that win at home in front of that crowd."

Tipp and Wexford were without a host of frontliners for the Wexford Park clash.

Mark Fanning, James Breen, Conor Firman, Jack O'Connor, David Dunne, Eoin Molloy and Joe O'Connor missed out for the Model men for a variety of reasons while Lee Chin and Rory O'Connor started on the bench.

But O'Hanlon believes that those injuries, combined with the absence of relegation from Division 1A this term, will open the door for some new faces to press their claim for a starting spot.

"If you look at the last few years it was probably the same 19 or 20 players in the league and this year there has been a bit of a change with some guys coming out and some other young guys getting promoted to it.

"So it's a great opportunity for those guys to get game-time. Ultimately if you are not going to try them in the league, you are not going to play them in the championship and that's the way it is at this level.

"Shane Reck at corner-back, that was his full league debut and he did really well, so it's all good at the moment."

Irish Independent

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