Sunday 22 April 2018

'Rory O'Connor has brought that X factor that Davy Fitzgerald's Wexford needed'

Rory O'Connor of Wexford in action against Joseph Cooney, left, and Joe Canning of Galway during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 quarter-final match between Wexford and Galway at Innovate Wexford Park in Wexford. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Rory O'Connor of Wexford in action against Joseph Cooney, left, and Joe Canning of Galway during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 quarter-final match between Wexford and Galway at Innovate Wexford Park in Wexford. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Max Ryan

Irish Independent GAA correspondent Michael Verney believes that the introduction of teenage star Rory O’Connor has been crucial to Wexford’s recent good form under manager Davy Fitzgerald.

Verney was assessing Wexford’s chances of victory over Kilkenny this weekend on Independent.ie's GAA podcast The Throw-In in association with Allianz and believes that they are still underrated despite the progress they have made since hiring the Clare native, who handed O’Connor his debut in last year’s All Ireland quarter-final against Waterford.

“They’re 6/1 to win Leinster, but to me they’re the second best team in the Leinster Championship at the moment behind Galway," he said.

“They’ve been lacking that little bit of X Factor and Rory O’Connor seems to offer them that. He is just this live-wire who can pop up anywhere between eight to fifteen and take scores and they were probably missing that a small bit.”

The manager’s faith in such a young talent has also benefited the chemistry of a team which has undergone a lot of tactical changes in the past 12 months and that was evident on Saturday as they narrowly beat All-Ireland champions Galway 1-23 to 0-23.

“If you put him with an in-form Lee Chin, Conor McDonald or (Paul) Morris who can score three or four in a game, they’re looking really dangerous and are not conceding goals as well," he added.

“The half-backs were bombing forward on Saturday but I think they were doing that last season to be fair.”

Defensive solidity has been another factor in Wexford’s excellent recent form, with Verney singling out midfielder Shaun Murphy for special praise.

“Murphy got caught out against Tipperary last year in the league semi-final because he was drawn to the side but he should always be in the middle because he holds guys up and then the cavalry arrives and swamps them.”

Despite tipping them to go far in the All-Ireland SHC, Verney maintains that a push for league and provincial honours is more likely, especially given the momentum they have been building.

“Could they win the All-Ireland? They could but I think they’re probably targeting a league title or a Leinster title or both.

“When you’re seeing building blocks and you’re achieving those milestones along the way it’s a lot easier to keep pushing yourself to the limits.

“They’ve a really good age profile in their squad, they’re all 23-24, the same kind of ages that Davy was working with when Clare succeeded.”

Verney is predicting another win for Fitzgerald over Brian Cody this weekend. It would be a fourth triumph over the Cats in 12 months.

“Wexford are not as reliant on Lee Chin now as they were,” he says. “Kilkenny are totally over reliant on TJ Reid so I think Wexford will probably just edge that one.”

Subscribe to The Throw-In, Independent.ie's weekly GAA podcast in association with Allianz, for the best in GAA discussion and analysis every week, with some of the biggest names in football and hurling from Joe Brolly, Tomás Ó'Sé and John Mullane.

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