Thursday 22 February 2018

Wexford have a lot done but more to do - O'Keeffe

Wexfords' Diarmuid O'Keeffe. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Wexfords' Diarmuid O'Keeffe. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Wexford star Diarmuid O'Keeffe has declared himself pleased with the progress Wexford have made under Davy Fitzgerald but warns the evidence of last summer served as a reminder that they have more work to do.

Wexford regained their top-flight status in Fitzgerald's first season in charge and went on to record a first win over rivals Kilkenny in the championship in 2004.

They also appeared in the Leinster decider for the first time since 2008 before finally bowing out at the All-Ireland quarter-final stage to subsequent All-Ireland finalists Waterford.

And while there's plenty to be optimistic about, O'Keeffe wants his side to kick on again in 2018.

"I suppose judging on results and where we finished in the league and championship, we have made progress," O'Keeffe reflected. "We got to a league semi-final and Leinster final last year but you are judged on championship and we finished in a quarter-final again which we have done for the last couple of years previous and haven't really made any inroads there.

"Yes, we have made progress but judging by the championship we are improving but there is still work to do."

Wexford have stormed into life back in Division 1A and have already recorded wins away to Waterford and at home to Cork.

And on Saturday night they head to Semple Stadium to take on Tipperary in what is a repeat of last year's league semi-final that Tipperary won in controversial circumstances. Michael Ryan's team grabbed a goal after it appeared Wexford should have been given a free immediately beforehand.

"I thought we did certain things in the first half that were very good, the way we tried to play, I thought we executed it good in the first half," O'Keeffe said of that defeat to Tipp.

"They caught us for two goals against the run of play and really in the second half we got to three or four points behind them but we could never break that gap of just getting a little closer.

"They finished up, I think, with five goals in the end and two late on.

"Look, it was a steep learning curve and we picked up a lot of things from it. Tipperary went on to lose the league final but got to an All-Ireland semi-final and almost an All-Ireland final again.

"I suppose the biggest thing we learned was that if you don't perform to the best of your ability as a team then you're going to suffer and we did very much that day."

And despite their good start to the year, O'Keeffe (below) won't be drawn on what the Slaneysiders can achieve this season.

"The aim at the start of the year was take it game by game, genuinely, we did that against Waterford. The Waterford game was over then and we firmly focused on Cork.

"If you take your eye off the ball and worry about titles or end products then you'll miss the opportunities in the games that you're meeting week to week.

"It may be a cliché but we're looking no further than Tipperary this Saturday."

Irish Independent

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