Jacob convinced positivity can lay platform for Model
DEFYING the odds to stay up in Division 1 hurling has given Wexford a huge psychological boost ahead of their championship opener against Antrim on Sunday, says corner-forward Rory Jacob.
And the upbeat Oulart-The Ballagh star says all the criticism they have shipped over the last two years doesn't bother him.
"Let them say what they like," he said. "As long as you go out and enjoy playing the game, that's what most of us are there to do -- play the game as hard as we can. The results are not always great, but you have to keep going."
Jacob's 'yes we can' philosophy is not surprising considering his lineage. He's the third of four children who have all played at level senior for the county.
Their father Mick played for Wexford until he was 38 and Rory's sisters Ursula and Helena won camogie All-Irelands last summer, with full-forward Ursula also nabbing an All Star.
He graduated from Waterford IT where he won several Fitzgibbon Cup medals under current Wexford boss Colm Bonnar and it was his brother Mick who scored the famous goal that ousted Kilkenny in the 2004 Leinster semi-final.
Although Wexford contested eight Leinster SHC finals in a row from 2001, they haven't reached the last two and 2004 was their last Leinster title.
Throw in a spell in Division 2, the fact that they came very close to dropping back down there during this year's Allianz League, and the absence of Diarmuid 'Gizzy' Lyng, who is travelling abroad, and a serious air of pessimism hangs over the county at present.
But you won't get any negativity from Jacob, a teacher in St Peter's College, who confessed: "My life is devoted to hurling. I don't think about much else, but I enjoy it.
"Staying up in Division 1 was definitely a boost. When we were beaten in Offaly a lot of people thought we were gone, but we had two games left and we were going in to try and win them and stay up, and that's what happened."
Even Jacob's positivity was dented after the Offaly loss, he admitted, but only momentarily.
"Initially you felt like the whole world had fallen in, like we were going back into Division 2, but when we got back training on Tuesday night all we were thinking about was the Cork game and getting a result in that."
Beating the Rebels was a watershed.
"That gave us the confidence going to Tipperary," Jacob said. "We knew if we could perform to our best that we'd have some sort of a chance, because Tipp didn't have all their number one players.
"We got a break with a late goal, drew and stayed up.
"We've been on the wrong side of results like that in recent years, so it was nice to get a break because we felt we deserved a little bit of luck."
Jacob believes their opening-round 1-24 to 0-6 trouncing by Galway made their league campaign look a lot worse than it was, but he points out they were seriously understrength that day, with a large contingent of the Oulart players on the bench after their lengthy Leinster club campaign.
But he's confident that the way Wexford scrapped and secured their Division 1 status will stand to them.
"In 2009 (after losing the Division 2 final to Offaly) we went into the championship not knowing where we were; that definitely didn't help. To get a positive result in the end should help us.
"I know from the school alone that there's a wealth of talent in Wexford, it's just a matter of getting them nurtured and getting the right structures in place," Jacob added, pointing to the emergence of young Matthew O'Hanlon at full-back.
"We wouldn't be playing if we didn't think we had a chance," he stressed. "If you go and perform on the day and give it a lash, you always have a chance."