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'Our heads were in the clouds' -- Wexford won't be complacent again says U21 star McDonald

The Yellowbellies face Galway today, having been caught by Antrim in last year’s semi-final.

Conor McDonald: one of the side's main men.
Conor McDonald: one of the side's main men.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Bord Gais Energy All-Ireland U-21 hurling championship semi-final
Galway v Wexford
Thurles, 6pm
Live on TG4 TV
Referee: Diarmuid Kirwan (Cork)

IN THE CIRCUMSTANCES, you can’t blame Conor McDonald for clinging to a cliche.

The young Wexford full-forward says he’s not taking anything for granted in the Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland U-21 hurling championship. And he means it, 100 per cent.

He was one of the Wexford players caught out at this stage last year by an Antrim side that, by their own admission, didn’t travel with any great hope of success.

In the end, Antrim stole a 2-15 to 1-16 victory and became the first-ever Ulster side to reach the decider.

Galway are Wexford’s opposition a year on and while few would ever take the Tribesmen for granted anyhow, last year’s experience has certainly focused minds.

“We basically just took them for granted and we didn’t turn up on the day,” recalled McDonald. “Our heads were in the clouds and we really bit the bullet then.

“I think everyone was trying not to think of it but a lot of people on the outside would have said, ‘ah sure ye’ll be grand and we’ll have Clare or Galway in the final’.

“It was not so much the players saying, ‘ah look, we’ll get over these now and be back in September’. It was more that everyone else was kind of drilling it into us and that mentality rubbed off on us a small bit.”

If the lesson wasn’t already learned then being part of a Wexford side that knocked holders Clare out of this summer’s senior Championship hammered it home that anything can happen.

McDonald admits to knowing little about their semi-final opposition this time around, Galway, who enter the competition at this stage.

Galway manager Johnny Kelly did field many of his U-21 players in the intermediate championship against Cork last month. But they gave a Jekyll and Hyde performance, losing by four having led by seven at one stage.

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UCD student McDonald is happy enough to focus on himself and attempt to keep his good form going. It’s been a whirlwind year or so since making his senior debut.

“It was literally the morning after last year’s Leinster U21 final that Liam Dunne rang,” recalled McDonald. “I thought it was a prank phone call after winning the Leinster final. I was nearly going to hang up.”

He didn’t though and made his debut as a sub in the qualifier loss to Clare. This summer, he played in all six Championship games and contributing 5-10, from play.

Losing to Limerick in the All-Ireland quarter-finals was a disappointment but the quest for a first All-Ireland U-21 title since 1965 soon commanded his attention.

“If we were to get an U-21 title or make an appearance in the final, it would bring lads forward an awful lot,” said McDonald. “I think if the elder statesmen of the (senior) panel saw that then it would give them the extra little lift forward too.”

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About the author:

Paul Keane

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