WEXFORD LACKED THE firepower needed to subdue the eventual All-Ireland champions Galway in last year’s Leinster final.
It was an underwhelming performance in the end from Wexford, but it was progress nonetheless for Davy Fitzgerald’s charges, considering it was their first appearance in the provincial decider since 2008.
Complimenting that encouraging campaign by claiming the Bob O’Keeffe Cup this time around is the next major challenge for Wexford to embrace.
Fitzgerald achieved All-Ireland success with Clare in 2013, just one year after his appointment as manager.
But while Wexford will be named among the favourites for Leinster glory this year, sharpshooter Conor McDonald says there’s no pressure on them to emulate Clare’s journey to success.
“I don’t think so,” he says. “I don’t want to speak on behalf of Davy but I think he’s pretty happy and I think a lot of people would see that he’s pretty happy in Wexford.
“As players and as a group, we want to succeed. We don’t want to wait around anyway so I think the group of players, he’s brought them together an awful lot more consistency into our play to further rotate us.
I wouldn’t say the pressure is on us to try and succeed, I just think we want to anyway.
“I suppose the way it is now anyone could win anything I think. If you’re not really looking at silverware at this level you probably shouldn’t be there.
“There could be a few upsets here or there with any team and see where it takes us. Silverware is obviously what you’d be hoping for and see where it goes.”
The new round-robin format in the provincial hurling competitions will allow teams to play more regular games on an almost weekly basis, and eliminate the arduous breaks that existed in the old structure.
The opening round of games took place last weekend, but Wexford’s campaign is just beginning this Sunday, as they prepare to take on a Dublin side who came narrowly close to getting a scalp over Kilkenny in their first round.
Regardless of whether or not Wexford can claim the Leinster crown, or whether they can progress any further than their All-Ireland quarter-final exit against Waterford in 2017, Fitzgerald has undoubtedly rejuvenated the hurling culture in the Model county.
1996 All-Ireland winning captain Martin Storey told The42 last year that ‘he’s [Fitzgerald] bringing attention, he’s bringing passion, he’s bringing the will to win, he’s bringing hunger.
‘There’s a buzz back and there’s kids wanting to go to watch Wexford hurling again.’
One of the changes that Fitzgerald has made to his backroom team is the introduction of four-time All-Ireland camogie winner Mags D’Arcy, who is working alongside goalkeeping coach Noel Considine, as well as other areas of the team.
She has brought a new energy to the panel, according to McDonald.
“Mags is a bundle of energy. She seems to always be in good form which is always nice to have. She’s really encouraging, she’d be always there early training ready to rock. She just fits in nicely and she’s really good.”
However, building up a winning momentum and avoiding injuries will be crucial for teams to keep them competitive in the 2018 provincial championships.
McDonald stresses that it will be difficult for Wexford to regenerate and go again if they don’t get off to a winning start against Dublin on Sunday [Throw-in, 3pm].
“When you think about it, we’ve Dublin at home to start and that’s probably the main focus at the moment because if we weren’t to play well in our first home game and the have to travel to Offaly which is by no means easy — Kilkenny I think only won by two points in the league quarter-final up there.
“I think to be honest, the first two games are massive for us and then see how it goes after that.
“It’s hard to know really. You’re kind of in the fog really at the start and we just have to take it game by game and see. Recovery is obviously going to be the highest priority after each game so we just have to see how it goes.”
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