Players left it all on field even though points eluded them
Published 26/02/2016 | 00:00
I don't expect the Wexford Senior hurlers to win each and every one of their competitive games, far from it in fact.
It would be a nice vista to be sure but in the real world it's never going to happen. The highest level of any competitive sport is an unforgiving place, and even the very best teams and individuals don't win them all.
What I do expect, and what loyal followers quite rightly demand, is that the players they are supporting leave everything they have on the field in pursuit of victory, not just on the days of their choosing but every time they go out in the purple and gold jersey.
From that point of view, I was pleased with what I witnessed in Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday, even though the result clearly didn't go the way we wanted.
However, there was a noticeable change in attitude in the space of eight days. If the Gaelic Grounds was hard to stomach for onlookers, it must have been downright depressing for Brian Walsh, Philip Doyle and the rest of the hurley-making fraternity.
I could be mistaken but I don't recall a single stick being broken in anger, and the passion we are entitled to demand from our team was lacking save for one dominant spell in the third quarter.
It was a difficult week for the players and management. They were stung by much of the criticism no doubt, some of it constructive and justified, but more of it of the unhelpful variety coming from people who weren't even in Limerick and who revel in the team's misfortunes because it gives them something to moan about.
I know from my contacts close to the set-up that a lot of straight talking and soul-searching took place after the Limerick game. Everyone realised and accepted that a repeat simply couldn't be tolerated, and they reacted as best as they could on Sunday.
The fact that they fell short certainly wasn't for the want of trying, and that brings me back to my original point. No supporter leaving the ground could state that the defeat was down to a lack of effort as that simply wasn't the case.
We were four points up after 50 minutes and Clare didn't manage to make their decisive push for home until the closing stages.
I looked back to our starting 15 for our victory over the then All-Ireland champions at the same venue on July 12, 2014. Since then we have lost three players to retirement in Keith Rossiter, Ciarán Kenny and Garrett Sinnott.
Three more - David Redmond, Paul Morris and Diarmuid O'Keeffe - were ruled out for Sunday through injury while Conor McDonald was only a peripheral figure as one would expect after his second-half return from a broken thumb.
Shane Tomkins, one of our best players in the Walsh Cup, missed out too while Shaun Murphy, arguably the top defender on the club hurling scene in 2015, was an early casualty.
Now, I am only too well aware that Clare had their problems too, with the gifted Tony Kelly unavailable along with Darach Honan, Peter Duggan and Seadna Morey.
However, I would contend that it's easier for a team to absorb such losses less than three years after winning an All-Ireland than it is for a Wexford outfit struggling to keep within touching distance of hurling's top table.
It's not an excuse for the loss as I see it, rather the reality of the situation that we find ourselves in at present.
The players confirmed that representing their county really means a great deal to them, and they need to keep giving off those positive vibes every time they take to the field.
The trip to Austin Stack Park in Tralee on Sunday week is one with 'banana skin' written all over it. Kerry's good early form has been duly noted and Ciarán Carey is clearly getting a great response.
While only the die-hards from the north Kerry hurling fraternity will be in the stands for the 12.45 p.m. throw-in, the ground will have filled up by the time the second-half starts as our game will be followed by the Kingdom's football clash with Donegal.
The last thing Wexford will want is to be struggling with 20 minutes left in front of partisan supporters. Suitably forewarned before the long trip, they have the ability to put their first points on the board, but anyone thinking it will be easy is living in another world.