independent

Monday 14 October 2019

Barry bound for Sydney

Star young footballer to miss qualifier clash with Derry

Barry O’Connor of St. Martin’s and Wexford, who has signed a two-year AFL contract with Sydney Swans
Barry O’Connor of St. Martin’s and Wexford, who has signed a two-year AFL contract with Sydney Swans

Brendan Furlong

Wexford's young football star Barry O'Connor has put pen to paper on a two-year contract, signing for AFL outfit Sydney Swans.

O'Connor, who will now head down under to set out on a new professional career, will miss Wexford's opening round All-Ireland Senior football championship qualifier clash with Derry in Innovate Wexford Park on Saturday (4.45 p.m.) as a result.

With many young footballers, both male and female, now getting the opportunity to embark on what is obviously a big challenge, a new experience in a new country and new city, O'Connor has become the first Wexford player to receive an AFL contract.

The St. Martin's clubman, who figured prominently in Wexford's Leinster championship defeat to Louth, has opted out of the squad for the qualifier game having accepted the Sydney Swans contract.

Wexford manager, Paul McLoughlin, while obviously disappointed to have lost such a young talent, is still delighted for the player and the opportunity he has been presented with.

'Barry has decided to opt out of the Derry game which is understandable given the contract stipulations. He has signed on a two-year contract for Sydney Swans,' he said.

'A stipulation in the contract is that, should he report to the club with an injury, the contract will be immediately declared void. So one can understand his decision.'

As McLoughlin and his players embark on the qualifiers in an effort to resurrect their season, they face a huge challenge in Division 4 champions, Derry, who also defeated the Model county in a high-scoring end of league game in Bellaghy.

Wexford's provincial championship campaign ended with a defeat to Louth as the Wee county stormed to victory with a late scoring salvo.

While O'Connor is a huge loss, McLoughlin must also plan without defender, Gavin Sheehan, who is unavailable owing to a family holiday.

Doubts still surround Martin O'Connor (ankle injury), Conor Carty (calf) and Jonathan Bealin (virus), but the trio will be given time to prove their fitness.

'I am hopeful all three will become available. We will not be announcing a team until later, so we will be giving the three players as much time as possible to prove their fitness. Hopefully all three will be available for the game.

'It's a game we are looking forward to.

'Given the preparation for the Louth game and the intervening three weeks, the lads have really put in a huge effort,' he said.

'Everyone is very positive about the game, the training has gone very well, and the players are happy with the preparation.

'We will be going in fully intent on winning the game. Following the Louth game we were not down and feeling sorry for ourselves.

'We have picked ourselves up and got on with it. Now we are confident of getting a result,' he added.

Meanwhile, Wexford hurling manager Davy Fitzgerald will be seeking to unleash a winning tally on Carlow when they meet in their Leinster championship round-robin game in Innovate Wexford Park on Saturday at 7 p.m., the second part of an attractive double-header.

Following Dublin's twelve-point winning margin over Carlow on Sunday, the destination of the top three places could yet come down to scoring difference.

As a result, it's crucially important for Wexford to make home advantage count in their final two games, as they will have Kilkenny seven days later at the county grounds.

But writing off the Carlow challenge would be silly, so Fitzgerald will be delighted to have a full squad to choose from, having drawn the two difficult opening away games to Dublin and Galway.

The manager insists that it's full steam ahead for Wexford, but for the moment they are thinking no further than Carlow.

'Look, it's everything to play for. Carlow have been targeting this Wexford game since an early stage.

'They simply love playing Wexford and will carry no fear into this game,' he said.

'We take a lot from our performances against both Dublin and Galway but we now must look ahead.

'We are solely focusing on Carlow and know it will be a difficult game, but we must make home venue and home support count.'

A win for Wexford would set up a huge showdown with Kilkenny seven days later, leaving them with an opportunity of playing for a place in the Leinster final.

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