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Sunday 22 July 2018

Davy has got all he required from the league so far

Alan Aherne
Alan Aherne

On the Line with Alan Aherne

Davy Fitzgerald has developed the welcome habit of hitting targets ahead of schedule since his arrival in Wexford.

There's nothing quite as beneficial in terms of winning supporters over, and the passionate Sixmilebridge man has them eating out of his hand at this stage.

First there was the successful promotion bid last season, followed by a brace of very welcome wins over Kilkenny and qualification for the Leinster final after a yawning nine-year gap.

And while there were slips in the course of the year at the hands of Tipperary, Galway and Waterford respectively, it would appear from recent performances that the players and mentors have taken the lessons that needed to be learned on board.

I think the importance of staying in the top flight of the league for another term cannot be emphasised enough.

After being out of that company since 2011, it was essential for Wexford's ongoing development to remain there.

I know that the most recent outright league winners have all come from Division 1B, but our needs were greater than theirs when it came to competing regularly with the big boys.

With all due respect to some of the counties in the second tier, the reality is that two of the five games at most may be regarded as being truly beneficial.

Take young defender Conor Firman as a prime example. His promotion to the starting 15 may have been fast-tracked somewhat as a result of injuries to Simon Donohoe and Eoin Moore respectively.

He was thrown in at the deep end and is clearly improving with every outing after facing talented forwards from Tipperary, Clare and Kilkenny in a short space of time.

Now, contrast that with the situation if we were still in 1B and had encountered, for example, Antrim, Laois and Offaly instead.

There's simply no comparison in terms of quality of opposition, and facing the might of the top hurlers in the game on a weekly basis will do Firman and his ilk the power of good.

I know some fans were disappointed when the calculations were completed last Sunday, and it emerged that we would be facing the strongest quarter-final opponent of the lot in All-Ireland holders Galway.

It's probably not ideal to be meeting them less than three months before the championship either, but clashes of this nature are nigh on impossible to avoid given the small pool of contestants.

And I think the visit of the best team in the country in 2017 will be perfect in terms of keeping the momentum going and exposing the Wexford players to another 70 minutes of high-octane action against top-quality opposition.

Regardless of the outcome, and I would give us a fighting chance of success, Davy has got everything he wanted out of this league campaign thus far in my view.

To have status secured with one game to spare was a huge positive, another sign of our manager's ability to tick the necessary boxes in double-quick time.

It made for a more relaxed journey to Nowlan Park last Sunday, and it also enabled the boss to give plenty of minutes to a fringe group of players whose appearances thus far had been mostly confined to late arrivals off the bench.

When the championship games come thick and fast, with little recovery time in between, it will be absolutely essential that the Wexford mentors have road-tested each and every one of their squad.

All it might take is a couple of injuries to upset the best-laid plans, but at least Davy and company know exactly what their entire panel is made of at this stage.

A total of 33 players have been used to date across the four Walsh Cup and five league games, and nobody has started on all nine occasions.

However, Shaun Murphy, Aidan Nolan, Conor McDonald and Damien Reck have played some part in every game, with the former making eight starts along with Rapps duo Kevin Foley and Liam Ryan.

Sunday will represent another significant step for this dedicated group, and I believe they are ready for the challenge.

Wexford People

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