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Friday 15 December 2017

Davy's years with rivals should help

Championship Special: Boss familiar with Waterford approach

Brendan Furlong

Davy Fitzgerald reacts to Diarmuid O'Keeffe's goal during the Leinster final loss to Galway
Davy Fitzgerald reacts to Diarmuid O'Keeffe's goal during the Leinster final loss to Galway

This Wexford versus Waterford game will carry a profile of its own for so many reasons - but particularly for the Davy Fitzgerald factor.

Wexford lived in an era of optimism for so long that when Davy arrived at the helm a whole new glamour emerged around hurling in the county, so much so that the county helped to bring a record crowd to Croke Park for a provincial final.

But it's Davy's former link with Sunday's opponents that has brought extra spice to this game. He led the Deise county to an All-Ireland final appearance in 2008, so will be familiar with their approach, but now that he's in charge of Wexford, his arrival has led to a new wave of optimism.

Two years ago, Kilkenny dished out a 24-point hammering to Wexford in their provincial championship clash, which was the day that heralded the arrival of Ger Aylward on the inter-county stage when he scored 3-5 from play. But even after that defeat the Under-21s dished out 17-point beating to the Cats in the Leinster final, completing a three-in-a-row in this grade.

Wexford have many of those players now on board at Senior level, including Liam Ryan, Jack O'Connor, Conor McDonald, Simon Donohoe, Cathal Dunbar and Kevin Foley.

Liam Dunne did his best while in charge with victories over Clare and Waterford in 2014, but the subsequent hammering by Limerick, coupled with the Kilkenny trouncing, as well as bad luck with injuries last year despite a fine win over Cork, ensured that change was needed.

It's a measure of Davy's standing that once he arrived he implemented a whole new approach within the squad. There was a new level of organisation to the training programme, a specific gameplan, a new level of fitness required, all of which ensured they were ready for the league.

Wexford achieved victories over their two serious opponents, Limerick and Galway, ultimately helping them to promotion, and then defeated Kilkenny in the first knockout game only to lose the semi-final to Tipperary. Then it was on to the championship, with a victory over Laois followed by a huge win over Kilkenny, before losing the provincial final to Galway.

Wexford have had problems with the concession of goals, but they helped to stem this flaw in the provincial final, not conceding one, so he will be looking for a repeat of this against Waterford on Sunday.

There will be many big clashes in this game. Midfield will be a real battle zone, as here Wexford will be anxious to get a foothold to supply quality ball to the attack.

The defence will need to be at their best to stifle this Waterford attack, but it's up front that Wexford will be attempting to use constant movement to unsettle their opponents. It's from defence, where Tadhg De Búrca can be so influential, that Waterford will launch most of their attacks.

Waterford will go into the game as favourites, but Wexford thrive on situations like this. Davy will be up for the challenge facing his side. Wexford must match everything that Waterford throw at them, while Davy must match his opponent Derek McGrath on the sideline and their clash will be fascinating.

Davy's model revolution can scare this Waterford side.

Wexford People

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