Monday 23 October 2017

Doyle confident his side will deliver

Brendan Furlong

J.J. Doyle will be hoping that the broad smile he sported after the leinster final win over Kilkenny will return in Thurles at the end of proceedings on Saturday
J.J. Doyle will be hoping that the broad smile he sported after the leinster final win over Kilkenny will return in Thurles at the end of proceedings on Saturday

Wexford manager J. J. Doyle has no doubts regarding his side's character or commitment ahead of Saturday's All-Ireland showdown against Limerick in Semple Stadium, Thurles.

Now Wexford find themselves 60 minutes away from a first All-Ireland Under-21 title since 1965, but the fact that some negativity abounds regarding the side's prospects does not disrupt their approach in any way.

'I am sure the players will tell you I do not doubt the ability of our team. I have great belief in this squad and I continuously affirm that with the players and I think they are responding in kind,' he said.

It's an argument that holds a fair volume of water. They have come through Leinster, defeating Kildare and Offaly along with arch-rivals Kilkenny in the provincial final, and then a difficult and negative All-Ireland semi-final with Antrim who adopted a blanket defence for the entire 60 minutes.

That's not a bad record but still many will compare it with the path taken by their opponents, Limerick, defeating Tipperary and Clare in Munster with Galway falling in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Despite all this, Doyle is looking forward with confidence. 'It's a game we are looking forward to. We have a lot of experience from last year, many of the same players are still there. It's an All-Ireland final, it's a big occasion, there is no pretending as this is an All-Ireland final facing us.'

As for the tag of underdogs, given that most people will have Limerick favourites, Doyle said: 'It does not affect us. Obviously people are making Limerick favourtes, but that is of no consequence to us. If we put in a performance against them, we are good enough to win the game. We are just looking for a good performance out of the lads.

'You know it comes back to belief and when we spoke about it two years ago against Kilkenny we were hoping to win. But now we go in with belief, believing we can win, and it's not arrogance. If you go into the game with a winning attitude it can be a dangerous animal.

'Last year we did not perform, and we were not happy with aspects of our game, but we certainly have that belief now, a belief that comes from winning. We came through Leinster, Limerick came through Munster and then Galway, but it's a 50-50 game,' he said.

'It's all in the mindset and to win a game we have to perform. We were still disappointed with aspects of our game against Antrim. We know we have things to work on.'

Wexford struck 19 wides against Antrim, a flaw that was also in their game in the opening round victory over Kildare. 'As bad as we were against Antrim, we were worse against Kildare,' Doyle admitted.

'Against Kildare we had 17 wides and seven balls into the 'keeper's hands, against Limerick we had 19 wides.

'I put it down to wrong decision-making and the lads not being focused, but against Kilkenny we had five wides and a fine scoring tally. But if we have 19 wides against Limerick we will not be coming anywhere near the winning of the game.

'These players are intelligent. They will realise there is no point shooting from ridiculous angles, they will work the ball, work themselves into better positions before shooting. We will need to play with conviction, re-cycle the ball and then take our chances.'

Wexford, despite their impressive path to the final, realise their game will have to reach a different level to match that of a physical and skilful Limerick outfit.

'Yes, I'm confident we can win the game. We have studied Limerick and looked at areas of our own game and things we can improve upon. We have also looked and studied Limerick and aspects of their game that hopefully we can capitalise upon.'

Despite a third Leinster title in a row, Doyle will not be satisfied with just that achievement on his C.V.

'It was our third Leinster in a row but I don't feel it will be a successful year if we fail to push on and win an All-Ireland. There is a belief there but we need to go out and hurl on the day, and if we do that we can go on and win the game.

'I don't know if it will be open and flowing but it will be nothing like the negative approach of Antrim. Limerick have a great team ethic, and you don't win games by defending, as it limits both sides' scoring potential. They have Cian Lynch who pulls out into the middle third of the pitch.

'They have not been defensive up to this. We will be ready for whatever they bring to the table and will react accordingly. We will bring our own game and set them thinking, but if Limerick have something different on the day we will have to react to it on the line.'

Hope will also be nourished by Wexford's consistency at this level over the past three years. What will Wexford take to the final?

'We need a massive performance but we are capable of doing it. We saw Limerick and they bring huge intensity to it, and the makings of a good team, but the same can be said about Wexford.

'But it will all come down to who will perform on the day, the hungier side, the side who wants it most, and puts the most scores on the board,' he added.

While Doyle has his and his players' feet firmly planted on the ground, they are still a group on a mission.

'It's no point going down to Thurles if we don't believe we can win the game. There is no point thinking about what other people believe, as Limerick will believe in themselves, Wexford will also believe in themselves.

'There's no point in having put all that work in since last November if at this stage we don't believe we can win the game. We genuinely believe we can win the game. I certainly believe in these guys, but more important the players believe.'

Asked if the spirit of Wexford will get them over the line, Doyle's response was unwavering: 'Hopefully the hurling will get us over the line'.

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