Monday 27 January 2020

Fitness levels and workrate key factors in marvellous victory

Tom Dempsey
Tom Dempsey

Tom Dempsey's Hurling Analysis

Saturday started like any other Saturday: a trip to town, read of the papers, jumbo breakfast roll with skinny latte, and back home to get ready for a hurling game in the evening.

However, this Saturday ended a little differently than what would be expected normally on the day of a Wexford versus Kilkenny hurling championship game.

The first major sign came at dinner time when flicking through the T.V. channels. I can hear you all say that I'm a busy man, but I do like to relax on the day of a big match.

Way back 20-odd years ago en route to every game of our All-Ireland run, we watched Braveheart on the bus to Croker for motivational purposes and would you believe, Mel Gibson's epic was being screened before my very eyes. A coincidence maybe, but having seen how the day unfolded I now realise that it must have been an omen.

As I entered the park to take up commentary position with the legendary Liam Spratt I couldn't but feel that there is no more atmospheric place than a packed Innovate Wexford Park, and certainly Saturday evening will take some bettering as one of the great Wexford hurling occasions.

I also appreciated Spratt's expertise went further than commentary as from 6.15 to 6.55 p.m. his electrician's skills were seen at their best as he attempted to connect himself to his devoted South East audience.

To add to the drama, Davy himself was positioned beside us in the box (although we couldn't see him) and there was no doubt that I had one of the best seats in the house.

The question on everybody's lips was could we match the intensity of the Kilkenny hurling men, and many felt that the longer we stayed in the game, our chances would increase.

Within a minute of the throw-in our hearts dropped as T.J. Reid clinically dispatched a penalty to Mark Fanning's net and the immediate thought was 'not again'.

This is where the real barometer of our progression surfaced, as not only did Wexford not capitulate, but instead grabbed the next five points on the spin, and from there to the 73rd minute we were treated to an epic that will live long in the memory.

Before anyone thinks I am running away with myself, I do appreciate that we have no silverware yet on the board and there are many huge battles ahead, with Kilkenny still alive and Galway on the horizon.

But just for now I will settle for promotion to Division 1A and a Leinster final appearance with a guaranteed All-Ireland quarter-final as a very satisfactory first six months of the year.

The game itself ebbed and flowed, with Wexford recovering excellently from the early start and two quickfire second-half goals to thoroughly deserve their victory.

We had heroes all over the field, with fitness levels and workrate being the vital ingredients in the victory. Mark Fanning made some vital interventions, with speed off his line and bravery epitomising his performance.

Although unfair to individualise, Lee Chin was outstanding around the middle and his fetch at the most vital time was worth the admission money alone.

Our defenders stood firm and the energy levels of Diarmuid O'Keeffe and Simon Donohoe exemplified everything that was good about the performance.

Up front again Paul Morris stood out, but the ability of all players to fight for every cause was outstanding.

Many felt that the concession of the two goals was due to our short play but we must remember that overall we executed the gameplan perfectly, and this type of play is part of that plan.

The substitutions worked a treat and rather than being any reflection on the players to give way (all of whom put in serious shifts) it just emphasised the strength in depth that's building in the squad.

I was particularly pleased to see Shane Tomkins back and so effective after a long injury, and David Redmond's 70-yard run to hook Walter Walsh in the second-half showed selfless commitment levels.

Kilkenny for their part are still in the championship and we definitely won't be proactively seeking them out in any future draws this year.

We will never match the achievements and incredible standards set by our greatest and most respected rivals, but for now Saturday has been a giant step in the right direction for Wexford hurling.

That's good enough for the time being.

Up Wexford.

Wexford People

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