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Tuesday 12 December 2017

It's not all doom despite loss

Young Wexford squad is still developing and learning

Brendan Furlong

Eoin Moore puts his best foot forward to win possession ahead of Waterford's Páuric Mahony
Eoin Moore puts his best foot forward to win possession ahead of Waterford's Páuric Mahony
Lee Chin on the move towards the Waterford goal with Shane Fives in hot pursuit

It's not all doom despite Wexford suffering their second successive championship defeat, this time at the hands of Waterford having also lost the Leinster final to Galway.

There will be criticism coming in their direction but the majority of loyal Wexford supporters will not be buying into it.

Everyone will have their opinion but there is not much point dwelling on things.

We can all sit around feeling sorry for ourselves. No one is going to pat you on the back and pick you up, only yourself. Wexford have quality management, and back-up from family and friends, so the players will not want for leadership and guidance as they reflect on their season.

When Wexford took the pitch in the magnificent Páirc Uí Chaoimh nua, there was a full squad assembled, but the focus was on the actual starting 15.

It was very strange for supporters not to have known the actual starting side, but it was interesting when the team was announced that Davy Fitzgerald had made four changes from the team which started against Galway.

Fitzgerald made all the hard calls. It made for interesting discussion but people will now realise that he hasn't the back-up which other counties have developed over the past four to five years. Teams like Galway and Waterford are not just All-Ireland teams in the making, they have developed a squad of players, both physically and skill-wise, capable of making a bold bid for ultimate honours.

Wexford are not yet in that position but where would they be without Davy Fitzgerald? When the Clare supremo took charge last November he saw that this was a squad which had failed for the fifth successive year to achieve promotion out of Division 1B, a squad which had failed to make an impression on the knockout stages of the National League, a squad which had failed to reach a Leinster final.

Plus we've got to realise that it was a squad which he had to bring to a level of fitness if they were even to become competitive.  

Fitzgerald talked a lot of sense when he called for patience on what was always going to be an onerous journey. He called on the supporters to enjoy the journey.

Who made the difference? Fitzgerald with a plan that's going to take time, but yet he achieved many of his goals in the first six months in office.

For all the tripe said and written about his play, particularly his so-called sweeper system, Fitzgerald has confounded all those critics by bringing Wexford back as a competitive force in modern day hurling.

It was the Davy hype that helped swell the attendance in Croke Park to a record 62,000-odd crowd for a provincial hurling final.

He brought the biggest attendance of the weekend to the quarter-finals, but more importantly he brought a Wexford side which played with pride in the purple and gold.

That's because he is a massive manager, a manager who has guided the county back to Division 1A of the National League where one can look forward to the big counties visiting Innovate Wexford Park come next February.

Many will ask what went wrong over the last two games? I think this is a squad developing, a very young squad compared to other sides, learning what's needed to become a consistent top side, still lacking the experience needed, but also the confidence and composure, to deal with situations as they develop during a game.

Wexford took Kilkenny down twice this year, but to put their own stamp on a championship, Wexford needed to move through this learning curve in their attempt to become better players. No top side lacks belief, and that is what Davy Fitzgerald is trying to bring to his young squad.

But look at their last two games and one will have seen they battled right to the end.

They tried to transfer the confidence gained from those two Kilkenny victories, but in sides like Tipperary, Waterford and Galway, they came up against battle-hardened squads which have been playing at this level for the past five years.

What must be a target for the Wexford management is an attempt to bring more depth to their squad.

From the get-go Fitzgerald knew that he lacked a squad of sufficient depth to maintain a prolonged challenge through a lengthy league and championship campaign.

Wexford have plenty to work on, but they are genuine and giving of their best, as this is a squad which has revived hurling in the county, winning new-found friends and supporters throughout Wexford. They set their sights high this year, and achieved the majority of their goals, as from the get-go they looked focused and driven.

When they survey the landscape, put the disappointment of defeat behind them and return to their clubs, they will realise that a new era can belong to them.

Wexford People

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