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Saturday 18 November 2017

Manager Masterson is relishing Royals clash

Championship Special

Dean Goodison

Manager Anthony Masterson has made considerable progress in this first year at the helm
Manager Anthony Masterson has made considerable progress in this first year at the helm

Some supporters are of the belief that if the manager did things this way, that way or the other, then all would be right in the world.

It's always easier from the outside looking in. Everyone has an opinion; many are ill-informed but it just so happens that sometimes they are spot-on.

Anthony Masterson sat in the O'Moore Park stand when Wexford gave Kildare an almighty fright in last year's Leinster final. At that stage there was no position available but whispers began to circulate that the former Wexford goalkeeper would make an excellent managerial candidate.

The Castletown man possibly didn't even hear those whispers himself, and probably wasn't thinking that way at the time. He was just there supporting a team, and a sport, for which he had a real appreciation.

However, with oodles of experience playing under several different management styles, Masterson likely had ideas that he believed would make this side better. Most don't get the chance to implement them but in the last eight months he has done just that, taking his county to a level they haven't reached in a decade.

But that potential was just one thing that made this Wexford team an attractive proposition. Something else that happened, right after the full-time whistle went and Kildare were celebrating a Leinster title win, really opened Masterson's eyes.

'It's a bugbear of mine, if you see someone losing a big match and they are high-fiving someone on the opposition, they are talking or laughing with someone on the sideline, I just don't see how it happens, there should be a genuine disappointment there,' he said.

'I see that with these girls, that's one of the reasons I took over the job. Last summer, when I saw them losing to Kildare and losing to Sligo, they were devastated after losing those games. There was no girl going around congratulating anyone from the other side, there was genuine devastation there and that's good to see.'

There hasn't been too much to be disappointed about so far this year. Everyone bar Tipperary has been dispatched, more often than not by a comfortable margin. It's a progression that hasn't surprised the Wexford supremo in the slightest.

'(We) probably expected to be at this stage,' he admitted. 'We came in and took over a group of players that had been to a Leinster final, beaten in an All-Ireland quarter-final and had got to a league semi-final, we were looking to make improvements.

'Did we improve in the league? Yes we did, probably could have won the league but once that league finished we focused on the Leinster title. At the start of the year our full focus was on winning a Leinster title, that was our number one target.'

That target has been firmly in focus in the last six weeks as Wexford cantered into the title decider. After being slightly surprised by the high level of competition in the league, Masterson thought Leinster would provide similar tests. It hasn't exactly worked out like that.

'I was very surprised with the Wicklow match, I thought we were in for a real tough game, but we played very, very well that day, Wicklow were poor that day and there's no point saying any different,' he said. 'I was surprised at Longford, I thought Longford would put up a better show after the league but it just goes to show that performing in a higher division does pay off.

'I did say it after the Tipperary match, and after the Tipperary replay, I felt that those two games would really stand to us in preparation for the Wicklow and Meath games.'

That they certainly have. Wexford beat their near neighbours into submission by half-time and the game against the Royals was as good as over at the interval too. Offaly didn't have the weapons to test Masterson's side for 60 minutes but he's sure the final will be a different story.

'We definitely haven't played the real Meath yet,' he insisted. 'Look, they are a formidable force, traditionally they are a football county anyway, they play a nice brand of football, they are a bit similar to us, they've got a bit of experience, they have a lot of youth.

'They were playing Senior football last year, I'm looking at DVDs of them over the last few years playing against Dublin, Westmeath, Laois. We haven't been playing that calibre of opponent, If there's an advantage there, it is for Meath.

'There's no point saying any different, we'll regard it as a bit of a failure if we don't win.

'Winning a Leinster title, we are definitely good enough, we are probably going to be slight favourites to win it, just on the results that have gone but look it, the girls just want to win a Leinster title.

'They are in good form, we are in good form. It's not life or death but it is very important that we win on Sunday.'

Wexford People

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