Friday 19 January 2018

P.J. glad to be back

Experienced forward eager for action

Brendan Furlong

P.J. Banville is glad to be back in that familiar purple and gold jersey
P.J. Banville is glad to be back in that familiar purple and gold jersey

P.J. Banville has been asked on several occasions during the past two weeks would he have made the difference for New York between defeat and victory.

Last year, the Horeswood clubman lined out in the 'big apple' when New York faced up to Galway in the Connacht Senior football championship preliminary round but ended on the losing side despite a top-scoring, man-of-the-match performance.

Having returned to his native roots, Banville looked on from this side of the Atlantic as his former New York colleagues came within one point of shocking Roscommon in their recent provincial preliminary round game.

'Yes, it has been mentioned to be me on several occasions would I have made the difference. But this is a different year and New York had a much-changed look about them so it's hard to answer that question. At this stage it's hypothetical as I've just Wexford on my mind at the moment.'

While he enjoyed his year out in New York, leading him to miss out on the 2015 Wexford inter-county campaign, Banville is now committed to resurrecting his career in purple and gold and is looking forward to their provincial quarter-final clash with Kildare in Croke Park on Saturday (5.15 p.m.).

During the league campaign Banville was recognised for his one hundredth appearance with the county, after which he began to focus on regaining full fitness ahead of the closing stages of the league and the championship opener.

But once the ace attacker re-joined the squad it was a totally new look from when he left it some 15 months earlier.

'When I came back in there was a new manager (David Power), new backroom set-up and an almost new, young squad of players. So I suppose the biggest challenge for me was getting to know the new manager and my new playing colleagues, many of whom were still Under-21.

'But I have nothing but admiration for the work that David and his backroom team are doing. The organisation and effort is top class and professional. The young players are so enthusiastic and learning all the time.

'Such is the depth of the squad that there is real competition for every position which is so positive,' he said.

'In fairness to David he has given the young players their chance. Perhaps when I was last in the squad, having reached some seven provincial semi-finals and Leinster finals along with an All-Ireland semi-final, it was mainly the same squad. Perhaps the fact that we were doing so well meant there was less chance for young players, but that is now all changed.'

'Failing to get promotion in the league was disappointing but this is the championship. Kildare were only one division above us and while they got promoted I'm still confident going into this game.

'A lot of people think we have no chance but I don't look at it that way. I believe we have a real chance as there is an ideal blend of youth and experience.

'They are no Dublin and we are not afraid of them. Kildare look upon themselves as a provincial final or All-Ireland quarter-final team but we have a good record in Croke Park.

'Football has improved in Wexford, the players are responding to challenges. Your life revolves around football, your social life revolves around football.

'Kildare may be a big, strong, physical side, but Croke Park is a wide open pitch which we intend to utilise to make it difficult for them.

'David (Power) has brought great confidence to the young players.

'He trained and managed Tipperary to win an All-Ireland Minor football title so knows how to deal with the young players, so much so that they are pushing the more experienced players for a place in the team.'

For P.J., who is an advertising sales executive with this newspaper, and his colleagues, the championship race is only starting.

Wexford People

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