independent

Monday 19 February 2018

Stunning victory shows we're at home at this level

Brendan Furlong's Hop Ball

Brendan Furlong
Brendan Furlong

Romance is alive, but only just. As Wexford supporters got ready in the almost 8,000 attendance, they had to watch through some 60 tense minutes before the home side cut loose to register their first league victory over Cork since 2011.

When these two sides last met in the championship, back in 2016, Wexford bridged a 60-year gap, with a first victory since 1956 over the Rebel county.

Wexford/Cork clashes go back to the mid-fifties, with one of Wexford's finest supporters, horse trainer Jim Bolger, recalling after last Sunday's magnificent victory that he last saw Wexford defeat Cork in the league back in 1954, in what was then Wexford Park.

As Wexford supporters celebrated, Bolger recalled having travelled to that game and seeing just two cars on the road, with supporters travelling by bicycle and horse and cart.

Wexford Park, he declared, was full of bicycles all over the place, and the ground was packed for that historic game. Those were the days of the Rackards and Ring, he recalled.

How times have moved on. The newly-revamped Innovate Wexford Park attracted a fine attendance once again, but more importantly delivered a major victory, that comes very close to securing the side's Division 1A status.

Another two points would copper-fasten that status and, given the expressions on Wexford supporters following this game, they expect this young side to deliver.

Wexford's stunning victory was a triumph of everything that remains magical about competing with the top boys. It was a moment to savour for Wexford boss Davy Fitzgerald, who in 2018 has now taken the scalp of Dublin, Kilkenny, Waterford and Cork.

For him it was a major step along the road towards proving he has the ability to deliver with a bunch of hurlers who are dedicated towards their ambition of reaching the top.

But still, despite all that he has achieved both as a player and manager, the Clare native is taking so much enjoyment from this journey with the Model county.

Fitzgerald has thrown many players into the fray. He set out a programme for 2017, built on that successful season, and now the players are ready.

They are playing to a plan, but more importantly have developed the confidence to stick to it, even when things are going against them. They have also built a confidence, and strength in the legs, as they are now able to mix it physically.

Wexford, after a delicate first-half, got everything right in the second 35 minutes. With the alterations in team tactics, and the positive response of the players, Wexford's second-half display was phenomenal.

Wexford produced some excellent patches of hurling. There was the skill set of Lee Chin, whose acrobatic stickwork led to him creating the space to strike one of the points of the season, and the heroics of Liam Ryan in outplaying All Star Patrick Horgan, who was withdrawn late on.

His spectacular catch on the fringe of the square three minutes from the end was reminiscent of the great fetches of players of the past, Billy and Bobby Rackard. And Simon Donohoe had his best-ever game, totally eclipsing the threat of Alan Cadogan.

There was plenty of drama too as the Wexford half-back set-up of Pádraig Foley, Matthew O'Hanlon, Diarmuid O'Keeffe and the excellent Shaun Murphy went head to head with the Cork attack, containing them to just five second-half points.

There was the heroics of Kevin Foley and Aidan Nolan in midfield, both vying for man of the match. Chin showed why he is going to become a household name with some wonderful skills and hurling, well worth paying the €15 admission alone to see.

There was the huge workrate of Jack O'Connor and Paul Morris, two players fast developing into top-class attackers.

While all that caught the eye, even in the absence of David Dunne, who set Wexford alight seven days earlier against Waterford with 2-2, there was the bench.

Willie Devereux slotted in excellently when Damien Reck was forced out injured early on, while both Jack Guiney and Harry Kehoe delivered crucial scores in those dramatic closing minutes. Guiney produced two long-range efforts, while Kehoe nailed an excellent score off the sideline.

Wexford People

Promoted Links

Most Read

Promoted Links

News