There’s something about Davy and always has been. Is there, these past few months, something new about Davy?
You know the rap sheet yourself. Not so much the roaring and bawling on the sideline, the self-parodic cartoon carry-on, as the graver, big-picture charges.
That he’s a great man to provide a quick fix. That he’ll get a team fitter than anyone quicker than anyone.
That he’ll have them motivated up to the eyeballs. That an instant improvement is a certainty before — an equal certainty — the hit wears off.
That a Davy high is not a lasting high.
All perfectly fair and reasonable qualms that had to be borne in mind at the start of his second season with Wexford, even allowing for the iron reality that a manager can only make a suit with the cloth at hand. And now..?
And now it’s different. We’re still in March yet much of substance has already been achieved in 2018. Walls on top of the foundations of 2017.
Wexford retained their Division 1A status without even a sniff of a relegation scare.
Meaning inter alia that Tipperary and Kilkenny and Waterford will visit Wexford Park next spring, meaning in turn that further local promotional occasions — and Wexford hurling needs all the local promotion it can get — are guaranteed.
(Talking of matters promotional, Eanna Martin was appointed the county’s commercial manager during the week, the first outside Dublin. A rising Davy lifts unexpected boats.)
They won the Walsh Cup. This is not something to be scoffed at. Wexford are not magpie hoarders of silvery items.
Any trophy they win has by definition to be of importance and encouragement to them. They won the Walsh Cup in 1996 too. It helped lead to bigger things.
They’re 70 minutes, probably not plus extra-time tomorrow, away from a league final, a competition they haven’t won since 1973. If they win it, excellent.
If they win it but fail to kick on and light up the championship, so what? That would still be two trophies on the sideboard in 2018.
In the long term the only possible championship ramifications of a league title for Wexford are positive championship ramifications.
Granted, they didn’t beat Kilkenny at Nowlan Park the other week but they ran them close despite the absence of Lee Chin.
Facing sharper, hungrier opponents the visitors were content to let the chips fall as they did, content in the knowledge they’d have at least one more tilt against the old enemy before the season was out. It arrives sooner than they might have anticipated.
They did beat the All-Ireland champions. Undercooked All-Ireland champions, yes, but All-Ireland champions nonetheless and they saw them off with a swagger in the closing stages seven days ago.
They’ve stuck with some of Davy’s brainwaves from last year — Liam Ryan and Diarmuid O’Keeffe are still getting up the field to score from distance — but have added necessary new facets. Paudie Foley has provided a siege-gun option from the half-back line. Kevin Foley is hitting points from midfield.
Jack O’Connor is an effective landing ground for puckouts. Best of all, Rory O’Connor is shaping up as the most exciting newcomer in the game this season.
Three points from play when introduced at half-time against Clare. Two points in Nowlan Park.
Two points against Galway, when he didn’t let a couple of missed frees get to him. O’Connor is fast and incisive and accurate, and though he could do a job at number 15 the manager is probably right for the moment to keep him out the field, in space and attacking the space in front of him. Not that the son of John O’Connor is likely to take a step backwards in any sector of the field.
We’ll wait a while to hail him as the Second Coming, naturally. In any case Wexford will not be realistic All-Ireland contenders till they have three Rory O’Connor types up front. But it’s enough to be going on with for now.
Bottom line, Wexford have trained on since last year. That wasn’t guaranteed. Their manager appears to have trained on since last year, which wasn’t guaranteed either. If there’s something different about Davy, there should be.
Not even he was going to remain Sideline Davy forever. The dictionary has a word for this. It’s called life. Liam Griffin, incidentally, is very happy with Davy. That should be good enough for the rest of us.
So Wexford, despite the Nowlan Park defeat, remain stuck in a moment they’re in no hurry to get out of vis a vis Kilkenny. Such moments have happened before, albeit very much back in the day: The mid-1950s, 1960-62, 1976-77.
While it scarcely needs to be observed that the current dispensation will not last indefinitely, too much cannot be made of it while it does. It may well last for another season. It will surely last beyond tomorrow.
Kilkenny will ask questions, but not with the enhanced interrogation techniques of a few years back.
There’s something about Limerick too. Last season they ended up on the wrong side of a couple of very fine lines.
An early, promotion-derailing defeat in Wexford Park that might as easily have been a victory.
An early, summer-ending championship defeat in Nowlan Park that might as easily have been a victory had it been played at the Gaelic Grounds and Diarmuid Byrnes been present.
No man needed, or deserved, a break more than John Kiely did. He got one in Salthill. And lo, in one bound Limerick were finally free.
They’ve been playing these must-win, or at any rate must-draw, games and winning them; they’re not conceding goals; they finally look to be carrying a consistent goal threat in the last 30 metres of the field.
The lines of a new, unchained melody. If Davy is for the time being new Davy, Limerick are new Limerick, inhaling the fresh air of the world outside prison.
Would a full-strength Tipperary beat a full-strength Limerick? This is what is called a rhetorical question. It does not require an answer.
In Croke Park last Sunday Tipp went from eight points down to four points up in the space of 23 minutes.
There may be the title of a potential movie franchise somewhere in there. What’s more, they did so with a front eight minus two Mahers, Dan McCormack, Seamus Callanan, John O’Dwyer and the elder McGrath. They continue to land punches and the punches continue to hurt.
But will a less than full-strength Tipperary beat a full-strength — and presumably far more motivated — Limerick on the last day of March? That is not a rhetorical question.
Neither Limerick nor Wexford will win the 2018 All-Ireland. (The 2019 or 2020 All-Ireland is a different matter.)
But Wexford can aspire to reaching the semi-finals, and Limerick for the moment need only worry about reaching the quarter-finals.
The 2018 National League, on the other hand, is within the compass of both. Here’s someone who expects the pair to contest the final.
A league is a long time in hurling. For the moment there’s something about Limerick and Wexford.
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