Wexford will keep up momentum, says Murphy

WEXFORD hurlers will have to prove to themselves and their supporters that winning the Leinster title against Offaly will enhance their prospects of success in the Guinness All-Ireland championship.

Specifically, they will have to use the six-week break between now and the All-Ireland semi-final to their advantage and avoid the risk of losing form in the interim period. Expressing the view yesterday that the championship "is definitely wide open," selector Dickie Murphy says that both themselves and (Munster champions)

Waterford face the same challenge.

"While we're sitting back and it's a good break for us the teams that will be coming through to the All-Ireland semi-finals will have a lot of games under their belt. There's for and against that. We could end up being very stale on August 15 or we could be mad for action. Hopefully, it will be the second one.''

Murphy, who has put his refereeing career on hold, agreed that the game more or less turned out as expected. What could not have been anticipated was that the midlanders would create so many goal chances. "We always knew it wasn't going to be easy. Only for Damien, we could have gone in at half-time eight or nine points down and that would have been a killer.

"He kept us in it. His saves were miraculous. And Mick Jacob got the goal that we needed. We hadn't a great score up to half-time, but we knew that we had a great chance if only we could up our performance in the second half. Offaly had done most of the hurling, but we were only a point behind."

Based on their first half display, Murphy accepted that Wexford could not have hoped to win, feeling that at stages their backs were playing second fiddle. "Offaly were a lot quicker, a lot sharper. Our lads seemed to be a little flat-footed at times,'' he added. "We really got going in the second half. The Doc (David O'Connor) was outstanding, Declan Ruth had a great second half and Adrian Fenlon started playing well in the middle of the field. The general work-rate improved.

"After Paul Carley's goal put us five points up I thought we were going to take it from that stage and go on and win it. But they hit back with that quick goal from Gary Hanniffy. We only had a two-point lead, which is a terrible lead in hurling. After Paul Codd scored to give us a three points, we felt the worst could happen was that it could be a draw. Then when we were four points ahead, we knew we had it!'' Murphy felt that former captain Paul Codd had been their trump card after he was introduced at wing-forward. Apart from scoring two great points, he credited him with winning some vital possession and using his strength around the field. "He was a big asset to us, definitely. The fear of losing almost bigger than the desire to win, but we all knew we had to. For us to beat Kilkenny and lose the final would have been a big disappointment for all of us, the players and the supporters. You saw the crowd which Wexford brought to Croke Park, I think that said it all.''

Appropriately, he said manager John Conran got the praised he deserved. "Being in the front line he takes the flak that's intended for us all. He has proved himself, winning two Leinster U21 championships and now a Leinster senior championship. "Last year we had some great games and we had no silverware, this year we have at least the Bob O'Keeffe Cup. Anything from here on in is a bonus.''

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