Time to stand up and be counted!

Brendan O’Brien

The county has made startling strides in the past few seasons, emerging from the depths of Division Two to compete for a Division One title against Armagh last month.

Wallace admits that it's in the league where Wexford have built their reputation to date, last year's unexpected Leinster quarter-final win over Kildare, the one day they have succeeded in reproducing their NFL form.

"When you get to a certain level people start to analyse you a bit more, criticise you a bit more and start to look for holes," said the Gusserane player. "It's up to us to prove them wrong and the only place we can do that is in the Leinster Championship."

What Wexford need to come to grips with more than anything is expectation, something which was never a factor their predecessors had to worry about. Three times in the last five years the side fell at the final fence in league campaigns where promotion or semi-final spots were there for the taking and this year they needed two bites to reach the last four when they imploded against Galway.

Add in defeats to Westmeath last year in Leinster and Armagh last month, when their chances were talked up, and it's clear that they need to handle the big occasion better.

"We've always been a team that dealt with moral victories, running big teams close without ever really getting there. If we're going to really compete this year we're going to have to get used to people predicting us to win and having us as favourites," he said.

Just like the Clare hurlers, Wexford found the deflation of their heavy league final defeat hard to digest but they too have also had five weeks in which to patch the wounds.

Wallace came off that pitch impressed, if not surprised, at the sheer pace with which Joe Kernan's side played that day championship pace. Wexford, he knew, would have to strive for those heights.

Manager Pat Roe realised straight away that the mental scars from that day could harm his team's championship ambitions and he brought his players back onto the Croke Park pitch afterwards for a talking session.

"He was just saying that we needed to forget about the league. It was over. The Leinster Championship is the goal now. He said to look around and focus on getting back there.

Croke Park is where we want to be the whole time, we don't want to leave there this year. Once you're playing in Croke Park you're winning games."

Carlow may seem like a nice appetiser with which to be served at HQ but games between these two neighbours can swing one way or the other with games rarely going to form Twenty nine times they have met in the championship, Wexford leading 11 times to nine, with a further nine ties ending all square.

"We have to get back winning as soon as possible.

They've always been a bogey team for us. They've beaten us in the league a couple of times by a point and they've been waiting for this game for a long time. It'll make or break their season as much as it will ours. "

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