Rory O’Connor and Wexford keen to make up for lost time

Left idle as the hurling championship kicked into gear last week, it’s not hard to imagine a Wexford side under the care of Davy Fitzgerald straining at the leash to get at Dublin in Parnell Park tomorrow.

Rory O’Connor and Wexford keen to make up for lost time

Left idle as the hurling championship kicked into gear last week, it’s not hard to imagine a Wexford side under the care of Davy Fitzgerald straining at the leash to get at Dublin in Parnell Park tomorrow.

The alternative take is that Wexford will be somewhat cold when they hit the capital but, truth is, the weekend off the first time around has already served a purpose as they face into the summer.

Dublin’s Paddy Smyth, for instance, had to balance their opener against Kilkenny in Nowlan Park last week with exams. Wexford’s Rory O’Connor will have his six behind him by the time he meets his DCU colleague on the northside.

These small details can add up to big deals. O’Connor won’t be 21 until July but admitted that it can take him until the Wednesday after a game to be fully physically recovered.

Add in the mental exhaustion of a match — and college concerns on top again — and Wexford may well have reason to be grateful to the schedulers.

The delayed beginning is, in itself, nothing new. It was the same 12 months ago when the draw handed them the bye in week one and then a daunting run of four games across 20 days with Galway and Kilkenny the opposition in the latter pair.

Fitzgerald had spoken of his fears over the possibility of fatigue even before that penultimate meeting with Galway in Pearse Stadium and, coincidence or not, Wexford fell off a cliff in Nowlan Park when Kilkenny came back from nine points down in the final round.

O’Connor dismissed the fatigue factor in the weeks after. The invincibility of youth? Maybe. If it was, then it is a theory he still refuses to countenance in 2019.

“I wouldn’t put it down to the way we fell against Kilkenny in the last minute. We showed in the first-half that we were full of intent and we played probably our best 35 minutes of hurling in that first half even though it was our fourth week.

We’ve two weeks and we’ve a break and then we’ve another two weeks (this time). It’s definitely a level playing field and we’re looking forward to Dublin. That’s going to dictate our championship.

Rightly or wrongly, there is the impression Wexford and Dublin will be neck and neck in a race for the third qualifying spot behind Kilkenny and Galway and defeat to the Cats last week leaves the capital side with their backs against the walls.

O’Connor is familiar with a few of tomorrow’s opposition having lined out alongside Smyth, Chris Crummey and Eoghan O’Donnell in the Fitzgibbon Cup and he was impressed with the county’s league campaign when they made the last four.

But there are grander ambitions underlining this week’s test. The manner in which Wexford let a second straight Leinster final appearance slip through their fingers when losing to Kilkenny last June still rankles and the desire to break the glass ceiling that is the All-Ireland quarter-final is another motivator.

But as O’Connor insists, it all starts with a win-or-bust contest in Donnycarney.

Nicky English generated a few ripples around the venue earlier this month when he spoke about how tight the Parnell Park venue is. He even went as far as to question whether it was fair to visiting teams.

“I was told the measurements but I wouldn’t read into it too much,” said O’Connor. “There’s two goals on the pitch anyway. It’s probably more of the surroundings (that make it seem tight) The stadium is just in on top of you. Maybe if it is a metre or two shorter or less wide.

“We’re both teams that like playing with space but it’s going to be the same for both of us.”

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