Kevin Foley was one of the Wexford hurlers who made the long trip to Sixmilebridge last winter to persuade Davy Fitzgerald to stay on as manager.
They’re glad now they made the journey as they face an All-Ireland semi-final.
“A good few of us went down last year to make sure Davy knew we wanted him back. At the time he was undecided.
“We just wanted to go down and express our feelings and show the trust and the belief we had in him. It has paid off, looking back now. And we’re delighted for him to experience winning a Leinster Championship for himself, coming from Clare. It must mean a lot too.
“I think it’s unique at the minute, the bond we have together and the bond we have with Davy. It’s a real family relationship that we’re there for each other any time of the day or any stage of the week.
“On or off the field Davy is there for us. If there are any challenges or problems we can give him a buzz and chat to him and tell him how things are. It’s really enjoyable to know you have 40 or 50 people involved in a backroom set-up that are all behind you.”
The early-season criticism of Wexford’s playing style seems very distant now.
“Everyone has their opinion and that’s just the way things are nowadays, that everyone can just express their feelings,” says Foley.
“We stuck to our system, it has worked so far, we have got our Leinster championship — but if it can get us over the next line, we’ll see what the story is then, whether sweepers are defensive or not.
“At times we end up with more attackers than defenders and I’d be screaming at the lads to get down the field. It’s just the way we play the way we set up. Initially, it’s just a starting position, Davy allows us to play with freedom and express ourselves and enjoy it.”
Foley has taken over the spare man role for Wexford: “I’m really enjoying it. It’s a completely different experience compared to what I was used to down the other end of the pitch, trying to score. I’m now on the opposite end trying to defend them.
“It’s a new experience, it’s enjoyable, I’ve watched Shaun (Murphy) play that role the last two years, I’ve learned a lot from him. Davy has been in touch the whole time to make sure I’m comfortable with what I am doing with the lads around me.
“It’s going okay at the moment.
“At the start of the year, like any inter-county team, there are plenty of challenge matches and that’s where you try things out for the upcoming year.
“I would have played there a couple of times but when Shaun got the chance to play wing-back he got to show his true colours, there seemed to be more of a balance and ever since he hasn’t looked back, he has been one of our most consistent players. That’s great for him. If I can fill my role I’ll be happy too.”
Foley was part of competitive Wexford development and minor squads: Did he always feel senior success would come?
“It’s not that you are given any right to success. You have to work hard and to remain patient. There is a chunk of players my age to celebrate together because we had soldiered maybe 10 or 11 years together, it’s nice to share the moment with them.”
The Leinster final was Wexford’s statement performance so far this year, of course.
“It was one of those games that was tit for tat. Two weeks beforehand the drawn game would have suggested it would be that type of game.
“Throughout I thought there was that type of belief among the group and in the dressing room and in the field around that we were there to be taken, we worked hard, our attitude was right, and we stuck at it until the final whistle, Lee (Chin) coming out with the last-minute catch and Mark (Fanning) with the penalty, everyone contributed greatly.”
Wexford’s ability to come from behind and win games has been a notable positive this year; Sunday’s meeting with Tipperary gives them a chance to show it off in an All-Ireland semi-final rather than a quarter-final.
“It’s been a feature,” says Foley.
“That gives us the belief that if we’re in any game with 10 or 15 minutes to go, we’ll be there or thereabouts. We’ve come through a lot of games in the league, Clare, Tipp, Cork, Kilkenny, and we’ve beat them in the end.
“It’s just a motivational factor that if we stay in it, it’s there for us then. We struggled over the last few years to get through that quarter-final barrier. Lucky enough we don’t have to go that route this year, we’re straight into a semi-final, a bit of relief getting over the line and winning our first Leinster title since 2004.
“We took it game by game this year, approached each game with a different mentality, luckily enough got over the line, it will be the same again now on Sunday, we’ll be just focusing on that 75 minutes.”