Rational O’Brien turns focus towards the qualifiers

Lordy, but you’d have to feel for Wexford.

Dublin aside, no team has been so consistent in Leinster this last 10 years and yet all they have to show for their efforts are two provincial final defeats and, after this, six exits at the semi-final stage.

Players like Redmond Barry, Ciaran Lyng and David Murphy: where do they go from here? The obvious answer is into the draw for round two of the qualifiers but you wonder what could be in it for them.

“Ah sure, look, that’s part of the challenge of managing a group,” said manager Aidan O’Brien who had just bumped his head on the same glass ceiling which frustrated his predecessor Jason Ryan for so long. “We’ll just regroup, go back to our training schedule. We knew we’d have a game in a fortnight’s time.

“We hoped it would be the Leinster final, obviously it will be a qualifier. The focus will be more clear when we know what the draw is. Certainly my aim, and I’ll be communicating it to the players and I don’t sense any different from them, is that we’ll be taking the qualifiers seriously.”

Events elsewhere last weekend will serve as a salutary lesson to sides who do not give their all to the qualifiers with Offaly, Wicklow and Sligo being led like resigned lambs to the slaughter after provincial exits. Yet O’Brien believes a last-eight berth is not beyond Wexford.

“I mean, yes, obviously we just don’t know. It’ll be one game at a time. Whoever we get in the first round of the qualifiers, we’ll see can we go from there. Anything is possible. The qualifiers isn’t exactly littered with dead carcasses. You have a lot of very serious operators in there at the moment.”

As they did against Louth, Wexford started off with intent here but lost their way as time went on. Had that game in Drogheda lasted five more minutes, they would have lost it but they were well beaten by the full-time whistle here.

O’Brien felt the damage was done in the opening period.

“I was a little bit disappointed at half-time because I thought that for most of the half, we were in a very strong position. Just towards the end of it we lost our way a little bit, lost a few phases of possession.

“We missed a few opportunities that we could have done with. Meath got a few scores themselves which meant that the game was quite narrow at half-time. We might have felt with the possession we had we were entitled to more of a lead.”

Wexford may also have reason to ask if more could have been done from the sideline, particularly in the case of Graham Reilly who was picked up loosely by a pair of wing-backs whose own DNA is all about attack rather than defence.

“Most teams will struggle with Graham Reilly. I was happy with the effort Brian Malone put in on him. I think he scored two points off him. I think he put in an outstanding performance and might have ran out of legs a little.

“Eventually we put Adrian Flynn on him. But Graham is a player who is always going to be able to exploit space when it opens up at the end of a game, particularly on a pitch like this.”


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