The people of Wexford have been voting with their feet but Lee Chin doesn’t feel the appointment of Davy Fitzgerald has added any pressure to the panel as they target promotion from Division 1B of the Allianz League.
A dramatic defeat of Limerick in their season opener on Sunday has followed on from a decent run in January’s Walsh Cup, but their greatest test yet under the new boss will come Sunday when they face Galway in Pearse Stadium.
This being Wexford, it would be foolish to surrender to giddiness just yet. The memorable replay defeat of Clare, Fitzgerald’s All-Ireland champions, in the 2014 All-Ireland qualifiers was supposed to be the harbinger of great days to come but that proved to be a false dawn.
Chin seems attuned to the need for calm as the attendances rise.
He was quick to make the point yesterday that the county’s hurlers were beaten by Offaly this time last year and scraped past Laois. That said, progress to date is obvious. Rewind 12 months and they had opened their league campaign with a 14-point to loss to Limerick.
“I wouldn’t call it pressure, no,” Chin said of Fitzgerald’s appointment and the Pied Piper effect it has had on players and supporters. “I don’t think that he brings pressure at all.” Fitzgerald has brought far more than hope, hype and an overworked odometer with him.
Chin highlighted the mental toughness which the new manager has gone about instilling in a side that has all too often allowed defeats morph into hidings, as well as a tactical understanding that seemed to be loathed as much as lauded in his own county and in Waterford.
Players accustomed to one role are being challenged with briefs elsewhere. Chin has been tasked with a variety of jobs around the final third of the pitch, including a few stints in at full-forward.
“Davy comes with a huge passion and a never-say-die attitude and he’s really driving that into us at the moment. You can even see it from (Sunday’s win), seven points down, we just kept fighting until the bitter end and pulled out of it on the right side.
“That’s what he is bringing that’s different at the moment.” Buy-in from the players is evident. Chin himself has nailed his colours to hurling’s mast this year, his day of a dual player put to one side despite the expected phone call from new Wexford football manager Seamus McEneaney soon after the Monaghan man’s appointment.
Part of that is down to the sheer difficulty of balancing inter-county football and hurling but another factor is the commitment being given by Fitzgerald despite his recent health worries.
“Well we all know Davy is putting in a massive commitment in terms of his commute from Limerick. We all know how much of a toll it must be on him but he just seems to be enjoying it so much with us at the moment. The other guys that he has with him bring that factor too, that enjoyment factor.” That said, Chin hasn’t completely cleared the decks for hurling.
His soccer days were briefly resurrected last year when he lined out for Wexford Youths in a promotion/relegation play-off and that taste in sports will take him to Canada next week for a stint with the Vancouver Canucks ice hockey team.
The six-day experiment is part of AIB’s ‘The Toughest Trade’ documentary series which has, among others, paired Michael Murphy with the Clermont Auvergne rugby side and Brendan Maher with cricket’s Adelaide Strikers.
Fitzgerald was appraised of the venture soon after taking over in Wexford and gave it the green light but Chin is very much in the dark as of what to expect given his preparation has stretched no further than a few hours on the ice at Wexford’s Winter Wonderland.
Arriving back in one piece is the only ambition.
There is work to be done in Wexford.
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