Coming into this year’s Championship, those of a Wexford persuasion took huge encouragement from the near misses of 2013. Over 70 minutes in two separate games, they’d drawn with Dublin and Clare, the eventual Leinster and All-Ireland champions.
The thing is, Wexford had the chance to rectify last year’s eventual replay defeat to Dublin in the recent Leinster semi-finals and couldn’t take it.
Fittingly, they’ll now play Clare in the qualifiers this weekend and, should they also fail to redeem themselves there, then the glass of 2013 will look decidedly half empty.
Still, Wexford believe they have made vital progress between last summer and now, regardless of what the results may indicate.
“Compared to last year, we are a good step ahead of where we were,” maintained forward Jack Guiney. “To be honest, the game on Saturday against Clare will be a real test of where we are.
“We met up after the Dublin game, had a chat and said we wanted one of the big teams, the biggest team we could get in the draw, if possible. And we did.”
It was all set up for Wexford to dump Dublin into the qualifiers. The motivation was there as was home advantage. But when the chips were down it was Dublin who raised their game.
Guiney admitted Wexford just couldn’t handle the power and purpose of Conal Keaney. Condensed down even further, the U-21 player from Rathnure says they ultimately lost because, “when things were going well for us, they changed it up very quick. When things were going well for them, we were slow to change.”
Liam Dunne may or may not agree. It’s in the past now though and a massive performance is all they’re focusing on.
“It makes our job tougher (drawing Clare) but we are delighted to have the challenge, it’s what everyone in the set-up wants,” said Guiney.
“In the last few years, no disrespect to Carlow or Westmeath but (playing weaker teams) hasn’t done much for our standard of hurling. Obviously now we have to up our game and go in with a new level of intensity against Clare.
“They’ve actually a similar way of playing (to Dublin), they exploit weaknesses in opposition backs. Clare, on their day, could go toe to toe with anyone. It would actually be an interesting game between Clare and Dublin because they set up the same.
“It’s all very tactical, their defences have all these moves that they make. It would be interesting to see how they’d combat each other, two tacticians of the game, Davy Fitz and Anthony Daly. Not sure who is better.”
This weekend, it will be Davy Fitz against Liam Dunne.
“Obviously we are going to have to take their key men out of the equation because if the likes of Tony Kelly, Podge Collins or these lads, Conor McGrath, are allowed to run riot then they will put on a festival down in Ennis,” said Guiney.
Despite the testing circumstances, Guiney believes the pressure is off Wexford.
“Definitely, I think realistically not many people give us a hope, only ourselves internally, that we can win,” he said.
“That’s great for the group because the pressure’s off and we can out and just express ourselves. Going into the Dublin game, lads were fairly tense, lads that hadn’t been in a situation like that before. A lot of our players didn’t perform, including myself, and I was taken off.
“I wasn’t in the game at all,” he continued. “I just couldn’t get on the ball at all. That can’t happen down in Clare. If it does, we’re not going to come out with a win.”
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