Wexford’s league defeat to Waterford in late March triggered a disappointing season for the Model County hurlers, according to full-forward Conor McDonald.
Liam Dunne’s charges welcomed their neighbours to Wexford Park for a contest that would determine which team earned promotion to the top tier.
In the end, the home outfit’s challenge never left the runway, Waterford running out comfortable 0-22 to 0-16 winners. The result would serve as the springboard for a progressive year for the Déise; Wexford, meanwhile, managed a single championship game — falling to Kilkenny and Cork by 24 and eight-points respectively.
“It was a frustrating year considering the year we had last year,” said the precocious 19-year old talent.
“You’d be hoping you could build on it. You do everything you can and it’s a bit of a knock when you’ve done so much work, trying your best and it doesn’t happen for you.
“It started off with the league. We had two big games that we probably could have and should have won — Limerick and Waterford.
“Maybe I’m being biased by saying it, but Waterford beat us in Wexford Park. It was a massive win for them. I feel that gave them an extra little boost and they had a great year.
“We probably needed that one win in the league to boost our chances going into the championship.
“But that’s where you gain experience. If we’re in that position again, hopefully we’ll be able to put it right and keep going forward.”
A third Leinster U21 title refocused the mind and a second successive All-Ireland final appearance is at stake in Saturday’s penultimate round clash against Antrim.
Nothing is being taken for granted, however.
Two summers ago, Wexford were unbackable in their semi-final clash against the Saffron County.
The northerners won by two.
“For me, it’s nearly a blessing to have the U21. We played a Leinster U21 final three days after we were beaten by Cork in the senior.
“It’s tough to turn around but, at the same time, it’s probably a bit easier when you get a victory. Talking to senior players that aren’t involved in both set-ups, they find they have a lot more time to think about what happened with the seniors.”
He continued: “The semi-final defeat back in 2013 is going to be a bit of an incentive this weekend.
“We have 10 of that panel still with us and it will be in everyone’s head that we do have a point to prove — to right what happened two- years ago.
“I suppose there was complacency at the time. When it’s drilled in from the public...you think ‘nah, I’m not thinking that way’ or ‘I’m not going to be complacent’ but there’s so much pressure with people saying we were going to get to an All-Ireland final and this was an easy game.”
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