WITH almost all the attention in Leinster this weekend focused on the first championship appearance of newly-crowned Allianz Hurling League champions Dublin, against Offaly in Croke Park, and with the added distraction of that long-running local argument in Munster between All-Ireland champions Tipperary and Cork, there’s been precious little talk of that other Leinster championship quarter-final this Sunday, Wexford’s clash down in Wexford Park with Antrim, impressive winners over Laois a couple of weeks ago.
But, says Rory Jacob, that’s fine; they go about their business this weekend secure in the knowledge that next year, having defied massive odds in their last two games to get a win over Cork and a draw (away) against Tipperary, they will still be a division 1 next year.
“Within the group we’ve been saying it’s all about the championship now, the league has served its purpose and it’s over, but to get that positive result in the end — hopefully it’ll help us, the spirit in the camp is good. It’s very hard to go into the championship after losing a league final, especially in division 2. A division 2 final is a more important game than people realise; two teams in it and no matter what you’ve done in previous games, it’s all hanging on that one game. (Win, and) it can give you that bounce into championship, or (lose, and) you’re gone. This year we have that incentive that we’re in Division 1 next year and we can give it a go.”
Those last two league games, after they had lost to fellow-strugglers Offaly, were like old-style must-win knockout championship games for Wexford, perfect preparation in fact for what’s sure to be another big test this Sunday. “Beating Cork was a big one, especially after the Offaly game. The county was down, a lot of people were thinking that we were down in Division 2 again, but we came back to Wexford Park and performed fairly well on the day; that gave us confidence going to Tipperary. We knew if we could perform to our best we’d have some sort of a chance because Tipp didn’t have all their ‘number one’ players. Luckily we got going in the second half and we got a break in the end, got a goal and stayed up. We’ve been on the wrong side of results like that in recent years and it was nice to get that little bit of luck — we felt we deserved a bit of luck.”
They’ve got that luck again this weekend, a home game against Antrim, with the mouth-watering prospect of yet another home game to follow if they win here, against Kilkenny. Motivation? Yeah, you could say that!
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