WEXFORD footballer Niall Murphy has set the Leinster final as a target for his side as they aim to repeat their 2008 feats.
And with a kind draw, facing Offaly tomorrow, Westmeath next and the winners of Carlow/Louth in the semi-final, they may not be a bad bet. Having beaten the Faithful men in a league tie at Tullamore already this season they will fancy their chances of succeeding in their first step on the road to the provincial final.
But the long-serving corner-back has called on his team-mates to perform to their ability or face an upset.
“We managed to win by a point or two,” he said of their league clash.
“It’s a very tough place to go. They are a tough team and if we are looking to beat them we will have to perform on the day.
“I don’t think one match really has any bearing on the next. We know we are capable of beating Offaly. At the same time we have to play very well up in Tullamore to beat them.
“If we don’t turn up and play to the best of our abilities they will be a very tough team to overcome.”
Murphy is aware that most people have forgotten their display against Dublin and subsequent All-Ireland semi-final appearance in 2008 and only victory will embed the positive work undertaken by Jason Ryan and his team on people’s memories.
“They do forget but I think we are at the stage now where there is no glory in nearly winners.
“We are at the stage where we are ready to push on and we are disappointed with where we finished in the league but all year our focus has been on the championship. The target this year is to get to a Leinster final and see what we can produce on the day.”
And in Ryan they have a proven man to rally behind. The former Waterford footballer retired from the inter-county game just before taking up a club management position and has been touted as one of the brightest young managers in the country, something Murphy is in agreement with.
“I think it’s a benefit,” he said of Ryan’s movement from playing to management.
“Coaching now moves at such a fast pace you have to be up on the latest technique. Jason knows what it takes to win inter-county games because he has been there and he’s done that.
“The reason he has become a manager at such a young age is because he had such success in club management.
“He is very approachable, he has got huge determination and he leaves no stone unturned to get Wexford victory.”
And that starts with Offaly tomorrow. An encouraging league campaign saw them lose out on promotion by the smallest of margins for the second successive year and they know they must copper-fasten the finer details of their game before they can progress.
“What we found this year is so much depends on what your state of mind is and how you go out on and given day,” he said.
“If we had to win down in Limerick we could have went up, but we went down. They won on the day because they put in a better performance and they wanted it more.
“We won’t be looking past anybody else in the draw because on any given day I think we are capable of beating any team, but obviously if any team puts in a proper performance and we are not prepared we are there for the taking too.
“2008 shows if you put in the hard work and have belief in yourself and belief in the guys around you, belief in the whole squad and management there is no reason you can’t go forward in the championship.”
That’s ultimately the aim. Work hard. Reach their potential. Progress.
“Some of it is a catch 22 situation. It’s very hard to progress without gaining experience. It’s very hard to gain experience without progressing. I think that’s why it’s important you learn when you get to an All-Ireland semi-final.
“Even in the league we went up and gave it our best shot in Limerick, it didn’t quite come off, we were close. We have looked at the stats and analysed it and we understand why it didn’t work and I think we are ready to make a jump forward.”
With several players blooded in the league they have a nice blend of youth and experience to call on. Murphy has been involved long enough to know when they’re making strides forward and he believes there’s a bright future for Wexford.
” You look at Ben Brosnan, Ciaran Lyng, they are in their early 20s, they had great league campaigns. Shane Roche came on a couple of games and had a very big impact. Paddy Byrne, new to the scene, scored a hatful of goals in the league.
“They’re top quality footballers. There’s no reason we can’t step on, go forward and be even more successful than we were in prior years.”
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