Se­niors need to re-pro­duce heart and pride of U21s

New Ross Standard - - SPORT -

HOW MANY more times must we en­dure the hurt ex­pe­ri­enced de­spite the out­stand­ing per­for­mance an en­thralling Le­in­ster Un­der-21 hurl­ing cham­pi­onship fi­nal? Both Wex­ford and Gal­way brought the best out of each other but hav­ing al­most reached our des­ti­na­tion at the end of ex­tra time, Wex­ford were stung by a last-sec­ond goal.

It meant that de­spite an heroic ef­fort over 80 min­utes, the Wex­ford play­ers were left de­flated as Gal­way cel­e­brated an his­toric oc­ca­sion for the county, an Un­der-21 pro­vin­cial ti­tle in their first ap­pear­ance in the Le­in­ster cham­pi­onship.

Many would have felt that Wex­ford were ex­tremely lucky to have forced ex­tra-time. The Model county lads showed their bat­tling qual­i­ties as they sought out a lev­el­ling score some five min­utes deep into ad­di­tional time when Ian Carty struck for that goal that forced ex­tra-time.

There was cer­tainly more than a hint that Wex­ford were forc­ing the game in the ad­di­tional 20 min­utes de­spite tired legs set­ting in on both sides.

Some mar­vel­lous in­di­vid­ual dis­plays were pro­duced, par­tic­u­larly around mid­field where both Rory O’Con­nor and Conor Fir­man some­how found the stamina to in­spire their side.

The mood was be­com­ing cel­e­bra­tory as O’Con­nor struck over a mag­nif­i­cent point close to the end, giv­ing his side a two-point ad­van­tage.

But it re­ally grated when, with the sec­ond-last stroke of the game, Gal­way flashed home a dra­matic win­ning goal which brought moans of des­per­a­tion from ev­ery Model county sup­porter in the ground.

Per­son­ally, this was one of the great games of hurl­ing of 2018. It brought out ev­ery­thing that is mar­vel­lous­about this an­cient art.

Fans were treated to mag­nif­i­cent pas­sages of play from both sides, with the ball flash­ing up and down the pitch for the full 80 min­utes. This in turn led to some mag­nif­i­cent scores, hefty man to man ex­changes and great de­fend­ing, cou­pled with ex­cel­lent at­tack­ing plat­forms from both sides.

It was ex­cit­ing and en­thralling right down to the fi­nal sec­onds of ex­tra-time, and the re­sult still hung in the balance. The only pity was there had to be a loser. If ever a game de­served to end in a draw, this was the one.

Those who trav­elled to O’Moore Park wit­nessed a Wex­ford dis­play that brought so much com­fort, de­spite the de­feat, as it demon­strated that the county has some ex­cel­lent young tal­ent on the hori­zon.

While get­ting over the line is prov­ing so damn elu­sive, Wex­ford can still have a huge say in this Un­der-21 cham­pi­onship. They now move on to an All-Ire­land semi-fi­nal clash with Mun­ster cham­pi­ons, Cork, on the Au­gust Bank Hol­i­day week­end.

Af­ter com­ing up short of a dis­play in dis­pos­ing of West­meath, Wex­ford’s re­sis­tance is set for a big test when they meet up with Clare in the All-Ire­land Se­nior hurl­ing cham­pi­onship quar­ter-fi­nal on Sun­day.

Thank­fully they put the West­meath chal­lenge away, de­spite a dis­play that was far from en­cour­ag­ing. Wex­ford will well re­alise they must bring a one hun­dred per cent im­prove­ment if they are to en­ter­tain any real prospect of dis­man­tling the Mun­ster side.

Wex­ford lacked ur­gency, bat­tling qual­i­ties and workrate, and hurled like a side that was fun­da­men­tally miles away from show­ing that they will have a real in­put in the knock­out stages of the cham­pi­onship.

Wex­ford man­ager Davy Fitzger­ald has a huge task this week. He looked a frus­trated fig­ure on the side­line as Wex­ford strug­gled with a medi­ocre West­meath out­fit.

And while he must be hop­ing that Clare will bring the best out of his side, it’s the play­ers who have the an­swers. Pride will go a long way to­wards Wex­ford de­liv­er­ing a per­for­mance.

De­ter­mi­na­tion and com­mit­ment, that was largely ab­sent against West­meath, will need to be brought to an­other level. Wex­ford’s workrate, tack­ling, en­ergy and first touch must re­turn to en­ter­tain even the re­motest chance of deal­ing with a Clare side still hurt­ing from a Mun­ster fi­nal de­feat.

There were many lessons learned in Cu­sack Park, chiefly that this was sim­ply not good enough. Let’s hope this dis­play serves as a valu­able les­son and we will see the pas­sion and pride re­turn for what is a huge as­sign­ment. Now it’s up to the play­ers to de­liver.

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