Seniors need to re-produce heart and pride of U21s
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.