Ben Brosnan ready to take responsibilty for Wexford

The free-taker will happily face the Hill again as his county carry on without Jason Ryan

Behind the fear and warning of an irreparable gulf developing in the provincial football championship comes the reminder that it’s not long since things were different: Louth, we all remember, were cruelly denied a Leinster title in 2010, and Wexford should probably have beaten Dublin in the 2011 final, the same year Dublin set off to win the All-Ireland.

Not that Wexford, and particularly Ben Brosnan, will want any reminder of what happened last year. Having proved so reliable against Dublin in 2011 (hitting nine points, in a game that ultimately swung in Dublin's favour after Wexford full-back Graeme Molloy scored an own goal), Brosnan missed nine frees when Wexford faced Dublin in last year's semi-final in Croke Park.

"And I think the year before, I missed 11 or 12 frees, between the league and championship combined," says Brosnan. "Then I went out last year and missed nine frees against Dublin. To this day, whenever anyone asks me, I still don't know how to answer it. It was just one of them games. It hasn't happened before or since. I missed two early in first half from out near the sideline. And once you do miss two like that the confidence goes a small bit, as least when you look back on it."

Extra lengths
As Wexford prepare for Sunday's Leinster quarter-final against Louth, Brosnan has gone to extra lengths to ensure it doesn't happen again: when practising his frees, he plays a bonus track on his iPod, the roaring cheer of the crowd on Hill 16, on repeat. He's also added 15 special practice frees, every day, either at the end of training or on his own. "Well I'd heard Daniel Goulding had tried the earphones, with the sound of Hill 16, with Cork, before the All-Ireland final, in 2010. It does replicate things a little more. But as a player, if that Dublin game was on again the following day, I would still want to take the frees."

Brosnan exhibits an air of fresh ambition, which he actually traces to new manager Aidan O’Brien, who is preparing for his first championship game since taking over from Ryan (who is now working with Kieran McGeeney in Kildare).


“Jason was there for five years, did a massive job, and you can’t begrudge him, going to Kildare. The minute he left us he was going to be a wanted man. But I would have played under Aidan, as a teacher. When I was 12 or 13. He was manager at under-21 as well. So he came in knowing a lot of us. So it was a smooth transition.

“But Jason really did bring us from nowhere, to contesting Leinster finals. Aidan has the players too, so hopefully we can push it on. Jason brought a lot of professionalism to our preparation, and Aidan has pushed on from that. He’s not as in your face as Jason was.

“In the last three minutes, of our last three league games, we were either ahead or behind by a point. And we lost all three. That’s nothing to do with the sideline. That’s players on the pitch making mistakes. So I think a lot of players, including myself, maybe hid behind Jason a bit. Aidan wants more of us to step up and talk. That brings confidence and team effort up. Aidan wants to step back, let players take more responsibility.”

Relegation from Division Two has removed any wider ambitions for this summer, but Brosnan is adamant making another Leinster final is the least of their ambitions. "I think the belief is still there, especially when you see how good Dublin have got, as well. Bryan Cullen came into us after the game last year, and said to us we didn't realise how close we pushed Dublin, how close we came to beating them, before. We just have to remember that."

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics