Wexford rout UCD as Davy Fitzgerald revolution begins

Under-strength students easily dispatched in Gorey as new boss sees his side notch five

Wexford 5-31 UCD 1-8

If Davy Fitzgerald intended on dampening some expectations with his first game as Wexford hurling manager then he’s already failed quite dramatically. A 35-point walloping of UCD, in front of the gently packed crowd at Gorey, left him posing for photographs with some supporters in the immediate aftermath, while others quietly whispered of what the year might yet bring.

Of course Fitzgerald wasn’t falling for any of it: his now 30 years of unbroken service to the intercounty game, as both player and manager, have taught him enough lessons in the difference between being optimistic and realistic.

“Look, we’re not stupid,” said Fitzgerald, that old mischievous smile still unbroken after his last five years as Clare manager, and four years with Waterford before that. “I know UCD were down a lot of guys, but we can only beat what’s put in front of us. I was more interested in the appetite, the few things we’re working on, and they did okay in that. All you can do is win your first competitive game, that’s it.


“It’s probably going to take maybe six months to find out what you want to find out. We have Carlow next, who actually put it up to Dublin the other night, and we’ve a lot of things to work on. I know there are tougher days to come, and the different things we’re trying to do will break down when we play better teams, but we have to stick with it.”

If anything Wexford could have won by more, the score board ticking over as fast as the diesel pump at Kilmacanogue on the way down, my match programme left scribbled with hieroglyphics. Paul Morris, Barry Carton, Cathal Dunbar, and Richie and Harry Kehoe provided the goals, while Conor McDonald was excellent from the placed ball.

Nicky English’s UCD, however, had only two first-choice starters, Kilkenny’s Luke Scanlon at least demonstrating his potential with two good points from play in the first half. UCD’s only Dublin native, Conor O’Shea, eventually broke their demoralising lack of second-half scoring on 63 minutes, but by then it was an exercise in futility.

Fitzgerald’s own early enthusiasm is certainly matching that of his players, despite the nearly three-hour drive from his home in Sixmilebridge - and back.

“It’s tough going, I’m down here three or four nights a week, and I don’t stay. You leave Clare about 1pm, get home around 1am, so it’s a long day, but it’s grand. When you go training a team and they work hard, give you everything, you’re okay.”

Wexford, he said, are a completely different challenge to Clare, as indeed were Waterford before that: “With your own, yeah, there’s always extra pressure. But when I started in Clare there was no pressure. And I’m sure if we win something here that will bring pressure as well.

“I want to be enthusiastic, and optimistic, but let’s be realistic. I’m not going to turn it around like that, flicking a wand. I’ll see at the end of two years where I am, and if we’ve made an improvement, up there or thereabouts, then fine. But I won’t expect anything in the short term. I’m just happy to be still involved, chatting to ye guys on a Sunday.”

Indeed such were UCD’s limitations on the day the game hardly earns any merit beyond getting Fitzgerald’s tenure underway, although there were some styles on show too: Lee Chin starting inside then moved out, and Matthew O’Hanlon moving around positions as the game progressed.

“They were mad to go, a lovely bunch,” added Fitzgerald. “Let’s see where it goes. This is a team that hasn’t won anything in a while. You have to build confidence. Our first two games in the league, Limerick and Galway, will tell a lot more.

“We won’t be carried away anyway, that’s for sure. And the good thing is you’re coming down here dealing with good people, people working very hard, very enthusiastic. I can feel Wexford are mad to do well, and I want to do as well as I possibly can for them. But I know for sure it will take time.”

UCD’s Darragh Holohan also pulled off several close-range saves throughout, without which Wexford might have scored a dozen goals. For now, 5-31 is enough expectation anyway.

WEXFORD: M Fanning; S Donoghue, L Ryan, J Breen; R Kehoe (1-1), M O'Hanlon, D O'Keeffe (0-1); S Murphy, D Redmond (0-2); B Carton (1-5), C McDonald (0-9, seven frees, one 65), H Kehoe (1-1); C Dunbar (1-1), L Chin (0-3), P Morris (1-2). Subs: D Reck for Redmond (38 mins), S O'Gorman (0-1) for R Kehoe (45 mins), E Martin (0-3) for Morris, K Foley (0-1) for Dunbar (both 50 mins), A Nolan (0-1) for H Kehoe (60 mins), A Kenny for Breen (63 mins), S Murphy for O'Keeffe (70 mins).

UCD: 1 D Holohan; E Hayden, R Dwan, M Cronin; H Lalor, B Quigley, C Butler; L Scanlon (0-2), J Houlihan; J Murphy (0-2), J O'Toole, P Guinan; R McEvoy, C Kane, D Dolan (1-1). Subs: Phelan for McEvoy (half time), C O'Shea (0-2) for O'Toole (45 mins), J Power for Guinan, G Cullin (0-1, a free) for Keane (both 57 mins), J Griffin for Houlihan (59 mins), DJ Foran for Lalor (67 mins.).

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

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