Paudie Foley says extra competitive games may have hurt Wexford
The half-back believes Davy Fitzgerald is the man who can elevate the county to All-Ireland glory
Paudie Foley of Wexford and Clare’s Cathal Malone during their quarter-final clash in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Cork, in July. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
It is a reflection of Paudie Foley’s standing in the Wexford hurling panel that after taking the 2017 season off to travel the defender started all of this year’s League and Championship games.
Throw in his appearances against Dublin and Kilkenny in last January’s Walsh Cup and that’s 15 consecutive games he featured in against high quality opposition.
A few weeks after their tame All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Clare and Championship exit, boss Davy Fitzgerald suggested it was this very experience of playing so many ultra-competitive games that ultimately hurt the team.
The Clare man compared their previous schedule of “on average, two big Division 1B games in a year, maybe an All-Ireland quarter-final and two or three Championship games” to this year’s “15 top class games, and we won nine of them”.
Foley said it is no excuse for their limp display at Páirc Uí Chaoimh last July, but described it as a genuine issue to contend with after their first season back in Division 1A and the new Championship format.
“It is double the workload and double the competitive games,” said Foley, who outlined how the demanding schedule affected him personally.
“To be honest you wouldn’t feel it when you are training at all. It’s only when you come to a game that you actually know whereabouts you are. Personally I know I didn’t have a good game against Clare. I didn’t know whether it was down to a bit of mental fatigue, trying to get up for all these games. Definitely the amount of games we had did have an affect on some of us.”
In the wake of that dispiriting defeat, and amid uncertainty about Fitzgerald’s future with Wexford, Foley was among a group of players that travelled to his home in Clare to appeal to him to stay on.
“After about five minutes, I was sold,” admitted Fitzgerald afterwards.
‘We wanted to do it’
Foley doesn’t agree with the suggestion that just like ousting a manager, appealing to a manager to stay on isn’t something that players should be getting involved in.
“I think we wanted to do it,” said Foley. “There was no pressure on us from anywhere. It was the players’ decision. We wanted him back as our manager. It was not that the county board wanted him or anything. We felt that what he had done for us in the previous two years, we felt like we wanted to go back and get him again because he’s a great manager.
“We felt that he travels so much from Clare to Wexford that we’d go down, and it was more just a chat with him. He’s such an easy man to talk to, and being a player himself he really gets the struggles of playing and everything. It was just a nice informal chat.”
Foley admitted there was a selfish element to their plea to Fitzgerald as the players believe he is the man who can elevate them to All-Ireland glory, just like he did with Clare in 2013.
“We’re two years into a process with Davy, and the only reason we wanted him back, and that he wanted to come back, is to win something,” said the half-back.
“We’ve been there or thereabouts with the big teams. We’ve competed well in the League and in the Championship. We want silverware now, whether it’s a Leinster title or an All-Ireland title, we’ll be going for it. We’ll take it one game at a time, try to win each game, and see where it takes us, definitely. But we know we can compete with the big teams.”
Those who doubt Wexford’s ability to match the Championship breakthroughs of Galway and Limerick in the last two seasons point to that anaemic display against Clare last summer when everything was on the line and they simply failed to deliver.
“A big disappointment,” agreed Foley. “We just didn’t show up that day. I think they probably studied us better than we had them, and it kind of showed in different parts of the game where they had their homework done on how we were going to play. It’s something we will learn from, and bring forward to 2019.”
* The GAA and the Ombudsman for Children’s Office have launched a collaborative Rights Awareness Resource. The collaboration was undertaken to mark the 25th anniversary celebrations of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and to raise awareness and understanding of children’s rights through Gaelic games.