Wexford seeking to come of age in Ennis
“If the likes of Tony Kelly, Podge Collins and Conor McGrath are allowed run riot they will put on a festival down in Ennis,” says Jack Guiney
Wexford’s Jack Guiney: “We have to up our game and go in with a new level of intensity against Clare. Hopefully we can pull one out of the bag.” Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
The essential difference between champions and also-ran is the former can identify their deficiencies and fix them in full stride.
Jack Guiney knows this. The more than promising Wexford hurler has been either side of this perilously thin fence. A provincial under-21 winner last year, at senior level he is striving to be part of a team that beats the All-Ireland champions in their own back yard.
That is Saturday’s challenge in Ennis.
In Wexford’s latest defeat to Dublin, who they face once again in the Leinster under-21 final next week, they could not rise above also-ran status.
“When things were going well for us they changed it up very quick and when things were going well for them we were slow to change,” said Guinea at yesterday’s Bord Gáis Energy gathering.
“That was the difference.”
That meant Dublin go to Croke Park on Sunday for a monumental duel with Kilkenny while Wexford must face Clare in their Cusack Park lair.
It leaves this intelligent young man well placed to provide an insightful opinion on the championships major contenders.
JJ Delaney and Jackie Tyrrell may be ageing warriors in Kilkenny’s defence but their bottling up of Joe Canning and other Galway forwards last Saturday night proved they are not turning into marble statues.
Iarla Tannian was dominating dropping ball so Kilkenny switched the focus. Changed it up very quickly. Like champions do.
“If I was to pick someone to win it I think Kilkenny, where they are coming from, having not won Leinster last year, might be a little hungrier. But, then again, Dublin have a serious set-up there under Anthony Daly. You could even tell during the match that one of their backs would shout out a call and they’d all regroup and change the way they were going at the game.
“Kilkenny don’t like movement that much. It will be interesting to see how that goes.”
Guiney identifies Alan McCrabbe and Conal Keaney as key men for Dublin.
“I think Daly said it’s like after signing a new player. McCrabbe was one of their main men on the day and Conal Keaney had one of the performances of his life. He was outstanding. We just didn’t pick him up and we suffered.”
So Wexford remain also-ran until they beat a champion. Simple. They all know this and crave the opportunity.
“We met up after the game, had an old chat and said we wanted one of the big teams; the biggest team we could get in the draw. We got Clare so we are absolutely delighted. It makes our job tougher but we are delighted to have the challenge. It’s what everyone in the set-up wants.
Last year Wexford lasted 70 minutes against both Dublin and Clare before their conditioning betrayed them. Cork exposed them after 45 minutes.
“This year is supposed to be where we take the step and better one of these big teams. We are not waiting for it to happen we are gearing towards it happening.”
The wonder is whether Dublin are as good as Clare but they play the same, Guiney feels. Both are carved from the minds of hurlers who soared during the Banner’s revolution under Ger Loughnane in the 1990s.
“They exploit weaknesses in opposition backs. I think Clare on their day could go to town on anyone. It would be an interesting game between Clare and Dublin because they set up the same. It is all very tactical, their defences have all these moves that they make. It would be interesting to see how they combat each other; two tacticians of the game, Davy Fitz and Anthony Daly. Not sure who is better.
“We are going to have to take Clare’s key men out of the equation because if the likes of Tony Kelly, Podge Collins and Conor McGrath are allowed run riot they will put on a festival down in Ennis. And our key men are going to have to show up as well. A lot of stuff is going to have to go right for us.”
* This article was amended at 12.10pm to correct a number of errors