Rory O'Connor: 'It's the game that's going to dictate our summer'
By Cian O'Connell
Wexford's Rory O'Connor is completely aware that a revealing encounter looms at Parnell Park against Dublin.
Last weekend Dublin were defeated by Kilkenny with Wexford not in action. It was a similar story last year, but O'Connor doesn't necessarily think it is a disadvantage even if the stakes are piled seriously high at the Donnycarney venue.
Yeah, so theres two ways of looking at it," O'Connor says about not being involved in the opening round of fixtures.
"Do you want to be in the long grass looking at Dublin play Kilkenny in the first round and you sit back to wait for them and weve another week to get a little bit more work done maybe.
"Another thing is Dublin are coming into our game after playing a game up to Championship level. Will they start well and well be kind of stunned by their intensity for the first 10 minutes? Its certainly the game thats going to dictate our summer anyway."
Ultimately it means Wexford will be primed for a battle with O'Connor Fitzgibbon Cup colleagues at DCU with some accomplished Dublin hurlers.
They definitely had a great League campaign," O'Connor says. "I would have played with a lot of them throughout the League while I was with the Fitzgibbon team, Chris Crummey and Eoghan ODonnell and Paddy Smyth.
"Look, theyre another year down their system too. They were very unlucky last year. We narrowly bet them, Kilkenny narrowly bet them. Definitely not a team to look past and like I said before, its us and Dublin thats going to dictate or summer, whatever way that game is going to go."
Under Davy Fitzgerald's guidance Wexford have made significant progress with O'Connor satisfied with how the spring unfolded.
I suppose if you look at our League campaign, we got to a League quarter-final even though last year we got to a League semi-final and the year before we got to a semi-final, in terms of looking at it like that, people would say its our poorest League campaign, but we were very happy, we were probably most delighted out of this one," O'Connor reflects.
"Twenty-five players played in the League so were going into Championship with a bigger depth, stronger depth in panel. Weve definitely five subs to bring on that will definitely make a difference when they come on. Going into Championship weve more artillery going in."
Rory O'Connor of Wexford during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1A Round 3 match between Wexford and Tipperary at Innovate Wexford Park in Wexford.
Fitzgerald's work with Wexford is appreciated in the south east with O'Connor acknowledging the considerable influence of the Sixmilebridgeman.
Before he came, Id say Liam Dunne left the lads in a great position, theyd been to All-Ireland quarter-finals and Davys brought us up to a place where were regularly competing with the top teams," O'Connor remarks.
"As a Wexford supporter, if you look back on it, he brought us up to 1A the first year and if you were starting the second year with him youd say maintaining 1A again, Jesus, thats a great year so hopefully we can progress.
"Maybe an All-Ireland semi-final, thats the hurdle we havent got over yet. An All-Ireland quarter-final, weve been there for two years, but if theres ever a man to bring Wexford somewhere its definitely going to be Davy anyway."
There is a growing belief and confidence in Wexford that they can seriously compete according to O'Connor.
Certainly, its the mindset now so once we have all 30-whatever amount of lads in the dressing room convinced that were going to win something, thats half the battle nowadays," O'Connor admits.
"Davys in a position where hes given us all the tools and now its time for the players to grasp those tools to go out there to do it."