Wexford learning valuable lessons
By Cian O'Connell
Following the success and silverware of 2019 Wexford enter the next phase loaded with hope.
Rory O'Connor saw what could be attained and achieved, a Leinster title was gleefully celebrated.
Wexford invested wisely in the underage ranks throughout much of the last decade and that work is being reflected on the senior stage now.
The next brief, though, is to maintain the standards that Davy Fitzgerald's team has set.
So the Allianz Hurling League carries importance for Wexford with O'Connor adamant that valuable lessons were learned in the closing stages of a gripping All Ireland semi-final against Tipperary.
"Absolutely," O'Connor replies instantly. "The one lesson we'll take from the year is when you play Wexford, you're always in a battle.
"I suppose the Leinster final, it was the first time you saw a Wexford team battle hard and see out a game.
"To get over that hurdle was massive for us as a group of players. The Tipp game, we didn't see out the game.
Rory O'Connor celebrates following the 2019 Leinster Senior Hurling Final win at Croke Park.
"That's another lesson we'll take: when you get to those big games, it's won in the last 10 minutes."
The arrival of Brendan Bugler to the backroom team is an interesting addition with O'Connor acknowledging that the former Clare star has plenty to offer in a selectors role.
"Bugs has been brilliant," O'Connor states. "Himself and Rossy Keith Rossiter would have both played in the same era. They'll slag me for saying that.
"Both of them played against each other back in the day.
"Bugs, you can see he's gone through the Davy system and the way he coaches and thinks about things. He definitely brings his own slant to training as well, incorporating drills and stuff like that.
"We lost Stephen Molumphy to Waterford this year. Stephen was super to us last year and he's gone back to his home county this year. To bring in a player that's just retired is massive for a team because it's a lot easier to relate to, as opposed to an older fella."
O'Connor believes the depth of the Wexford panel has increased significantly so there is value in the Allianz League.
"It's certainly a chance to play your full squad," O'Connor comments.
Exciting Wexford forward Rory O'Connor.
"Davy was even saying to us to start the first few years to get up to Division One hurling and compete with the top teams.
"He might have been restricted to play his best 18 or 19 players, but now we've a squad we could play. We were missing eight household names off the League team and we beat Tipp by a point so it doesn't really matter as long as everyone gets gametime.
"Ultimately you want to be able to trust subs to come on in Championship hurling, that have got experience through the League."
The return of the versatile Andrew Shore is a boost according to O'Connor.
"Yeah, Shore is in with us, he sits beside me in the dressing room, he is seven foot or whatever, a great outlet for us going forward wherever we play him with high ball," O'Connor laughs.
"It is something in the forwards we have Chin Lee Chin, Jacko Jack O'Connor, great high ball winners, Mac Conor McDonald too.
"Now you have another selection for Davy and another thorn for other teams to look after.
"Davy is trying him at full forward to see if the route one ball works because he is definitely a presence up there.
Rory O'Connor has developed into a key player for Wexford.
"Then obviously he is an outlet at wing back too. Wherever he plays for Wexford he is going to be massive. He was missing for two years, it isn't too long so he is quickly back into the run of things."