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Darragh Egan relishing 2023 Wexford challenge
By Cian O'Connell
"Its very different," Wexford senior hurling manager Darragh Egan says when asked to compare the difference between starting off for the upcoming campaign compared to 12 months ago.
"I know an awful lot now about the players. Even another club campaign, I would have watched a lot of club games in 2022, but Im after seeing a full season again. I know the players way better."
It means that the Kiladangan clubman is busy planning and plotting for a busy start to 2023.
"My coaching staff hasnt changed really," he states. "Weve added Neil OLoughlin as coach, a really good fella with vast experience. He coached Rapparees to a county title in 2021. Hell be a big addition.
"Ian ORegan is still with us as goalcoaching coach. Niall Corcoran and Willie Cleary still with us as head coaches. Its much different, to be honest.
"With your squad, lads would say, Oh Jesus, sure half your squad is away in Bali or Australia or whatever.
"We now know what each of those players need so were able to give them a modified programme so that they are in peak condition when we head into the start of the league and championship campaign.
For myself, Im now in my second year as manager. I would have thought I was really ready to go having done three years with Liam Sheedy in Tipperary, but you can never prepare yourself for the animalistic nature of an inter-county management job.
"So Ill be a year older February in Ill be heading for 37. Looking forward to year two in Wexford."
Being primed for the Leinster SHC in April is critical according to Egan, who is expecting another gripping round robin series.
Wexford senior hurlers and footballers Mark Fanning, Eoin Porter, Darragh Brooks, and Rory OConnor model the new commemorative jersey launched by Wexford GAA and ONeills to mark 130 years since the countys first All-Ireland success: the 1893 All-Ireland Football title won by the Selskar Young Irelands club from Wexford town.
"Leinster is going to be a very different proposition in 2023 with the managerial shifts," Egan says.
"We in Wexford just need to be better than we were. We had some up and down performances all throughout that Leinster campaign. We finished with a brilliant performance in Nowlan Park where we absolutely owned the game. But its that consistency of performance over a six-seven week period that we really need to go after.
"Our approach to the league this year will be slightly different because we need to be firing once April 22 comes.
"Last year we were probably stuttering into April 15 it was last year after getting a bit of a trimming from Waterford in a league semi-final. So we just need to navigate our way through the season slightly different this year."
Shaun Murphy and Paul Morris have retired from inter-county duty with Wexford with Egan acknowledging their significant contribution.
"With Paul and Shane, we had very good chats with these lads over the last few months," Egan says. "Both are very valued members of the panel and have been over the last 12 months while I've been involved. Both of them had a really broken 2022.
"Shaun had very serious back surgery, but was a brilliant fella around the squad. He used to be a massive help to us on matchday. Ultimately he was waiting to make the call until after the Oulart campaign, which didn't go as he wanted. He just couldn't recover properly from the back surgery to train at inter-county level. That was the reason he made the call.
"Similar with Paul Morris; a really, really good club campaign with Ferns and he was waiting until after the St Mullin's match to make the call, but unfortunately he's been struggling with a knee injury over the last few years and he just couldn't give that commitment to be able to train with the compacted season.
"The split season has loads of pros and cons, but I suppose for a player entering his 30s who is carrying a bit of a niggle, it's frustrating not to be able to train constantly. That was the reason Paul made the call. But both have been incredible servants.
"Other than that, we will have a full squad for the rest of the year. A few lads are travelling and we're hoping a few more will be home in the next few days. One or two won't be back until January but that's fine too. We don't envisage any more retirements over the next few weeks so we're happy with who we'll have in the squad for 2023."
Wexford manager Darragh Egan is looking forward to the upcoming inter-county campaign.
Egan held discussions with players from the panel following Wexford's championship exit.
"I'm really happy with how it has panned out," Egan says. "I sat down with all the lads in July and August in Wexford town and I suppose we spoke about what the map of the next four or five months was going to look like. So I knew what their travel plans were and I knew where they were going.
"All our players are dual players - they all play hurling and football with their clubs. With the way the Wexford club campaign runs, a lot of them played their hurling championship, some of them played a good bit of football and then headed off. I just had a clear picture of where we were going.
"Hence that's why in my December training panel we have a lot of new lads and young lads in who are training with us. Some of our senior statesmen, I suppose, are coming back at different times.
"The likes of Lee Chin, he'll be rejoining the squad for training on December 8. Yes, it might be three weeks late, but it's ideal because I know that Lee Chin is going to be fresh.
"He had a very broken campaign last year, so by him getting away for the four or five weeks of travel, he's going to come back to me fresh, in good shape, ready and with a real appetite for work.