‘It’s definitely within reach for us to win Leinster’ – O’Connor

They may be finely-tuned athletes but like the majority of people, inter-county players the length and breadth of the country regularly use the most basic things for motivation. Take Rory O’Connor and Wexford as a prime example.

The Model men have beaten every top hurling county since Davy Fitzgerald started his journey in the sunny south east two years ago, but they are yet to command the respect of others dining at the top table.

It’s not something which has gone unnoticed by exciting attacker O’Connor, however, and a recent poll asking which Leinster side may benefit most from the unfortunate injury of Galway star Joe Canning added more fuel to the Model fire.

“You’d read stuff lads would send stuff onto you showing that you are whatever position to win the All-Ireland. You are last. You are tenth. You are ninth,” O’Connor said at the launch of Physio Led Personal Training at Sports Physio Ireland.

“I seen another thing ‘with Joe Canning out of Leinster injured who is going to take the Leinster final,’ and sure we were last in the percentage too. That kind of thing is absolutely driving us on.

“All I know is if we can out 70 minutes together back to back, it’s definitely within our reach to win a Leinster final this year. We have no silverware to our name but we know that it’s there in the dressing room so we just need to put it together.

“Davy has gave us all the tools now and it’s kind of up to the players now if we want to kick on. We are at a crossroads now, and we have to kind of decide if we want it now.”

While escaping an increasingly competitive Leinster SHC round-robin series is first on their agenda, the 20-year-old St Martin’s star makes no bones about their desire to make the All-Ireland semi-final and shatter the glass ceiling of recent seasons.

“It’s definitely a hurdle we need to get over, an All-Ireland quarter-final is where we’ve been at for the last two years and never seem to have ever showed up in the All-Ireland quarter-finals,” the second year DCU business student said.

“It’s definitely something we are eyeing, but we are really only focusing on Dublin in Parnell Park (May 19) because that kind of dictates how our season is going to go.”

Fitzgerald has helped Wexford achieve things that scarcely looked possible at the end of 2016 and when O’Connor details the lengths the Clare natives goes to for his players, it’s no wonder he’s held in such high esteem by them.

While many only see the colourful manager showing emotion on the sideline, O’Connor’s experiences highlight why a cavalcade travelled from Wexford to Sixmilebridge to ensure he stayed at the helm.

“He is more than a manager to us. He is everything to us. He looks after everything outside of the GAA as well, making sure, for me, studies, education, everything is on track.

“If we are ever stuck for anything, it’s always just pick up the phone and ring him, he is easy to talk to and sure who knows if he was to leave who would you get in?

“There’s uncertainty there so when you have him you might as well try and keep him.”

The sweeper system adopted under Fitzgerald has copped flak in some circles but O’Connor insists every team is playing a similar style.

“It’s not an enjoyable system maybe to watch from a spectator’s point of view, but when it’s working, there are teams that can’t really deal with it.

“Funny enough, we are supposed to be the ones playing a sweeper and you see Galway and Kilkenny and their half forwards are literally – even on the weekend you could see Tom Morrissey, Limerick nearly back on his own ’21 collecting ball,” he said.

“Sure, where did he get that ball that he hit into (Aaron) Gillane for the flick goal? It was back in his own half so it’s either play a sweeper or everyone play back in your own half.”

Irish Independent

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