“It was as tame an effort to retain a Leinster title as probably anyone has come out with.”
Diarmuid O’Keeffe says Wexford are desperate to make up for a “tame” 2020 which saw them exit at the first hurdle in both the Leinster Championship and All-Ireland series.
Davy Fitzgerald’s men lost 1-27 to 0-17 against Galway in their Leinster defence, before falling 1-21 to 0-17 against Fitzgerald’s native Clare.
Diarmuid O’Keeffe on Wexford 2020.
Ahead of the start of the Allianz Hurling Leagues this weekend, O’Keeffe reflected on Wexford’s poor showings last year.
“It was as tame an effort to retain a Leinster title as probably anyone has come out with,” O’Keeffe said at the launch of the Allianz Hurling Leagues.
“We just didn’t perform at all. It was flat. They were stale performances. You were really trying to get back into the mindset of challenging yourself of 2019 again, and trying to lift yourself a little bit more, and trying to dig in that way.
“In ways, on a personal level you just want to forget your performances, they were so below par. I expect so much more from myself and I know the lads do as well as a team to try and rise above that, and come good again this year.”
Diarmuid O’Keeffe on lockdown training.
The Wexford hurler believes that the team probably trained too hard during the initial lockdown, and were, therefore, a spent force come their two championship outings.
“We probably anticipated games to be coming back sooner than what they did,” O”Keeffe continued.
“We were trying to keep our fitness levels up during the lockdown, probably a bit earlier than other teams might have had. As a result, when games did come back, we were greeted with club championship first.
“Some of the lads probably reckon they had a better campaign with their clubs than they did in their county campaign, and hit form earlier in the season than when the Galway and the Clare games came around.
“The phrase, ‘front-loaded’, is probably appropriate. We just anticipated the games would be coming back sooner than what they did. And probably pushed a bit too hard at the beginning.”
Wexford’s 2021 season.
Wexford’s first league game is this Sunday against Laois in Division 1B, and the 29-year-old insists league results are very important, given the shorter period of time this year.
“I think players will be going full throttle, no doubt. I don’t think there is a player or a team out there that is not going out there to win every ball and every game. They’ll be going full throttle, hell for leather,” O’Keeffe said.
“Will the skill level or touch be at the same level as what it might be later in the year? No, absolutely not, it’ll take a couple of weeks to come up to speed with it. Will fitness levels be at that level? No, absolutely not as well.
“So it will be a little bit of a trial period as well, so some new players in the squads can get a bit of game-time. But it will still be hell for leather, there will be plenty of quality in it and as we said at the start of the call all inter-county players now are doing something to keep fit so players won’t be doing too bad and teams won’t be doing too bad in the first couple of weeks, no doubt.”
Diarmuid O’Keeffe on Davy Fitzgerald.
Finally, the 2019 All-Star is delighted to have manager Fitzgerald still involved and his early committal for 2021 showed how big a season this is for the ‘Yellow Bellies’.
“The year had dragged on so much, and for a long period of time you couldn’t really see the light at the end of the tunnel with games coming up,” O’Keeffe added.
“So the immediate thing was you just wanted to get a break from everything, completely remove yourself and just freshen up totally. Davy played his cards well in that sense that he only lasted a couple of hours and he said, ‘I’m 100% committed to 2021’.
“In previous years it was ‘Will Davy/Won’t Davy come back?’ That was it. We knew where we stood. The plan was laid out. ‘You’re off now until 1 January, take your break. Do what you have to do.”
The long-awaited return of inter-county hurling takes place on May 8th with the commencement of the Allianz Hurling Leagues. Over 70 games will take place across the four divisions in an action packed seven-week festival of hurling. This campaign also marks the 29th year of Allianz’ partnership with the GAA as sponsor of the Allianz Leagues, making it one of the longest-running sponsorships in Irish sport.
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