On Sunday, Davy Fitzgerald’s Wexford were knocked out of the championship by neighbours Waterford.
Even though most Yellowbellies were disappointed with the performances in the previous two games, if you were to ask any Wexford fan at the beginning of the year if they would be happy with what their players have achieved in 2017, they would have bitten your hand off.
The Model County started the year off in splendid fashion, as they beat the top two contenders in Division 1B of the National Hurling League, Galway and Limerick. Those results created the ideal run-in, and they eventually gained promotion to 1A, which was the county’s primary objective at the beginning of the year.
The promotion set up a derby game against Kilkenny in the league quarter-final, and for the first time since 1959, they beat the Cats in Nowlan Park. Unfortunately, they met a rampant Tipperary side in the semi-final, but they gave the Premier a game for the majority of the match. The county was well and truly lifted before the championship began.
They laid down a marker against Laois, which established a mouthwatering tie once again between Kilkenny and Wexford. Even though this time the game was in Wexford Park, the result was the same and Wexford hurling was revived. They just reached their first Leinster hurling final since 2004, the bandwagon was in full speed and the players were taking on hero-like statuses in the county.
Even though they eventually lost the Leinster final to Galway and then lost the All-Ireland quarter-final to Waterford, the Yellowbellies can hold their heads high after an impressive season under Davy in his first year at the helm.
One player in particular who was a model of consistency throughout all of those games mentioned was their wing-back, Diarmuid O’Keeffe. From day one at their first Walsh Cup match in Gorey to their last championship match in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, O’Keeffe was always the player that rose to the occasion.
Hailing from St. Anne’s, O’Keeffe rarely seemed to be in the headlines though. In relation to media attention, it was always Lee Chin’s impressive displays or the words that came out of Davy Fitzgerald’s mouth that gained the most interest.
Now though, a graphic has appeared thanks to Wexford Weekly and it really highlights how important Diarmuid O’Keeffe was to Wexford’s successful 2017 campaign. Incredibly, the wing-back managed to score in every competitive game this year for the Yellowbellies, and in total, he accumulated a massive 3-13 for his side.
Notably, in the Leinster final when the game looked dead and buried, it was O’Keeffe that scraped the ball into the Galway net to revive a glimmer of hope for the large Wexford support. Unfortunately for the Model-men, Galway still managed to pull away but the goal was a testament to the attacking wing-back’s character and his ability to rise to the occasion with the Purple in Gold in 2017.
Diarmuid O'Keeffe scored in every competitive inter-county game this year.
— Wexford Weekly (@Wexford_Weekly) July 25, 2017
Granted, his primary aim as a defender is to stop his marker from scoring – and he did this all too often, but it’s only now clear how instrumental O’Keeffe was to Davy’s counter-attacking and running game plan.
The likes of Mark Coleman, Austin Gleeson, Padraic Maher and Padraig Mannion are all believed to be ahead of him in the pecking order for an All-Star, but few would be as deserving!
Jason Redmond, Pundit Arena
Make sure to check out the latest episode of The 16th Man podcast, where we hear Davy Fitzgerald’s post-quarter-final press conference and chat to John Leahy about Tipperary’s victory.
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