Diarmuid O'Keeffe wants Wexford to maintain standards
By Cian O’Connell
Belief and momentum have been acquired by Wexford with the in form Diarmuid O’Keeffe hugely encouraged by their Allianz Hurling League Division 1A opening.
Davy Fitzgerald’s charges have eked out valuable victories over Waterford and Cork ensuring Saturday’s trip to Semple Stadium for a clash against Tipperary will be revealing.
There was so much to admire about the manner in which Wexford secured promotion before reaching a Leinster Final in 2017, but O’Keeffe is hopeful that the team can maintain the high standards set during Fitzgerald's first campaign in charge.
“100%,” O’Keeffe answers when asked about the importance of Wexford’s staying relevant. “Last year was progress on '14, '15, and '16. It was brilliant to get into a Leinster Final and we were thrilled to get up to 1A, but you aren't long being brought back down to earth if you don't build on that this year.
“If you don't keep pushing last year doesn't really matter. You won't be long being brought back down to earth when you are playing the Kilkennys, Corks, and Clares of this world. It is progress, I suppose, but ultimately we will be looking to push on again in 2018.”
That is why it was so crucial for Wexford to deliver in the early rounds of the League. “Yeah, it is a very good start and the confidence is very good at the moment,” O’Keeffe admits.
“We are absolutely delighted with the first two wins, albeit we hurled very well in certain periods of both games, but we were disappointed with a couple of things in both games, we didn't execute some things that well. Overall, though, we are happy.
“It was massively important to get wins because in Division 1A anybody can beat anybody on any given weekend. So I suppose we needed a win early on to get our confidence up and running, not to be putting ourselves under pressure.
“We are absolutely delighted to be on top of the table after two games, but unless we get a performance this weekend again we could be down to fourth or fifth before you know it, depending on results. It is so competitive, it is so important to get those wins early on.”
O’Keeffe, a secondary school teacher, continues to contribute wholehearted and dynamic displays for Wexford. One area of optimism so far is the depth of the Wexford panel with substitutes delivering when it truly mattered against Cork.
“We did lose a couple of guys, but we have other guys coming in staking a real claim,” O’Keeffe says.
“Paudie Foley at wing back is there this year, he is hurling very well; Kevin Foley has come into midfield, he is putting in some solid performances; Cathal Dunbar and David Dunne in the forwards are staking a massive claim as well.
“While the lads are performing on the pitch, the aim of any sub coming in is to make an impact and the last day against Cork particularly Jack Guiney and Harry Kehoe came on, these lads got a couple of scores for us which eased the pressure a little, it pushed the whole performance on to another level.”
So did O’Keeffe’s willingness to work for the Wexford cause. Facing Tipperary under the Saturday night lights on the hallowed Thurles turf is precisely where Wexford want to be.