Mark Fanning satisfied with Wexford's progress
By Cian O’Connell
For so long hope was the chief companion for Wexford hurlers, but now a sense of expectation is attached too. That is no harm whatsoever, promotion to Division 1A of the Allianz Hurling League and a Leinster Final appearance ensures momentum is gathering in the south east.
Davy Fitzgerald and Wexford struck a deep and meaningful connection. “It was a start, I suppose, really,” is goalkeeper Mark Fanning’s honest assessment.
“In Davy's first year it was nice to get back to a Leinster Final, obviously it was disappointing that we didn't win. Getting back to Division 1A hurling with the promotion is going to be huge for us going into the National League in 2018. You could put it down as a start.”
Two stirring come from behind League wins over Limerick and Galway injected Wexford hurling folk with optimism. Crowds and interest increased, suddenly Wexford were a team on the rise again.
“To be fair the thing with Wexford because we have such good supporters and mad hurling people they are only crying to get behind a senior hurling team that is going somewhere,” Fanning admits.
“Davy, having the standing that he has, people rowed in behind us straightway. It was great. The thing going into next year is that it is maybe going to be harder for us. We are going to have to work harder and we are going to have to up the standards an awful lot. Hopefully 2018 will be worthwhile.”
It is precisely why Wexford will want to deliver in the early rounds of the League once more. Such a policy served them well in 2017.
“Yeah, the first two games were huge for us really, they were massive,” Fanning acknowledges.
“Obviously the games after, in the League in particular, were going to be tough games, but from a players point of view winning the first two games gave us confidence and set us up for the year.
“It was a thing that we can actually do this, we can match and compete with the so called big boys on any given day. The first two League games were huge for us, they really were.”
Being involved in the Leinster showpiece put Wexford on the grand stage. Returning to that type of environment is precisely what they want to achieve.
“Of course, it was the first time since 2008 that a Wexford senior hurling team had played a Leinster Final in Croke Park,” Fanning says.
“That was too long really to be honest. It was great while it lasted, it was nice to play here in front of that crowd, but Please God we will be playing here more often at the business end of the Championship.”
Before the summer, though, Fanning is hopeful an emerging Waterford IT outfit can compete strongly in the Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup.
Two members of Wexford’s backroom team, Paraic Fanning and PJ Ryan, are involved with Waterford IT alongside Ken McGrath and Tony Browne.
“We didn't have a great League, the League campaign was fairly poor, but come Fitz time we will be stronger,” Fanning remarks.
“The League and Fitz are two completely different competitions, it is a different time of the year, lads have the hunger for the Fitz, it is different altogether. We will be no different than anyone else, we will be giving it a right good rattle.
“Paraic Fanning is the manager, we have PJ Ryan as a selector, Ken McGrath and Tony Browne too. We have quite a good management, with PJ Ryan there is a good link between the Wexford management and the WIT management with Paraic and PJ.”
Despite the familiarity there is no special treatment for Fanning. “I'm actually getting more hardship really to be honest,” Fanning laughs.
“It is great. We have a few good young lads. That is the thing with our team, it is very young. We have good lads, but they are quite young.
"The thing with Fitz is it is a hugely competitive competition, you are talking about guys that are playing are in their early 20s.
"Unless you are an exceptional 19 year old you generally don't play Fitz so from that end of it physically and the time of year plays its part. They are good lads to be fair, they will play a huge role for us going forward, they really will.” So will Fanning.