McDonald hails Bugler's impact with Wexford hurlers
By John Harrington
Wexford hurler Conor McDonald has praised the impact that former Clare defender Brendan Bugler has made since Davy Fitzgerald brought him into this backroom team for the 2020 season.
Bugler hurled for Clare for 11 years in a variety of defensive roles but, interestingly, his main brief with the Wexford hurlers is to work with forwards like McDonald.
So, what sort of approach does he bring to the role?
“A different approach than I thought he would, anyway,” says McDonald. “He's come in as a forwards coach and a general analyst. He's come in to give us a different aspect on everything.
“Probably because he's not long out of the game, he understands the modern game an awful lot at pitch level and he sees things that other coaches might not see which is obviously brilliant.
“And he's very hands-on as well. His drills are top-class, and he's very game-oriented in the stuff that he does in training.”
McDonald is relishing the opportunity to work with someone with fresh views and ideas because he’s always trying to evolve and develop his game.
That desire to improve saw him produce his most consistent season yet for Wexford last year when he ended up as the Championship’s joint-fourth highest scorer from play.
“Yeah, I suppose, like, you're trying to improve yourself all the time,” says McDonald.
“Probably trying to improve yourself in stuff you might have been weaker at than other players. Especially in the system that we play.
“I think, you know, sometimes forwards and in particular inside forwards, you need to be able to develop a mindset that's best for the team. That's probably something that I've worked on mostly, to try to do something that's absolutely best for the team.
“And if scores come on the back of it, then that works out. Yeah, I didn't actually know that (4th top scorer from play) but it's obviously nice to get a few scores, get a couple of goals, stuff like that.
“You're always trying to work on everything and work on your weaknesses more than anything.
“I know it sounds like a cliche, but you're not going to get better unless you do. If you're good at one thing and just keep doing that then you're going to turn into a one-trick pony and that will be the end of you then fairly sharp.”
When McDonald first arrived on the scene he made a name for himself as a powerful target-man with an eye for a goal.
Since Davy Fitzgerald took charge of the Wexford team, though, he’s had to work hard to evolve his style of play and add a few more strings to his bow.
The creation and exploitation of space with constant movement is a big part of Fitzgerald’s tactical approach, so McDonald has had to become just as comfortable roaming out to the middle third and creating opportunities for others from there as being a finisher on the edge of the square.
“At times that might help to be the target-man, it depends on the team you're playing,” says McDonald.
“But you want to play first of all and make the right impression and do your job all the time.
If you're trying to create that little niche as a forward, as being a target-man, it's not always going to work in that system.
“So it was either, you know, love it or leave it now kind of thing and jump ship if you were not going to develop other aspects of your game.
“Davy would be very good in a coaching aspect of things. He'd be very honest as well, which for some people might seem hard.
“Like I said, he's only trying to improve everyone and get the max out of everybody.
“And I think the proof is in the pudding for the last number of years there have been players who wouldn't have been getting the most out of their game and certainly are now at the moment.”
2020 is shaping up to be a big season for the Wexford hurlers. They made a fairly significant statement of intent by beating both Kilkenny and Galway on the way to winning the Walsh Cup last weekend.
They raised their bar to a new level last year by winning the Leinster Senior Hurling Championship, and everyone within the group wants to raise it again this year.
That would mean at least reaching an All-Ireland Final, though McDonald isn’t thinking that far ahead just yet.
“I think we have to try to get out of Leinster first to be honest,” he said.
“There's no easy feat in that, like I said we were a point away from getting beaten by Kilkenny down in Wexford Park, we would have been out of the championship and I probably wouldn't be sitting here thinking how will we progress, the question would be a little bit different.
“What's progression now for Wexford? So, look it, we just have to take each game as it comes. The league's coming up now, we've a few new players in as well, different clubs and stuff.
“They're going to probably try to get their chance and strengthen everything up again, the competition for places is probably at an all time high now since I've been in the panel anyway which is obviously a help as well.”