Paudie Foley hopes for further Wexford progress
By Eoghan Tuohey
The crowning of Limerick as champions in this year’s All-Ireland hurling series has the potential to spark a revolution.
For the first time, perhaps since the golden era of the 90s, there is a sense that paying lip service to those who have been in the wilderness for many years is no longer sufficient. The race for the top prize in hurling has never been more open, more unpredictable, more exciting.
Few will take inspiration from this more than the Wexford, who would always have considered themselves to be capable of beating any Limerick side they have come up against in the past.
Davy Fitzgerald has committed to another season, and trainee teacher Paudie Foley is in the middle of combining his final year studies with a final crack at the Fitzgibbon Cup with DCU, and an intense pre-season fitness schedule with Wexford.
“100% delighted to see Davy committing to another year,” Foley says about Fitzgerald’s decision to remain in charge of the Slaneysiders’.
“We’re back into things, full steam ahead, the first six or eight weeks are never easy, weather wise and training wise, but you look forward to League games and the Championship ahead, that gets you through the tough nights.
“Yeah I’m playing Fitzgibbon with DCU, probably be my final year in Fitzgibbon, I’ve played three years at this stage, I’m in final year of PE Teaching and Biology so it’s more than likely my last chance to give it a go.”
It’s a logistical challenge that multiple players grapple with each year, combining studies, Fitzgibbon/Sigerson duties, club commitments and county responsibilities. There is some breathing space for Foley and Wexford in that they have no competitive fixture until after Christmas, but the potential honours up for grabs mean that making the commitment is something he’s comfortable doing.
“It’s just about finding the balance between the two,” Foley admits. “At this time of year, you’re mostly with Wexford, then coming towards Fitzgibbon, there will be times when you get out for a practise match with the college, and it’s just about managing the workload, the amount of times you’d be training with the county, there’s no point going three or four times with Wexford and then another two or three times with DCU, it’s just not realistic.
“There’s contact between the two managers, finding the balance is key. We won the Walsh Cup last year, which puts us straight into a semi-final, which is after Christmas.
“It’s nice to have that three or four week block to get a good bit of training done, we’re just trying to build back up the fitness now and then get into your hurling in January.”
Wexford endured a bitterly disappointing end to 2018, bowing out limply to Clare in the All-Ireland Quarter-Final.
Foley acknowledges that getting to grips with the new Championship format and the impact it had, physically and mentally, was a challenge, but it’s one that is the same for all competitors, and one that they will approach with greater guile this time around.
“Definitely it was a disappointing year overall,” Foley adds. “Having started the year promisingly, we kind of just faded out a bit. We were looking to compete with the big teams last year, coming into this season, we’ll be going flat out to win every game, and we’d be hoping to bring things to a new level this year.
“In a way, it’s (new season with league and different championship style) brilliant, that even the League games are nearly as competitive as Championship, you’re getting big crowds to games, there is hype surrounding them. The competitiveness in Division 1A is massive.
“On the other hand, having so many of these competitive games does take its toll and maybe we saw that a bit last year. I think it was 14 top level games we had, whereas the year before it probably worked out around seven or eight. It’s something we’ll learn from going into this year, getting our preparations right and coming good at the right times.”
Limerick won the coveted Liam McCarthy for the first time in 45 years, having shown promise underage certainly, yet their efficiency, coolness under pressure and consistency saw them stand out as the form team of 2018.
Davy Fitzgerald, Paudie Foley and the rest of the Wexford contingent will see little reason to suggest that they cannot emulate what the Shannonsiders did last year and return to the south east with some much needed silverware.
“In fairness to Limerick, they came from the middle of the pack, you know, kind of where we’re at now. It’s all about taking the chance when it’s there, they did and with a young team like that, fair play to them, it’s something that we see and we definitely ask, why can’t we do it?”