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Tom Dempsey celebrates after scoring a goal in the 1996 All Ireland SHC Final for Wexford against Limerick.
Tom Dempsey celebrates after scoring a goal in the 1996 All Ireland SHC Final for Wexford against Limerick.

Tom Dempsey: 'Our love of hurling isn't particularly aligned to success'


By Cian O’Connell

Wexford’s passion for hurling endures and it is one of the reasons such a feel good factor surrounds Davy Fitzgerald’s developing team.

The 2019 Leinster Final triumph was greeted with wild celebrations as Wexford returned to the eastern summit in impressive fashion.

Two years previously Fitzgerald had steered Wexford back into the Leinster Final and Dempsey is adamant that significant strides are being made.

Accompanied by a vociferous support Dempsey acknowledges that Wexford retain an ability to burst to prominence.

“You had 44,000 Wexford supporters at the Leinster final a couple of years ago against Galway,” Dempsey recalls. “If you're being fair that present team was only beginning to come to itself. They were very much underdogs that time, but it didn't stop the Wexford people.

“They love the occasion of hurling, the excitement of hurling, it runs much deeper than success with Wexford.”

Striking the correct balance between emotion and being clinical, though, on the field of play is key according to Dempsey.

Liam Griffin set the tone in the dream summer of 1996 when Dempsey starred and Fitzgerald is now carrying out similar work.

Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald in conversation with former inter-county star Tom Dempsey.
Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald in conversation with former inter-county star Tom Dempsey.

“Even in 1996,” Dempsey recalls about tapping into the drive and desire that exists in the county. “It has been a bit of a hamstring for us in previous years, we work a lot on the emotional side and sentiment side, the Vinegar Hill, forefathers, we are very strong on that,” Dempsey adds.

“It can maybe to a certain extent when you focus on that too much you lose your focus on what you should be doing. As a county Wexford is very romantic about hurling and romantic about heroes too.”

Now very much classed as contenders again for the important pieces of silverware Dempsey is encouraged about the future. There will always be an interest in the Wexford senior hurling team, but winning helps that process significantly too.

“Wexford supporters can be a little bit critical at times, but they aren't as vicious as some of the traditional counties' supporters,” Dempsey remarks.

“They go with almost a joviality to the All Ireland semi-final or Leinster final. We are fierce disappointed to be beaten, but we always bring an incredible atmosphere.

“I always think that hurling needs the Wexfords of this world. Our love of hurling isn't particularly aligned to success.

“There is no doubt that when things are going right in Wexford we probably have the most colourful support or close to it in the country. We are a little bit like Mayo in some ways.”

Being a respected force in the hurling world matters deeply in the south east.

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