Saturday 16 December 2017

Too early for 'panic stations' as Jacob predicts a backlash display against the Banner

Wexford manager Liam Dunne: SPORTSFILE
Wexford manager Liam Dunne: SPORTSFILE

July 2014: an epic two-game qualifier saga has just ended in extra-time victory for the Wexford hurlers. A small ball renaissance is stirring on Slaneyside, Clare's All-Ireland defence its first victim.

February 2016: it's back to Wexford Park this Sunday for an Allianz League Division 1B rematch with Clare. And a match laden with pressure for the embattled hosts.

Back in 2014, Wexford went on to beat Waterford in another 'back door' thriller before the ultimate reality check of a 24-point All-Ireland quarter-final collapse to Limerick.

That, you could argue, was the start of a regression that saw Wexford endure a carbon-copy 24-point defeat to Kilkenny in last year's Leinster semi-final, then lose at home to Cork in the qualifiers ... and then suffer more Limerick-inflicted trauma at the Gaelic Grounds last Saturday.

Wexford trailed by 0-16 to 0-4 at the break; a third quarter revival briefly raised flagging spirits, but the net result of this 2-23 to 0-15 defeat is that Wexford hopes of promotion from Division 1B already hang on a knife-edge.

Liam Dunne craves a backlash display against the Banner ... yet the mood is scarcely helped by the latest panel departure of Jack Guiney or, more especially, their form-graph against Dublin (Walsh Cup final) and Limerick.

For all that, the now-retired Rory Jacob, who played against Clare in 2014, believes talk of crisis is overblown.

"There's a little bit of panic in certain quarters about last Saturday. I wouldn't be as pessimistic," Jacob asserted.

"Wexford were missing three or four or five good players that will make a big difference. As well as that, traditionally Wexford don't start that well in the league. I personally think Wexford will get a performance this weekend. It's not panic stations or anything like that."

Jacob argued that the league's week-on-week schedule is better suited to counties with stronger panels whereas Wexford tend to struggle when missing a few bodies.

But he cited his own career as proof that all is not lost in February.

"I remember in '04 we won the Leinster title - and we had an unbelievably bad league campaign. The whole thing was going bad. And it can change in a few weeks; it can change in one game.

"It's up to the Wexford lads to come out and show the fight and desire against Clare. Don't worry about the result really; just get a performance.

"The perception was we were in crisis (in 2004) - we weren't in crisis ourselves. We always had the Kilkenny game in our mind.

"Like, the league is important but at the end of the day you'll really be judged on championship. Wexford have Dublin in the first round, and that's going to be a big challenge. If they can get over that, they'll see where the summer will take them."

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