Guiney: We're glad it's ClarE
Wexford forward insists bigger draw is better
The frustration for Jack Guiney is knowing he was at the exact same spot last year when everything had told him he and his team(s) had moved on.
You hold Dublin to a draw one year, you might reasonably expect to catch them the second. Yet he was taken off in Wexford Park and knew coming off that not only had he not managed to insert himself into the game, his team were still off Dublin's level.
If anything, the gap had widened. Meaning either Dublin had improved drastically or Wexford were receding without anyone knowing.
"It was a tough blow," he recalls now, the benefit of a therapeutic rout of Offaly in the Bord Gáis Energy Leinster U21 semi-final behind him. But like last year again, the threat of Clare's seniors now just days away.
"We really expected a performance out of ourselves. There was a massive expectation coming from the county as well. There was a big hype.
"If you had of walked the town the day of the match all the streets were packed with Wexford jerseys so there was a big buzz around the game. In the end Dublin's experience shone through. They did the right things at the right time.
"When things were going well for us they changed it up very quick and when things were going well for them we were slow to change. I think that was the difference.
"They have new players like Alan McCrabbe back from injury that added a lot to their team," Guiney adds. "I think (Anthony) Daly said it's like after signing a new player. He was one of their main men on the day and Conal Keaney had one of the performances of his life.
"He was outstanding. We just didn't pick him up and we suffered."
Where then, does his money lie for Sunday's Leinster final?
"The open spaces, everyone is saying it, of Croke Park will suit them (Dublin) but then they are saying there are tired legs in Kilkenny.
"I don't think there is. The likes of (Cillian) Buckley there at wing-back. Them lads are very athletic, very fast,"
"If they pick them up Dublin's key men, cancel them out, I think ... it's going to be a cracking game either way.
"If I was to pick someone to win it I think Kilkenny, where they are coming from, having not won Leinster last year, might be a little hungrier.
"But then again," Guiney says, going back on himself, "Dublin have a serious set-up there under Daly.
"You could even tell during the match that one of their backs would shout out a call and they'd all regroup and change the way they were going at the game.
"Kilkenny don't like movement that much. It will be interesting to see how that goes."
Before that, Guiney has his own problems.
To the untrained eye, Clare in Ennis represents the draw from hell in the qualifiers but Guiney says his team wanted as big a test as the draw could throw at them.
His reasoning is sound, if fraught with peril.
"We met up after the game, had an old chat and said we wanted one of the big teams; the biggest team we could get in the draw," he recalls.
"We got Clare, so we are absolutely delighted.
"It makes our job tougher but we are delighted to have the challenge. It's what everyone in the set-up wants.
"In the last few years, no disrespect to Carlow or Westmeath, but that hasn't done much for our standard of hurling so obviously we have to up our game and go in with a new level of intensity against Clare.
"Hopefully we can pull one out of the bag.
"Obviously we're going to have to take their key men out of the equation because if the likes of Tony Kelly, Podge Collins and these lads, Conor McGrath, are allowed run riot they will put on a festival down in Ennis
"We are going to have to pick up their key men, take them out of the game. And our key men are going to have to show up as well."
Last year, Guiney's goal forced extra-time in Thurles.
"I think the game was in limbo there for a while and I think a few lads looked around and said 'Jesus are we going to lie down and die here or are we going to put up some sort of a fight'," he recalls.
"Then we got a bit of a momentum going and Conor McDonald came on and scored a great point and our half-back line started cleaning up.
"It's a great thing for the group," Guiney adds, "because the pressures on and hopefully we can just go out and express ourselves.
"Going into the Dublin game there were lads that were fairly tense, lads that haven't been in a situation where there's a big game.
"A lot of our players didn't perform including myself and I was taken off, I wasn't in the game at all.
"I just couldn't get on the ball at all - that just can't happen down in Clare. If it does we're not going to come out with a win."