Rory Jacob: 'Wexford will face a big test against Laois'
By Aidan Delaney
Davy Fitzgerald’s side come up against Chedder Plunkett’s men for the second time this year with the O’Moore County looking for revenge after falling to a 4-17 - 0-10 point loss in the league.
Despite that, the Oulart The Ballagh man isn’t predicting a walkover due to the inconsistent nature of his home county this season.
“A lot of our players have struggled to hit top form. You can’t just turn on form, flick a switch and say you’re going to start playing. We’ve had some good performances, some bad performances, good and bad patches in games. If we’re not about our business this weekend, we could be in for a big game.”
The underdogs come into the clash in Nowlan Park with no wins to their name in 2021 in Plunkett’s return to the intercounty scene. The closest to victory they managed was an 8 point loss to Dublin in week 2. However, Jacob doesn’t feel that the results have been a fair reflection of the hurling they’re played.
“Laois improved throughout the campaign. From a management point of view, they only had 2 or 3 weeks of time on the field and all of a sudden they’re coming down to play Wexford who know exactly what they’re about. That to me was a false result. If you look at the Kilkenny game, I thought they did excellent in that one. They started it poorly but they started to find their flow. They’re kind of in the long grass for Wexford and we could be in for a fright.”
The Purple and Gold are still very reliant on their experienced heads and fans will feel that one man who needs to show his hand this year is Conor McDonald. The Naomh Eanna man was one of the most exciting talents in the country when he burst on the scene in 2014 but has seen his scoring stats drop off in recent seasons. Jacob says a slight change in tactics will allow Wexford to make the most of his fellow forward.
“He’ll know himself that his performances haven’t been where he’ll want them to be. The style we’re playing as well doesn’t really allow for a player like Conor to show off his full range of talents. It’s a running style with short passing and long range shooting. I think Wexford need a variation which will bring Conor more into the game. But certainly he’ll want to have a big performance this weekend but he’ll need to get ball to do that.”
Saturday should see the return of joint captain Matthew O’Hanlon in the halfback line. The St James’ man was sent off against Antrim and missed the win over Dublin. Rory told The Backdoor GAA that he was taken in by his replacement Joe O’Connor.
“In the Dublin game, Joe was probably Wexford’s most impressive player. Even in the Antrim game he came on in the half forward line and kept Wexford in it in a very important stage. He’s an excellent hurler in his own right and even if Matthew is playing, I’d expect Joe to play as well. He has that flair about him to play in a lot of positions. I think his performances in the league merit a starting place.”
Criticism has been laid at Davy’s door in the past that the team are too rigid in their style of play. In what looks like his last year in charge in the South East, it’s hard to see many changes being implemented at this late stage. Regardless, Jacob feels like the favourites will put that style to good use in Nowlan Park.
“It’s an athletic team. When Wexford get off on the run and get into that flow, we are excellent at it and we can cause problems. Davy can pull some rabbits out of the hat as well but Wexford will want to start this game well. They’re going to challenge Laois early on and run at them. Laois will have to be ready for it but being ready and being able to deal with it are two different things”.
A place in the Leinster semi final against Brian Cody’s Kilkenny is up for grabs and while the margin of victory may be closer, Rory Jacob is backing his home county to come away with the win on Saturday night.