There’s a new sheriff in town…
Wexford’s Wild West of hurling had become a bit unruly over the last two years and the voice of the former head honcho didn’t seem to carry the same weight it did when silverware made its way down the N11 pre-pandemic. With Davy’s departure, it presented a fork in the road for the Wexford County Board about the team they wanted to present on the field.
Firstly, a tactical foundation had been laid for the last five years. The shrewd move may have been to appoint an acolyte in order to build on a style that while unpopular, brought out a collective effort and performance that helped the team further along the road. The braver option was a daring grab for the youngest gunslinger in the game, a man untested at this level and yet, someone who brings a quietly assured reputation.
Wexford fans could have been forgiven for scratching their heads when Darragh Egan was announced as the new Messiah for the small ball in the South East. His was a name that gently slipped the radars of even the most rabid hurling fans who debated Derek McGrath vs Eddie Brennan and sought the positives in the reign of a Jason Ryan or a JJ Doyle.
The resources available to Wexford are well-known and it’s fair to assume that many of the bigger names on the scene would have been impressed with the project on offer. For the county board to take a chance on a rookie in the hot seat would be seen as a gamble, but one that no doubt will be exciting to follow.
Don’t be fooled, though, as Egan is a man with a great working relationship with Liam McCarthy. He’s a former Premier goalkeeper who picked up his first All Ireland medal in 2010. There was a bench that was watching the game through tactical eyes as number 16 that day, Darren Gleeson, now corrals the hurlers in the Glens of Antrim.
More recently, Egan worked as a selector with the now departed Tipp management set-up which also saw national success in 2019. Cast your mind back to the All-Ireland semi-final between Wexford and Tipperary and you might just remember the large imposing figure with a huge fist pump and the first man to shake Liam Sheedy’s hand following the final whistle. 1-04 from the bench that day shows that the selectors did indeed play their role.
More locally, he has watched his own club shoot up the battlefields of the Tipperary championship, doing whatever job was needed to bring success to Kiladangan GAA. Their rise in rank from Junior to Senior champions coincided with major off the field development, and a huge focus on persevering and succeeding with youth.
His style is still being questioned as this is his first standalone role at this level. Reports from Munster suggest a progressive approach, not afraid to mix it up and a man who knows every area of the field having been both between the sticks and out the park in his playing days. His only real managerial role of note at intercounty level came at under 16 which hints at a coach who will know when the younger stars will be ready to take the step up.
Youth could be the way for this manager to impose his authority when he arrives into a set-up that has become a little too cosy in the last few seasons. Wexford heroes one and all, but now is the time to give players a chance to bring the energy and carefree attitude that we will need to take that step forward.
The following are a few options that new Wexford Senior hurling manager, Darragh Egan, may have been keeping an eye on during last weekend’s quarter finals:
Ross Banville – Shelmaliers
2022 should be the year of Ross Banville. Banville was the first name on a similar list from The42.ie in 2020, but the Shelmaliers man has never established himself in the senior intercounty side. Calm under pressure, his metronomic free-taking will certainly be an advantage in an area where Wexford have struggled to close the gap on the top teams. Ross is going for a second Dr Bowe Cup in a row and his cool 0-09 kept Naomh Eanna at bay in the last eight last Sunday.
Diarmuid Doyle – Ferns St Aidans
Doyle is another of the group of talented under 20s from recent years who has not been trusted in the big time yet. Doyle has certainly been a man to watch for Ferns St-Aidans this season. A ruthless attacker who’s first thought is an effort on target, his 1-2 in a losing effort against Rapparees meant he couldn’t give much more. It’s clear that the new manager will be looking for more from his forwards and Doyle alongside a renewed Conor McDonald could spell trouble for opposition defences.
Conor Hearne – Shelmaliers
To be fair to Fitzgerald, he had spotted the potential in the 2020 Wexford Hurler of the Year giving him his start in the league last season. It was a chance that Hearne took with both hands as well with a well taken goal after some brilliant buildup play with Dee O’Keeffe against Laois. The messing around Covid-19 halted his progress and a sustained run in the team can only benefit a player who’s form is on the up.
Ger Dempsey – Glynn-Barntown
Son of the Wexford All-Ireland winner and the great Tom Dempsey, Ger is like a ghostly assassin snuffing out all attackers who attempted to put the Killurin men out of the championship this season. While he doesn’t really play the game with the flashiness of the old man, Ger is an assured defender who is willing to sacrifice his own game and give his team the best shot of winning. All inter-county teams have hulking corner forwards these days and Ger might be the shackles to keep them at bay.
Cathal Dunbar – Naomh Eanna
There’s a great mystery around Cathal Dunbar. An artist on the field who blows hot and cold, an attacker with no equal on his day, a mildly inconvenient presence when he’s not. Davy never really found common ground with the Gorey man, but his performances for club and college over the last few years mean there’s an All Star in there somewhere. Here’s hoping Egan can dig it out and allow it to shine.
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