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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Pat Nolan

Teams unlikely to show full hand in 2023 League says Wexford's Matthew O'Hanlon

Wexford's Matthew O’Hanlon believes that teams will place less emphasis on the Allianz Hurling League in 2023 after Limerick’s approach this year.

As it was, the 2022 instalment lacked intensity due to its close proximity to the Championship which also had a round robin element but there were some exceptions as Waterford went bald-headed for the title and Wexford won all of their games en route to the semi-final.

Cork also showed good form to reach the semi-finals too as did Kilkenny, to a lesser extent, though the Cats were the only one of the four that enjoyed a lengthy Championship run.

Limerick, meanwhile, didn’t record a victory until their last outing, and that was against Joe McDonagh Cup opposition in Offaly, but then went unbeaten through the Championship to complete a historic three-in-a-row.

After being well beaten by Waterford in the League semi-final, Wexford stuttered through much of the Leinster round robin, only finding their best form in the final round with a rousing win over Kilkenny to clinch third place in the group.

“There’s a need for results early on in a season to create momentum and create confidence within the group, especially with a new management group as well,” says O’Hanlon in mitigation for Wexford’s early season fervour.

“But also it’s no surprise that of the semi-finalists in the League we had a slow start [in the Championship], Waterford didn’t get out of Munster and Kilkenny are the only ones that got to a provincial final.

“Limerick didn't put too much pass on the League and it worked out in their favour, but that’s not saying if we had the same approach next year it would work out like that, but that’s the way it was this year.

“I think Darragh [Egan] and the management team are probably looking at how they can vary game-time across the squad.

“I’m 31 next week, do I need to be playing every League game, or should I be focusing on getting ready for the Championship?

“There’s a number of players in that boat, so that’s something that Darragh and the team will look at, but it’s an area for improvement for us.”

He added: “Don't get me wrong - there’s only three prizes on offer throughout the whole season.

“We wanted to win the League and got to the knockout stages, and any team that gets far will definitely want to win it and you’ve got players there that want to make a name for themselves, so they will want to take every opportunity they get.

“So I think it will still be competitive and still be good, but you may not see the full hand from teams, if I was to put a call on it.”

O’Hanlon acknowledged that Davy Fitzgerald’s reign “came to a natural end” after five years, with Egan trying to develop their style of play further in his first season at the helm.

“I think Daragh's approach is adding layers to what foundations were already there from Davy, as opposed to wholesale change, which helped us in how we developed and you probably see that in terms of how we set up and how we played.

“It's just, I suppose, the next evolution of how we as Wexford move forward. I definitely didn't think it was a huge adjustment, steps in the right direction as I've highlighted but more work to do definitely.”

That win over Kilkenny at Nowlan Park was the undoubted highlight of the season but too many of Wexford’s Championship displays outside of that fell well short of that level of performance.

O’Hanlon added: “We’ve shown glimpses of our potential but consistency has been our Achilles heel. We are able to have big performances but we potentially follow them up with lacklustre performances.

“So we know what we are capable of, but finding that consistency is our area for improvement. We can match Kilkenny, we can match the top teams and we matched Clare for long spells in the quarter-final and we know we can mix it with the top teams.

“But the difference between that and the very top is doing it consistently. As we’ve seen in this championship, it’s week-in week-out, so you need to be able to do it week-in week-out to get to the latter end.”


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