Recently wexfordgaa.ie caught up with Wexford, St James’s and UCD star Matthew O’Hanlon and put some questions to him. Matthew is currently preparing for the Division 1B relegation play off which takes place this Sunday 15th April in Nowlan Park, Kilkenny (2.00pm).
Our thanks to Matthew for taking the time to talk with us.
Q: As you face into the Division 1b relegation play-off there are many who are writing off this Wexford hurling team. What would you say to supporters in advance of the final?
A: As you know, although we defeated Laois comprehensively last week in what was a preview for this match, I would say to supporters that the Laois team that we will be facing next week will be at a much higher level. In some ways, this game is as important as the first round of the championship, it is vital for this team to remain in this division in order to compete with the top 12 teams in the country and provide motivation for improvement next year. I have every confidence that the fifteen that will take the field on Sunday plus whoever is introduced are more than capable of doing the job.
Q: This has been an up and down year so far, the high of the last minute win over Offaly to the low of the long trip home from Antrim on the opening day. Has this been tough on the panel or how have you dealt with this?
A: This is essentially a new group of players for the most part, as more than half of the panel are in their first year on the senior team and this is a new management team so a settling-in period was to be expected. Though it has been tough to cope with the losses, everyone involved knows that this is a team in transition, so set-backs are inevitable. Everyone involved is on the same page in regards to getting Wexford hurling back to where it should be.
Q: Does playing in front of a vocal support make a difference to a team?
A: Yes, as we experienced in the closing minutes against Offaly; when we began to get on top, the swell in confidence on the crowd’s part had a tangible effect on the team. It is especially noticeable in away games.
Q: What has Liam Dunne brought to the Wexford set up since taking over the team?
A: The team is benefiting from his very professional approach in terms of fitness, strength and conditioning. The management team’s experience is also making a noticeable difference. The passion and pride with which he approaches the job is commendable. The fresh perspective offered by Liam is visible in the new inclusions to the panel, who have been given their chance in the league campaign.
Q: What is your goal in terms of your GAA career? This year and long term?
A: This year, I am very conscious that it is my last year under 21 and having lost the last two Leinster finals my focus is to learn from previous mistakes, and hopefully claim the coveted Leinster title. At senior level, the immediate focus is on this Sunday, in which, given the chance, I hope to play to the fullest of my ability. And for the remainder of this year, my goal is to remain injury-free and hopefully see Wexford back in Croke Park.
Q: What motivates you as a player, what drives you on?
A: Having grown up watching the great Wexford teams of the Nineties , they have always been a great source of inspiration for me. The unconditional support that I have always received from my club and family means that I will always strive to make them proud.
Q: With a number of young players pushing into the squad this year, the competition for places is strong, has this been a positive development this year?
A: The environment in which the team trains has been freshened up considerably by the introduction of new players, something which is a constant reminder that nobody is irreplaceable, nobody’s place is guaranteed. This competition for places has seen a rise in training standards; everyone is eager to make an impression.
Q: Your club championship campaign got underway recently, what do you think of the new Wexford Championship structure? Will they benefit club and County?
A: I think that the changes were welcome. Although it’s in its infancy, the structure mimics that of Kilkenny, who have undoubtedly got it right. The increases in vitally competitive games can only provide ever more chances for new players to shine and reduce complacency. This is something which I think benefits all Wexford clubs and county in general.
Q: Is there any change you’d like to see to the rules of hurling?
A: There are no obvious changes I’d like to see in the rules. I would, however, like to see an increase in the consistency of refereeing standards across all levels; club and county.
Q: Can you name one young hurler who could make a big name for himself in this year’s Championship?
A: Diarmaid O’ Keefe
Q: What’s the biggest sacrifice you’ve had to make to be an inter-county player?
A: There is no one glaring sacrifice that springs to mind, but to be an inter-county player is to make a lifestyle choice. Competition at the top level of GAA demands daily commitment to a challenging daily exercise and diet regime, something which indirectly affects every area of a player’s life. However, the benefits of being involved with the county panel make it all worthwhile.