Eoin Quigley has been a central player for Wexford and St Martins for the best part of a decade. Now living and working in Cork, he plays for Sarsfield’s in the city. We caught up with Eoin recently to talk with him about hurling with Wexford, criticism and the differences he sees between the Cork and Wexford hurling scenes.
Q: Wexford play their opening championship game away to Offaly on the evening of the 2nd of June, a tough assignment. How are preparations coming along?
A: This will be a very difficult match for us. Wexford v Offaly games are more often than not very close affairs and I expect this encounter to be no different . Sometimes home advantage swings it for one team but the Wexford Senior Hurlers preparations have been excellent since the last league game against Laois. With two tough rounds of club championship in addition to excellent challenge games against Tipp and Waterford we will be ready for the 2nd of June.
Q: Being a county hurler in Wexford is pretty high profile and involves a level of public scrutiny and criticism at times. Over the years how have you coped with this?
A: Depending on your personality this can be hard to deal with at times. Young players can find public scrutiny and criticism very difficult. I enjoyed a very good start to my career and didn’t receive much criticism but later in my career I have. I don’t let it bother me because there are far more important things in life than worrying about criticism. I always had the confidence to believe in my own ability.
Q: You’re based in Cork these days and play with Sarsfield’s, people often talk about the ‘swagger’ of Cork teams. Is there is difference in culture, attitude, approach between Cork and Wexford teams?
A: I have seen Cork hurlers getting hammered in games but yet it does not affect their confidence. They just get back in training and fully believe they are the best and that it was just a bad day at the office! That is the culture they are born into in Cork. Sarsfield’s can play with a swagger at times but they also put in the hard work on the pitch and in training. One main difference I see at club level here in Cork is that all clubs are doing a lot of gym work. I think Wexford Clubs are starting to realise the bar needs to be raised and Oulart have done that over the last few years.
Q: Is there anything that you’ve seen in Cork that you would like to see introduced into Wexford GAA?
A: The one main difference I noticed straight away was the difference between the Wexford Hurling League and the Cork Hurling League. Club players in Cork are getting lots of very competitive league games. We struggled for years in Wexford with a terrible league but since Liam Dunne took charge he has let county players play the league games making it a better competition and improving the club players at the same time.
Q: Maybe unfairly Wexford supporters always have high hopes for their teams but this year with the appointment of Liam Dunne this was even higher. What has he brought to the Wexford set up since taking over the team?
A: I think supporters are realistic about the job Liam and the lads have ahead of us. It won’t be instant success! What Liam has done though is brought a professional set up which is what we needed more than anything. We have the best strength and conditioning trainer in Wexford, excellent selectors and excellent hurling coaches. The County Board have given us everything we require and the players are responding by training harder than ever. Liam has great passion for Wexford and it is infectious within the squad.
Q: Your commitment to the Wexford cause is admirable, travelling as you do from Cork where you live and work. What motivates you as a player, what drives you on?
A: The commitment is huge for any county player in the modern era but adding in a 5 hour round trip to train is very tough. A lot of people think I’m mad to do it as they say we have had little success, but I love being from Wexford and wearing the purple and gold jersey. I was brought up in a Wexford GAA family and I always wanted to play hurling for Wexford. Motivation is easy for me as Wexford means so much.
Q: One of the most encouraging things this year has been the arrival on the scene of young players like Jack Guiney and Paul Morris, the competition for places seems to be keen which is surely a positive sign?
Liam has brought in a lot of new faces to the panel which is great for the future of Wexford hurling. Competition is key to a successful team and that is what is starting to happen with the hurlers. Jack/Paul along with the likes of Willie Devereux and Gary Moore are very exciting young lads to watch. They have great confidence and have no fear of anybody which is great.
Q: How has hurling changed even during your career? Would you agree that Kilkenny have changed the way the game is played?
A: I started in 2004, we trained hard but our lifestyle was completely different . I remember getting breakfast rolls after training sessions… Gym work has become a huge part of hurling . Lads need to be at a very high fitness level to even compete. Even if your fitness and strength is very high you still need to keep on top of your hurling. It’s a 5-6 days a week training programme now . Kilkenny are very physical, very fit and most importantly very sharp with their hurling .It’s hard to beat a team with all these elements plus hunger.
Q: Having seen Kilkenny dismantle Cork in the recent League Final in Thurles, many are again saying the Cats look unstoppable. Do you see anyone stopping them this year
A: It’s hard to look elsewhere, but hurling is a great game and surprises can always happen . Kilkenny have a big injury list at the moment, and a lot of them are their big players. Dublin will run them very close in June .Tipp will match them if they get that far.
Q: You grew up watching Wexford win an All-Ireland. How can Wexford bridge the gap with Kilkenny and the other pace setters and overhaul them once again?
A: Hard work. We have to keep working hard with the underage in each club, and work hard to get our schools back competing. We need our underage County teams to be getting the best coaching possible and we need our senior team to have the top men in charge in all aspects of fitness / strength / hurling coaching / nutrition etc like we have now.