Conor McDonald: Tipperary quality and depth equals Dublin's footballers

Wexford meet Tipperary this weekend in the Allianz League semi-finals

BY Shane Stapleton 10:11 Tuesday 4 April 2017, 10:11 4 Apr 2017

Wexford’s Conor McDonald celebrates scoring his sides second goal Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ken Sutton

Conor McDonald sees Tipperary as hurling's Everest.

His Wexford side will meet the Premier in the Allianz Hurling League semi-final on April 16th, where Michael Ryan's side will go in as unbackable favourites.

Jim Gavin's Dublin have gone 36 competitive games unbeaten in football, and McDonald feels that the All-Ireland hurling champions are in the same rarefied air.

On Sunday, the Naomh Eanna man slapped over eight points (0-4f) for the Model County as they razed Nowlan Park and Kilkenny for the first time in 60 years.

Starved of success since the Leinster final win of 2004 and Liam MacCarthy glory in 1996, Slaneyside has been craving a team to get behind.

Now they have one. Almost 15,000 supporters showed up to see Davy Fitzgerald’s charges make a huge statement against Brian Cody, winning 2-18 to 0-19.

“Yeah, it’s massive,” said full-forward McDonald. “Look, it’s the big days that you play hurling for and we probably got lucky in the end to get a goal (through a long-range Mark Fanning free).

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ken Sutton

“It could have been a lot tighter. Sometimes it’s nice to get the luck of the draw.

“Kilkenny have been top-class for the past number of decades; they’re always there or thereabouts,” he added. 

“We’re just trying to win every game, even if it’s a practice game or league or championship, that’s what we’ll try to do. 

“A top-quality side in Kilkenny and it’s nice to come out on the right side of it, it’s not often it happens especially up here.”

Gavin’s Dublin have been utterly dominant in recent years, with the county now collecting four of the last six All-Ireland titles.

They’ll be looking to necklace together a fifth league title in a row this Sunday, while Leinster has largely been held hostage by the capital for years.

Michael Ryan is no doubt trying to build a Premier dynasty after last September’s glorious coronation, and McDonald is aware of their threat.

“Tipp are All-Ireland champions, you know what I mean,” he said. “They’ve quality, depth in their panel like Dublin in the football. 

Tipperary have been the team to beat in 2017. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

“They bring on a fella and he could have so many Munsters and All-Irelands, and All Stars. That’s what you’d be hoping to mix with and you can’t really do that unless you’re there. 

“So that’s where we’re aiming to be and we’re there now so we can just go again and see what happens.”

Fitzgerald was manager of Clare when they were dethroned as All-Ireland champions at Wexford Park in a 2014 qualifier replay.

The Models went on a back-door run that year and for a long time were the story of that summer.

Liam Dunne has since moved and now, with Davy Fitz in their corner, it seems as if the purple and gold are ready to fly again.

They’ve achieved promotion from Division 1B in year one, and seem to have adjusted very quickly to their manager’s game plan.

“It’s hard to put your finger on whether we’re surprised or not, we’re just like any other team,” McDonald explained of the new regime.

“I’m sure if Davy went in to any team, he’d get a good reaction out of them. 

“So I think we’re just honest with ourselves, we’re giving it everything and at the moment it’s paying off.

“I think you could probably see that in our play,” explained the 21-year-old, who made his championship debut against Davy Fitz’s Clare in 2013.

Wexford's manager Davy Fitzgerald signs a supporters hurley before the game against Kilkenny. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ken Sutton

“Quite often the scores we get, it’s really expressing yourself and believing you can mix it with the best.

“Wexford fans, in fairness to them, if they get any sniff of a team going well, they’re out in their droves. It’s a credit to them, after the match was mental. 

“You’d swear it was championship, it was mental. I always say it, I think we’ve the best fans once we’re playing well. 

“That hasn’t happened very often and I think they deserve a couple of wins as well. It was nice to see them after the game.”

As for pushing on to the next level against the Premier, McDonald is ambitious: “It’s just about winning every game. 

“You don’t try to go win a game, win it, and then go and lose on then. 

“It’s onwards and upwards and hopefully we can put it up to them. They’re a quality outfit but we’ll do our best.”

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