The newly appointed Model County boss offers some exclusive insights to Cairde Loch Garman members ahead of the much eagerly anticipated 2022 campaign.
RONAN FAGAN: What attracted you to the job?
DARRAGH EGAN: It is a very big hurling county with really passionate supporters. My latest experience with Wexford would have been the 2019 All-Ireland semi-final (when Darragh was part of the Tipperary backroom). Wexford had Tipperary under the kosh for much of that game, and I could feel the passion coming from the thousands behind me in the stands. I would have dealt with a few Wexford lads over the last few years, so I would have kept a small eye on the club championship before I was in the mix for this job. Obviously since then, I have enjoyed the club championship at all grades, and now trying to bring Wexford up a level is definitely an attractive prospect.
RF: Your impression of what Davy Fitzgerald did for Wexford?
DE: He had five years here, and the Leinster title win in 2019 was obviously huge after a long spell without provincial success. He brought the professionalism up a notch and established a good set up, played a different brand of hurling, but a style which definitely suited the team at the time, and they were only a puck of a ball away from an All-Ireland Final in 2019. The last two years, with the impact of Covid-19, it was very hard to judge any team because of the difficulty in timing your run. Davy did a great job and I know the Wexford people were fond of him. But we as a progressive coaching group and backroom are here now with a fresh approach, and we are ready to take things up a level. While some elements of our game will stay the same and hopefully work to our strengths, we will also be tweaking the style of play and introducing some new players to the group who we hope will leave their mark.
RF: What is your perspective on management/coaching?
DE: I have been heavily involved in coaching over the last few years with Tipperary and I would have a massive grá for coaching. My managerial experience would mainly have been with my club team at home (guiding Kildangan to a first-ever Tipperary SHC in 2020), but I have been with very high performing teams for the last three years, working with some really good mentors. I am in touch with my leadership style, and leadership in general has formed part of my studies over the last few years, not just from a hurling perspective but from an educational perspective too. With my day job (Principal at Puckane NS), I lead a good number of people, and it is all transferrable into leading a team. Over the next while, leading Wexford and a very professional backroom is going to be a nice challenge that I am really looking forward to.
RF: What was the thinking behind your backroom team in terms of settling on selectors Willie Cleary and Niall Corcoran, with Billy Walsh too, along with strength and conditioning coach Graham Byrne?
DE: I was looking at creating a nice mix, and I still hope to add some people over the next while. It is a very important process. But with the help of Wexford GAA’s High-Performance Committee and Wexford GAA officials, we have been able to secure some very good people. Modern day hurling requires a lot of thinking, tactical nous and expertise in all areas on and off the pitch, and that formed my thinking around the backroom.
RF: You have little time to bed-in, with the Walsh Cup coming on stream just after Christmas before the National League follows quickly.
DE: It is such a compact season now, that we go back training in mid-December, the league is six weeks after that, and the league is fairly rapid fire with six group games and then a semi-final and final. And then you are straight into round-robin Leinster championship. And there will be one or two games in the Walsh Cup too. So the players need to be fit and healthy for a short period of time, and keeping bodies right and keeping bodies on the field is going to play a big part in how the season pans out both in Leinster and the All-Ireland campaign.
RF: What are your objectives for season one?
DE: We definitely have a tough league group with some top-class games, so I am really looking forward to that, number one. Winning Leinster in 2019 was such a massive thing, so that is definitely a target. The All-Ireland series is going to be very difficult. Limerick are obviously top of the pile at present. But if Wexford can win a Leinster title, then we will have a right shot at the All-Ireland series. Being honest, our focus is on the league campaign and attacking the Leinster round-robin, because again, with Covid the last two years, the round-robin is a new challenge again. Even though players are used to it, they are players from three years ago, and every team has changed since. So it is going to need a new fresh approach, and definitely in Wexford we are going to need a few more bodies able to take the field in championship.