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12th Jun 2023

“I go home and I’ve a five-month old child there so it’s very much a case of leave your hurls at the door.”

Niall McIntyre

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Conor McDonald made his first Championship start for Wexford in 2014, in the Leinster championship against Antrim.

Just a teenager at the time, the Gorey sharpshooter showed his class that day by scoring 2-2 from play.

If nothing else, a debut like that burdened McDonald with the weight of expectation thereafter but he was unfazed, going on to play a key role in Wexford’s march to that year’s All-Ireland quarter finals.

McDonald scored a further pivotal goal against Clare in that brilliant debut season and from there, he became a permanent fixture on the Wexford team.

From then to now, sure as the sky is blue, he’s been their ball-winning dynamo on the edge of the square.

Until suddenly, he wasn’t.

The season just gone was a strange one for Wexford, ending on the high note of a relegation-saving win over bitter rivals Kilkenny. A relegation saving win – nothing captures the strangeness of it all like quite that statement.

But perhaps strangest of all was seeing Wexford start a championship game without McDonald on the team. They did against Dublin this year and, speaking on The GAA Hour Show on Monday, McDonald explained how he took the news.

“This was my tenth year for Wexford. It was the first game I hadn’t started.

“It was different, a different mindset. To be told on the Thursday night that you weren’t in, it was extremely difficult, hard to put into words.

“Hard to know how to feel or how to act because I’ve never been in the situation before so I had to really have a look at myself and say, there’s probably a reason for it, whether I agree with it or not.

“I didn’t agree with it. But you’re never going to agree with it.”

He says that his newborn child helped distract him from the news.

“It was difficult but when you’re in that situation, you just have to come in, make an impact whenever you’re called upon.

“There’s probably been times where I’ve looked across the dressing room and other lads have wanted to throw the toys out of the pram, and you’re trying to get them on side, and trying to get their body language right.

“So I had to practice what I preached basically in that sense.

“It was extremely difficult but you go home, of all years, I go home and I’ve a five-month old child there so it’s very much a case of leave your hurls at the door,” he says.

“I probably would have thought about it a little bit more if I wasn’t in that situation. It was a lot to process but the management have to make difficult calls all the time,” he added.

Getting dropped became immaterial to McDonald when they were beaten by Westmeath a fortnight later, a loss that left them staring relegation right in the face.

“We were getting flak from fans, it was probably grand being in Dublin you know that there’s not too many people pulling you aside there.

“You go into a shop, everyone’s kind of looking at you funny, there’s no-one pulling you aside saying best of luck at the weekend – it’s more ‘you need to show up now.’

“After the Westmeath game, it was just do-or-die. Talk about the Westmeath game, not starting and things like that, come the Kilkenny game, that stuff was all out the window.

“It was just do-or-die for your career, no-one wanted to be known as the team that was relegated and that’s what we were facing down the barrel of. Thankfully, we stood up.”

Listen to the full show here.

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