Battle to reach last four
First two Senior hurling quarter-finals at the weekend
Published 10/09/2016 | 00:00
Pre-match sentiments tend to be dominated by the various battle cries.
Next Sunday's two Pettitt's Wexford senior hurling championship quarter-finals will be no different.
Given all the pressure that will be on Oulart-the-Ballagh six days later, supporters, particularly the neutral following, will be watching the two match-ups, St. Martin's and Ferns St. Aidan's, along with Glynn-Barntown and Buffers Alley at Innovate Wexford Park, with lots of interest.
Ferns had a tentative start to the championship campaign but eventually managed to edge their way through to the quarter-final stage, while St. Martin's talented young side, have laid down many markers as they continue their bid for that elusive 'double' which makes the game all the more interesting.
While failure for either side will not be contemplated this week, the same goes for the second quarter-final, where once championship stalwarts, Buffers Alley, wil come fact to face with the men from the Cathedral town, Rapparees.
It' wont be one-way traffic in either game so if given a dry sod and suitable hurling conditions one can rest assured of having two enthralling quarter-final clashes, between sides that are quite evenly balanced.
Interestingly St. Martin's are the one side that are being tipped as serious contenders to deny Oulart-the-Ballagh retaining their title. One can fit in with that assumption given the amount of quality and talented young players at their disposal.
But it wont be easy as it will take all the talents of players like Jack O'Connor, Joe O'Connor, Rory O'Connor, Harry O'Connor, along with the talented and in-form Joe Coleman, experienced Daithi Waters and Ciaran Lyng, for them to cast aside the expected strong Ferns challenge.
Ferns have their injury problems with huge doubts surrounding James Tonks, while Gavin Bailey is ruled out with a recurring knee ligament injury, that rules him out of hurling for twelve months. This coupled with the absence of Ian Byrne who is now domiciled in Dubai.
Few sides can afford the loss of such key players, as even Kilkenny found out, which will make it hugely difficult for Ferns to upset the favourites. It all amounts to what should be a St. Martin's victory.
One needs no reminding of the exploits of those great Buffers Alley teams of the past, but it's going to take a similar type effort, if they are dispose of the Glynn-Barntown challenge in the second quarter-final.
When one is talking of Buffers Alley, the Doran family immediately springs to mind, so it will be important to the side they should have Willie Doran available, having been wrongly dismissed in their final group game.
But while his presence would mean much to the Alley challenge, they still can call on some quality players in the likes of Andrew Kenny, Ciaran Kenny and Bobby Kenny, who form a formidable half line of defence, with Oliver O'Leary one of the best shot stoppers in the championship, while up front they will be looking towards the likes of Sean Og Whelan, Tomas O'Leary and Shane Grannells to make an impact.
At least Glynn-Barntown have an excellent shot stopper in inter-county netminder, Mark Fanning, who along with defenders, Padraig Donnelly, Michael O'Regan and Craig Doyle, will make life difficult for any attack. Veteran Michael Doyle is enjoying a new lease of life in midfield, with his aerial dominance doing so much to bring attackers like Gary Moore, John Lacey, Matthew Joyce and Rowan White, into the game. Should Doyle galvanise his charges with quality possession out of midfield, Glynn-Barntown would expect to edge it through. But should Willie Doran be available the Alley confidence will soar.
Perhaps it will take a replay to separate these two sides.
The two remaining quarter-finals, Oulart-the-Ballagh (holders) and Naomh Eanna, along with Rapparees and Cloughbawn, will take place on Saturday, September 17, at Innovate Wexford Park.
An intriguing game takes place this Saturday afternoon next at Innovate Wexford Park, when Faythe Harriers will be bidding to preserve their long held senior status, with a relegation play-off against St. Anne's (Rathangan).