Depleted Wexford face a huge task
Waterford unlikely to change system after Munster final hammering
Published 23/07/2016 | 00:00
Don't believe the hype, as it has been ramped up that Waterford will find it difficult to bounce back from their Munster final humiliation.
That won't be the case though, as Wexford face a huge task in what should be an enthralling All-Ireland Senior hurling championship quarter-final at Semple Stadium, Thurles, on Sunday (2 p.m.).
Wexford, unexpectedly, have become part of the All-Ireland series, but this should not take from their final round qualifier victory over Cork.
Such was the impression created that the Model county will be taken seriously by a Waterford side which still will have a real say in this championship, but they will fear the daunting task now facing them in the quarter-final.
When these two sides last met in the league earlier this year in Innovate Wexford Park, the Munster visitors edged through to a late one-point victory.
This will not be lost on Waterford no matter how they recover from their Munster final mauling as Wexford will be in their element going into what is a massive game for them as huge underdogs.
Semple Stadium should be a cauldron of Wexford purple and gold following the side's heroics against Cork, when the Model county army deserted the home of hurling, no doubt fearing the worst, in the process missing out on a part of history and the side's first victory over the Rebel county in 60 years of championship hurling.
While the penny will drop with the supporters, they should realise this is a huge challenge facing the Wexford men, who once again will field without their injured players.
The casualty list has been added to by the enforced absence of Podge Doran, out with a knee injury received in that Cork victory, while Aidan Nolan struggled with 'flu all week, having also aggravated his knee problem in his short stint on as a substitute against Cork. Also there is huge doubt still surrounding defender, Liam Ryan, who is recovering from a broken thumb.
Wexford boss Liam Dunne has had to deal with a growing injury list all season, as he already has long-term injured players in Andrew Shore, Shane Tomkins, Shaun Murphy and David Redmond.
All the focus this week will be on how Waterford recover from their Munster final mauling, in how they will try to get through to their players the need for a performance and consistency in their play, if they are to dismantle the Wexford challenge.
They will be somewhat boosted by their mid-week Under-21 victory over Clare, but the Wexford challenge will be a far more daunting one.
Wexford will be driving to lay their own stamp on the game from the opening exchanges, which is hugely important, particularly as they will be anxious to test any lack of confidence in their opponents.
On any given day a team can beat any other team, so Wexford will be anxious to repeat their Cork heroics, and demonstrate that they are up for a battle.
This is championship hurling, it is 15 against 15, so on any given day the team that performs the best deserves the result that they get.
Wexford have no reason to fear Waterford. When the two sides last met in the championship in Nowlan Park in the qualifiers back in 2014, Wexford emerged victorious. There is no reason, even with their depleted forces, why they cannot pull off a repeat of that result.
Derek McGrath's men will come into Sunday's game with a similar gameplan as they have adopted since last season, with a sweeper behind the centre-back. They will also be hopeful that this system can nullify the influence of Lee Chin as demonstrated against both Offaly and Cork, given that the Faythe Harriers clubman is the key cog in the Model county attacking wheel.
But Chin has enjoyed so much success in his two championship games to date that he will be huge in confidence going into this game. Along with bang in form Conor McDonald and Liam Og McGovern, they have the quality to test the opposing defence, while the direct running style of David Dunne is something new for the Waterford mentors to think about.
The Wexford defence will need to keep a tight handle on the Waterford attack. They have a solid full-back line led by team captain Matthew O'Hanlon who was outstanding against Cork, while centre-back Pádraig Foley is gaining in experience and improving with each game.
There's nothing between the sides as was evident in the league. Both sides will have their expectations going into this game. Wexford cast their injury problems to one side against Cork and they can offer a repeat against Waterford.
Many will give Wexford only a slim chance of victory, but it's as underdogs that the men in purple and gold are most dangerous.
Now whether they are good enough, and can deliver for 70 minutes, one will have to wait and see, but expect one mighty effort from Wexford.