Flannery expects battle
Holders put Leinster title on line against Kilkenny champs
Oulart-The Ballagh joint manager Frank Flannery has accepted his side faces a mammoth challenge when they take on Kilkenny kingpins, O'Loughlin Gaels, in the AIB Leinster Club Senior hurling championship semi-final on Sunday (2 p.m.).
Flannery will take his charges to Innovate Wexford Park in defence of their provincial title knowing the challenge that will await, particularly given the fact that they come up against a strong, physical O'Loughlin Gaels outfit.
Defender Paul Roche is definitely ruled out having received a straight red card in their quarter-final victory over St. Rynagh's, while both veteran full-back Keith Rossiter, and goal-poacher supreme Nicky Kirwan, may yet make the game.
'Both Keith and Nicky (Kirwan) have a realistic chance of being fit, it's 50-50 really,' Flannery said.
'Keith has a recurring back problem, while Nicky has a Gilmore's groin injury, but both are making rapid progress.
'It would be a massive boost in confidence should the two players be available as they bring so much to the side. But Paul (Roche) will be a big loss as he is a real defender.'
Flannery was happy with the side's display against St. Rynagh's. 'We stepped up considerably on our county final, but then again Cloughbawn are a difficult side to play against, and they must be given credit.
'We successfully defended our county title. Now we are in bonus territory and certainly enjoying our hurling. We are now looking forward to O'Loughlin Gaels' challenge.
'Like all Kilkenny sides they will bring a huge physical presence to the game. I saw the Kilkenny semi-final and final. In the final they simply suffocated Ballyhale Shamrocks in the second-half.
'They are a big side, a quality hurling outfit, and will bring a huge challenge, but one we look forward to,' he added.
On the quarter-final victory over St. Rynagh's and his side's impressive second-half showing, Flannery noted:
'We play better into the wind as we have the experience, are able to control possession and use the ball. Certainly it's a plus for the side, but it's going to take a full 60 minutes to see off the Kilkenny champions.
'The players are putting in a huge effort. Take Rory Jacob. At 33 years of age his contribution was massive and the amount of ground he covered,' Flannery said.
'He got back to cover on more than 13 occasions which was a massive effort for him against Rynagh's. This is another challenge the players are looking forward to.
'We are the last Wexford club standing so hopefully the crowd will come out and support us. The players have put in a huge commitment. They are so ambitious and courteous that they deserve every support.'
O'Loughlin Gaels will include inter-county attacker Mark Kelly in their attack along with Mark Bergin, while former star Martin Comerford will also figure up front. The defence will be marshalled by former Kilkenny star defender and captain, Brian Hogan.
On the eventual outcome, Flannery said: 'This is a game that will go right down to the wire. It could even take extra-time to separate them as there's so little between them.'
The other semi-final between Cuala from Dublin and St. Mullins of Carlow will also take place on Sunday at 2 p.m., in Netwatch Cullen Park.
The Leinster decider will take place on Sunday, December 4.