Under-21s bid to retain title
Cats aim to foil three in a row
Published 07/07/2015 | 00:00
Wexford manager J.J. Doyle will have his side on high alert as they try to win a third successive provincial title when they clash with arch-rivals Kilkenny in the Bord Gais Energy Leinster Under-21 hurling championship final at Innovate Wexford Park this Wednesday (7.30 p.m.).
Wexford have been forewarned that Kilkenny will be focusing in on three provincial titles in the space of four days, this following the success of their Senior and Minor sides in Croke Park on Sunday. But Wexford are well prepared both physically and mentally to meet the Kilkenny challenge in a game that has all the ingredients of being a real thriller.
There's no such thing as an easy game when Kilkenny provide the opposition.
Wexford may be backboned by the successful side of twelve months ago, but this will mean little to Kilkenny who have had their share of Minor success through those very same years.
As the game approaches, Wexford were relieved that all players involved with the Senior set-up have come through unscathed, which will leave manager Doyle with a full squad to choose from. This will provide Wexford with their greatest chance of winning three provincial titles in a row in this grade for the first time since 1969-'71.
When it comes to hurling, Kilkenny are the ones leading the way as they have come through a golden era, with their only barren grade in recent times being Under-21 where they are no doubt anxious to rectify their lack of success over the past three years.
And so the clash with the old enemy is sure to attract a huge crowd to the county grounds for a game that promises to provide a game of quality.
One would imagine that Wexford will go into this provincial final as favourites, but Kilkenny can never be written, given the steady stream of players through the grades which continues each year.
It is difficult to know just what Kilkenny will bring to the table, but their narrow semi-final victory over Carlow suggests that they are on a path towards redemption in this grade, which could make for a quite difficult evening for the home side.
The Wexford lads will be anxious to give the game of hurling a real lift in the county, following the Seniors' disappointing championship loss to Cork on Saturday evening.
Manager Doyle may shake up his team as they had to depend on an improved second-half display to see off the Offaly challenge, having accounted for Kildare in the quarter-final.
He has a very experienced spine to his team in players like Liam Ryan, Eoin Conroy, Pádraig Foley and Jack O'Connor in defence, who is bolstered by Simon Donohoe and Jim White, while Oliver O'Leary carries a deal of experience in goal.
In midfield they will be looking to Conor Devitt to give his side an edge, while player of the match in the semi-final, Kevin Foley, will lead the attack having emerged with 0-7 to his credit against Offaly.
On the fringe of the square, Conor McDonald will be hoping to return to goal-scoring form, but there could see a shake-up in attack as substitutes Cathal Dunbar and Tony French impressed on their semi-final introduction.
Wexford should have no fears about mixing it up with Kilkenny in this grade, as they have dominated the old enemy over the past two seasons, which along with home advantage should give them a decided edge when it comes to delivering a result.
This will be close but Wexford with their experience should qualify for an All-Ireland semi-final while also adding that elusive three-in-a-row to their trophy haul.