We have the talent to secure second title at this grade
Published 08/09/2015 | 00:00
Before I move to the important business of next weekend's mouth watering game in Thurles I must congratulate our neighbours Kilkenny on securing yet another All-Ireland title on Sunday last.
"Cometh the hour, cometh the man", and Kilkenny again showed incredible character to weather a raft of high profile retirements to completely nullify the Galway challenge in the second half.
They are and will be the yard stick for other counties to judge themselves by and I suppose the disappointing aspect for the rest of us is the ease at which they landed their 36th title.
Their strength in depth has diminished slightly but the gap between them and the rest seems to be reopening and there is an onus on all would be contenders to address this in 2016.
Changing codes, before moving forward, I feel Diarmaid Connolly's clearance to play against Mayo didn't reflect well on our disciplinary procedures and I wonder would the same leniency have been granted to a player maybe playing at Junior level under the same circumstances.
The next step for Wexford and Limerick's rehabilitation is the All-Ireland Under-21 final next weekend and I am really looking forward to an atmospheric battle between two of the best supported teams in the Country. J.J. Doyle's has done a wonderful job at this grade over the past few years but, knowing the man, he will not get rest until the ultimate honour is achieved.
Limerick will provide a physically talented challenge having had a tough Munster campaign and a lot of their players have had success (provincially) at Minor level over the past couple of years.
My mind can't help but wander to a time 29 years ago (my God I am getting old) when I headed off with a group of players to play in similar final against Galway.
Our full-back that day was the late, great, Michael Foley who was a wonderful sporting ambassador and a great man to have in your corner. Michael's son Kevin will lead our forwards into the Limerick storm and another Rapparees man, Liam Ryan, will proudly wear the number three shirt against the Shannonsiders, so it will be a very special occasion for the Cathedral town.
"Good luck to ye young Kevin", and to the Foley and Doyle families who will be proud people in the Tipp capital come throw-in time.
This will be a hard fought encounter and in Diarmaid Byrnes, Barry O'Connell, and Gearoid Hegarty Limerick have a strong half-back line and key to the outcome will be the winner of the battle with our wonderfully talented trio of Kenny, Foley, and Cashe.
Liam Ryan's battle with Tom Morrissey will also be worth the admission money and we need to be extra vigilant to curtail the high profile Cian Lynch, Ronan Lynch (tremendously talented at Minor level), and David Dempsey who knocked over four points against Galway. Make no mistake however, the key to victory will be our own performance and approach because we have the talent to secure the county's second All-Ireland title at this grade.
I feel we have an edge at midfield and up front we need to work very hard to alleviate the definite focus Limerick will have on Conor McDonald. Paudie Foley is a towering centre-back and is playing the hurling of his life at the moment and if he can curtail the aforementioned Cian Lynch (if he plays centre-forward) it will go a long way to determining the outcome. If Wexford can maintain the intensity shown in last year's decider I feel we have the edge in talent to shade it but make no mistake Limerick will turn this into the battle of our lives and lapses in concentration like that which contributed to our semi-final wide total would be fatal on the day.
Finally, a quick thought for Gavin Bailey who heartbreakingly loses out due to injury. It is very hard to console a player at this time but suffice it to say we will see, hear and write a lot about this brilliant young Ferns man over the next few years in a career that is only just beginning.