Facing the Champs
Footballers rank outsiders for Croker clash with Dubs
WEXFORD G.A.A. is gearing up for what will be another huge weekend with both the Senior hurlers and footballers involved in crucial championship games which could define the remainder of the summer campaign.
Reigning provincial and All-Ireland champions, Dublin, will come face to face with Wexford in what is a repeat of last year's Leinster football final, the story of which is well known as the Model county let a long-awaited provincial title slip from their grasp.
But it should act as an incentive to Wexford who are reporting a clean bill of health, with manager Jason Ryan announcing that midfielder Andrew Shore will be the only player unavailable.
Ryan is happy with the fitness levels of Ciarán Lyng, Paddy Byrne and Aindreas Doyle who were unable to start the Longford replay, while Michael O'Regan came through the Under-21 hurling game on Wednesday last, but still has to test his shoulder in football training.
Another huge boost is that team captain and centre-back David Murphy is back fully fit and ready to take on his role in the centre of defence.
Ryan and his backroom team have an unenviable job in attempting to plan the downfall of the Dubs but they are looking forward to the challenge.
'We've had many ding-dong battles with the Dubs in recent years. Now it's a case of having the mindset right. We will have to look to how competitive we have been over the past few years, and bring the positives forward, which would be a huge plus,' Ryan said.
'From the start we'll have to look to keeping the game as close as possible and the longer we are competitive the better chance we'll have coming into the closing stages.
'But still there has to be a certain amount of realism to what is ahead of us. We'll have to look to keeping it tight in defence, as we know how dangerous their forwards are given the least bit of space.
'Our midfield has been working very hard and the same could be said of the whole squad. It's a huge challenge but the lads are really looking forward to it. We are part of a double header which should bring a crowd of in excess of 50,000 which should give Wexford an extra push.
'I appeal to the Wexford supporters to travel in huge numbers. The boys have put in a huge effort and they would appreciate the sight of plenty of purple and gold around the stadium.'
The Senior hurlers get the weekend under way on Saturday with a clash against Carlow in phase one of the qualifiers at Wexford Park (2.30 p.m.).
Having breezed past Westmeath in the preliminary qualifier round, Liam Dunne is still adamant that there will be more changes in the team. He made five changes in personnel prior to the Westmeath clash. Five changes may sound a lot but some were predictable.
'We had five changes for Westmeath but there will be more changes for Carlow. I was satisfied with the victory last Saturday as
' we can only beat what is put in front of us. The G.A.A. for some reason only known to themselves decided we were not Division 1A standard even though we maintained that status in the league. We are where we are, but we'll give Carlow every respect as they beat us in the league only two seasons back.'
Another victory for Wexford would send them in against the big guns in phase two of the qualifiers when they would be only 70 minutes away from an All-Ireland quarter-final.
Wexford now have an opportunity to maintain the free-flowing hurling against a Carlow side that is coming off a bad run of form. Dunne is of the opinion that there are still positions up for grabs so it will be interesting to see his starting 15 for this occasion.
Dunne's story is well-known. He is building for the future and has introduced a number of young faces, and it seems as if this is set to continue. These types of games tend to be delicately balanced but Wexford have a spring in their step at the opportune time.
Wexford carry no injury worries so they should be able to weave enough magic to bring them through to the next phase.