Monday 16 September 2019

Billy Dodd's football analysis

Billy Dodd.
Billy Dodd.

The build-up to next Sunday's Senior football championship clash between Wexford and Westmeath is probably the most low-key affair in years from a Wexford perspective.

Last week the hurlers travelled to Cusack Park as overwhelming favourites while this week the roles will be reversed as the Lake county footballers will be expected to win. It has always been difficult to achieve a victory at Cusack Park, and next Sunday will be no different.

This Westmeath team operated at a higher level in Division 2 of the National League but were subsequently relegated. Their league form was patchy with impressive wins against provincial rivals Laois and Kildare, but they also shipped heavy defeats to Down and Meath.

They really got back on track with their first round championship win over Louth in Drogheda where they registered an impressive 3-14.

John Heslin was the outstanding performer on the day and the former Aussie Rules player will be the fulcrum of his team's attack on Sunday.

His nine-point contribution was only part of the story as he was also involved in setting up a number of other scores.

Former Laois and Offaly manager Tom Cribbin is in charge this year and an interesting member of his backroom team is Adrian Harrison, who was also involved in training the Cavan Under-21 squads that won four Ulster titles in a row.

Westmeath play with the now commonly favoured sweeper system and vary their game between delivering the ball early to Heslin and carrying it directly through the middle.

Traditionally they are strong in midfield and Ger Egan and Darragh Daly certainly continue that tradition (with a name like Ger Egan he just had to be a good footballer).

Wexford had similar indifferent league form that also resulted in relegation to Division 4, but a morale-boosting last game win away to Tipperary was the ideal kick-start to championship preparation. While the club hurling and football championship games affect the way the panel can prepare, it serves as a change of scenery for the players who can sometimes return refreshed and rejuvenated.

By all accounts training is going well and recent challenge games have been encouraging.

It is hard to predict what the actual team will be given the number of new players introduced in David Power's first season in charge.

Graeme Molloy is still not back to fitness and will be a major loss but the team has known that for a long time.

An intriguing question is whether the two Rosslare brothers, Naomhan and Tiarnan Rossiter, will both be on the field at the same time.

They are primed to follow in the footsteps of the great Fitzhenry brothers from Duffry Rovers, the O'Gormans from Taghmon, the Harringtons from Sarsfields and the Cullens from Gusserane.

There are many more but these are the most recent ones that came to my mind. It could be a memorable day for the Rossiter brothers with strong Boley breeding.

Having not seen the team play for a number of months, it is very difficult to assess how things will pan out on Sunday.

No doubt it will be extremely difficult but one thing never lacking in a Wexford football team over the last number of years has been spirit.

In recent years they have had outstanding away victories in Louth and Longford in the championship, so hopefully on Sunday they can continue that pattern.

The experienced players on the panel like Ciarán Lyng, Shane Roche, Adrian Flynn and Ben Brosnan will again be expected to lead by example, something they have done admirably over the last two years.

It would be a surprise to most observers but I think Wexford can win on Sunday.

Wexford People

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