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Friday 17 January 2020

Hurlers all set to experiment

Shadow sides for Walsh Cup

Defender James Breen (right) isn’t part of the squad at present
Defender James Breen (right) isn’t part of the squad at present

Brendan Furlong

Wexford will be in experimental mode when they take on old rivals Kilkenny in the Bord na Móna Walsh Cup Senior hurling semi-final in John Locke Park, Callan, on Sunday (2pm).

The injured duo of joint captains, Lee Chin and Matthew O'Hanlon, will both be absent, while midfielder Diarmuid O'Keeefe (travelling) will also miss out.

Manager Davy Fitzgerald will also be hampered by the absence of any players involved in the Fitzgibbon Cup this weekend, leaving him with little option but to draw on his extended squad.

Kilkenny will also be fielding a weakened side, having three outfits involved in the forthcoming All-Ireland Club finals, while the Fitzgibbon Cup will also hamper their final team selection.

To add to Wexford's selection dilemma, both James Breen and Rory Higgins are also out of the squad.

'James has had his injury problems and is finding it hard to make a commitment given the extra workload, while at the moment, Rory's decision is my decision. That's how it stands at the moment relating to both players,' Fitzgerald said.

Both sides will be opening their respective Allianz League campaigns on January 25/26, with Wexford away to Laois under lights in Portlaoise on the Saturday evening, while Kilkenny will host Dublin 24 hours later.

Given that Wexford will entertain Kilkenny in the league at home on February 15, both managers will be reluctant to show their hand in Sunday's clash, which will be quite evident by the experimental nature of both sides expected to line-out.

Fitzgerald said he will have a severely depleted squad for the game. 'We have 15 to 16 players who are already out, either through injury or Fitzgibbon.

'We have roughly 19 players available at the moment, some of whom have 'flu or are recovering, which may see me calling in some players. That's it at the moment. We will be unable to sort a team until the weekend.'

However, of more significance, Fitzgerald is looking ahead to the league with a degree of apprehension given the injuries in the camp.

'Both Lee Chin and Matthew O'Hanlon have not returned to full training. Lee is doing rehab at the moment, while Matthew suffered a further injury over the weekend.

'He is just back doing light training following a knee ligament injury received in the All-Ireland sem-final loss to Tipperary. He suffered a hip setback which has led to him missing the last three training sessions.

'At the moment it's highly unlikely that either player will be available for the opening two rounds of the league.

'Dee (O'Keeffe) will not be back from travelling until the end of January and will need several weeks of training before he returns. At the moment it looks as if we will be short key players for the opening three rounds of the league.'

Following the Walsh Cup, Fitzgerald has a busy programme planned for the squad.

'We have a number of games against inter-county sides lined up over the coming weeks. I'll keep those under wraps for the moment,' he said.

Fitzgerald is looking no further than the league at present.

'We have had four weeks of intense training, before easing off over the next two weeks, and then we will up our preparations once again. The intense training will soon be complete and then we'll look towards the league.

'We are not even thinking about championship at present. We will always be aiming to be the best we can be since little separates the sides in the championship, Munster or Leinster, with Leinster now more competitive than ever.'

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