Tuesday 20 March 2018

Hurling backs in short supply

Squad depleted for Clare tie

Brendan Furlong

Davy Fitzgerald in full voice during Saturday’s defeat to Tipperary in Semple Stadium, Thurles
Davy Fitzgerald in full voice during Saturday’s defeat to Tipperary in Semple Stadium, Thurles

Wexfor manager Davy Fitzgerald is balancing player welfare with reality ahead of their huge clash with his native Clare in the Allianz Hurling League Diuvision 1A at Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday (2 p.m.).

The holding of the third level colleges competitions during the height of the league is brought into question as, not alone does if affect the Wexford set-up, but it also leaves the majority of counties, whether hurling or football, embroiled in a player welfare issue.

Sunday will see Fitzgerald having to plan possibly without the services of both Pádraig Foley and Aaron Maddock, with both involved in the Fitzgibbon Cup final 24 hours earlier along with another panel member, Joe O'Connor.

'It leaves me with a dilemma, Clare will be the same, whether to start Paudie or bring him in off the bench. Aaron would have been a first call, but I decided to rest him for Tipperary with the Fitzgibbon Cup final in mind. It's possibly the same for this Sunday.'

Fitzgerald is starved of defenders as already out of contention are Simon Donohoe (broken bone in hand) and Eoin Moore (ankle injury), while Willie Devereux (hamstring) is also a serious doubt. The St. Martin's clubman was forced to cry-off against Tipperary minutes before the start, having injured himself during the warm-up.

However, there will be no sweating on Jack Guiney as the Rathnure attacker has already been ruled out with a knee cartilage problem, that may necessitate an operation and will keep him out of the game for up to six weeks.

Fitzgerald will not yet hand Rory O'Connor a starting spot either. 'It was good to get Rory involved against Tipperary but he's still short of match fitness to start a game such as this.

'We will introduce him during the game, but Jack is definitely out, as are Simon and Eoin, while we'll wait on a fitness report on Willie.

'We are seriously short of defenders, leaving us possibly having to switch a forward back to defence. Colm Kehoe is almost match fit while Michael O'Regan is also progressing favourably, but defence is our problem,' Fitzgerald added.

'We are playing the form team of the moment. Clare will not fear coming to Wexford as they will believe they will beat us, but let's put them under pressure. Clare will be a massive challenge as they are the in-form team. I know what they are like.'

Fitzgerald was not too despondent with his first league defeat, saying he was delighted with the commitment and their battling qualities right to the end.

'Once we are competing we can deal with the challenges. We are able to compete, having showed that we are not out of our depth in this division, but we still need to eradicate the mistakes.

Fitzgerald said he did not think the six-point margin was a true reflection. 'I'm happy with the resilience the lads showed. They never gave up. We had a bad ten minutes before half-time but we came back in the second-half from being eight/nine points down.

'We created five goal chances, missed some frees, having conceded two soft goals. We will have to finish those goal chances. That's something we have to take from this game.

'We got it back to three points, had a chance of a levelling goal late on and missed it. They come down the pitch and stick one in the net.

'The thing with us is the mistakes. We were the cause of our own downfall with certain things. If you let a skilful team like Tipperary get half a chance, they're going to punish you. They have finishers. I'm delighted with the way the lads fought back, but we've got to learn from it.'

Meanwhile, Wexford Senior footballers travel to Glennon Brothers Pearse Park in Longford hoping to end their barren league spell, having lost their opening three games.

With defeats to Fermanagh, Sligo and Westmeath, Wexford now find themselves firmly rooted at the bottom of the table along with Offaly, so this is a huge game for Paul McLoughlin's charges.

Wexford have had to field practically a new-look, inexperienced outfit, and this was shown in their three losses, games in which they never looked like achieving a result.

Longford will prove yet another difficult assignment but McLoughlin will be seeking improvement from his charges in an effort to collect a first brace of points.

Wexford People

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