Friday 20 September 2019

I fancy Power and his crew to cause quarter-final upset

Brendan Furlong
Brendan Furlong

Brendan Furlong: Hop Ball

Dublin may have taken football to a whole new level, having been repeatedly labelled with creating a one-team show in the Leinster Senior championship.

But there still could be some twists and turns along the way before the destination of the provincial title is decided.

As the remaining counties continue railing against that perception, the clash of Westmeath and Wexford in Cusack Park on Sunday will be looked upon as a meeting of the minnows, but yet either one of these sides could meet Dublin in a provincial final should everything go according to plan.

But the burning question is: have Wexford's young players been quick enough to adapt to the many styles now so prevalent in modern day football? Football continues to evolve and change. Teams adopt different styles to make themselves harder to beat and to try to compete at the top level.

Wexford will be trying to adapt to the challenges of the modern game. In so many ways the league dealt them a difficult hand. But now is the time to atone.

There was not enough intensity to their game in the earlier round league games, but they showed what they are capable of achieving, a standard they are capable of reaching, with that second-half performance against Tipperary, and a fine final round league victory on the road in Clonmel.

A repeat of that second-half performance, coupled with some improvement, would leave them ideally placed to shock the midlanders.

But this is the ultimate test of character for this Wexford side. It's been quite a while since Wexford have gone into a championship opener as complete underdogs, particularly against a side such as Westmeath whose own struggles over recent seasons have been well chronicled.

Separating the mood in the county with that in the camp is not too difficult. Manager David Power has brought a positive feel to preparations in the circumstances, a feel that will not be lost on the players. And since the league they have gone about their business quietly but professionally, having put in the preparations in both training and challenge games.

And since Westmeath are providing the opposition one has to respect the positive vibes emerging from the camp, and that is not showing any disrespect for the expected midlanders' challenge.

It's easy for supporters to blame management for the league debacle but in hindsight one has had time to reflect and the difficulties facing the new management, in having to rebuild a side that had lost so many key players over the previous two seasons, were obvious.

The Wexford players are well aware that they are seen as under-achievers following their league demotion but still that can work in their favour. They will now look a completely different side following the weeks of work put in by David Power and his backroom.

The players will by now realise that the ultimate responsibility lies with them. It's now with the players to deliver a performance of which I have no doubt they are well capable of doing even in the heat of championship battle.

I keep hearing about how Wexford should be playing this or that system based on what others are doing. My view is that the only structure they should look at is that of Dublin's, quick counter-attacks out of defence, with the ball travelling at speed either from foot or hand, whichever option is appropriate at the time.

The Wexford forwards can thrive on quick ball inside as they have the quality attackers in the likes of Ciarán Lyng, Ben Brosnan and Kevin O'Grady to tear open the Westmeath defence.

Inevitably, this trio will come under scrutiny, but the side also has other leaders with Brian Malone and Michael Furlong being their main men in defence, while much will also be expected of Michael O'Regan and Colm Kehoe along with the experienced Adrian Flynn.

Westmeath will try to bully Wexford at the outset, of that one can be sure. If Wexford are to put themselves in a winning position they must not only stand up to that but also win the physical battle.

They're big enough to do that. But the spirit must be right too. I think it will be which is why I fancy them to upset the odds.

Well done to the Senior hurlers who comfortably saw off the Westmeath challenge.

The victory was far more comfortable than the final eight-point winning margin suggests.

Wexford People