Wednesday 17 January 2018

Injuries leave our hurlers with a lot of gaps to be filled

On the line with Alan Aherne

Alan Aherne
Alan Aherne

Let's be honest about it: the outcomes of Saturday's double-header in Croke Park are impossible to predict, regardless of what's said or written between now and the first throw-in at 5.15 p.m.

That may be the case for the vast majority of games, and it's the reason why sport captivates so many people.

Nonetheless, nobody can determine with any degree of certainty what might unfold when our footballers and hurlers embark on their first outings of the new championship campaign.

The same fanfare doesn't surround this stage nowadays, given the fact that both sides will have at least one more game regardless of what happens against Kildare and Dublin respectively.

Nonetheless, the best way to make progress and build confidence is to win as many matches as possible, and we don't want to be out of contention for both provincial titles before the month of May has bid us farewell.

On the face of it, the hurlers will go into their clash with the Dubs up against it. A team in our position cannot afford to be without so many first choices because the strength in depth simply isn't there to plug all of the gaps.

There has been plenty of time to come to terms with the unavailability of David Redmond and Shaun Murphy, but the more recent losses will have hit very hard and one has to feel sympathy for the mentors.

Andrew Shore had provided the team with something they were lacking beforehand - a strong ball-winner up front - after his switch from defence to attack.

And when I saw Lee Chin sniping eleven points from play in Faythe Harriers' first two championship outings, I wondered would the mentors consider placing him in the number 11 role in the hope that he would do the same?

Alas, he is now rated a doubtful starter, although Ian Byrne may yet recover to assist the forwards which would be a boost. With Shane Tomkins - an unsung but very effective performer on this team - also under pressure, it doesn't paint a very encouraging picture.

Then, just when everyone thought it couldn't get any worse, the side's best newcomer, James Breen, pulled up with a hamstring injury on Sunday. He would have been a certainty for a starting spot at corner-back in my view, while Aidan Nolan is another big loss.

We can now only hope that a weakened Wexford manage to pull a rabbit from the hat. Opponents Dublin tend to blow hot and cold, and consistency has never been their friend.

They have to be regarded as favourites, but Clare and Waterford were in the same boat in 2014 when Wexford last scaled the championship heights so we are certainly travelling with some degree of a chance.

As for the footballers, I was heartened looking at the Allianz League Division 3 final between our opponents, Kildare, and Clare as the game developed into a shoot-out and the Lilywhites' defence was found wanting.

A similar type of game would suit Wexford I believe because we have a forward line capable of doing serious damage when the play is quite open, but they struggle to break down massed defences.

Certainly that was the case in the league when we recorded the highest tally countrywide despite the failure to gain promotion, embellished by huge scores against London and Wicklow.

Yet, the stumbling block came against the two sides with solid defensive structures, Antrim and Louth, as we ultimately failed to unlock them.

I believe our own backs are very susceptible to fast-breaking opponents also, so it remains to be seen whether or not Kildare radically alter their structure in the wake of that unexpected loss to Clare.

There has been little said about Wexford in the lead-up to the game which is understandable as rival boss Cian O'Neill seems to be a favourite with the national media and is never short of a word.

That should suit us just fine and I'd be surprised to see anyone tipping the Slaneysiders for a win in this one.

Still, if our experienced forwards see a lot of the ball and Daithí Waters has one of his big games, don't rule out a victory.

Wexford People

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