Wednesday 18 September 2019

Juniors face Royals in decider

Donal Shanley has been added to the Wexford squad ahead of Thursday's Leinster Junior football championship final against Meath in Innovate Wexford Park (7.30pm).

The talented St. Fintan's all-rounder is back on home soil after his first year attending college in the United States, and he will increase the options available to manager David Power and his fellow mentors for the clash against the Royals.

By the same token, three exam-tied players who missed the semi-final win away to Longford are also back in the reckoning.

Glen Malone, younger brother of Senior star Brian, figured in the back line during the first round win over Wicklow while Kilanerin's Niall Hughes contributed a couple of points from wing-forward.

The third man to return, St. Anne's netminder Richard Cleary, was an unused substitute against the Garden county, with the team led by number one custodian Anthony Masterson who was also captain when Wexford last won this particular title in 2007.

On that occasion they defeated Dublin in Thursday's venue before overcoming Mayo and eventually succumbing to Cork in the All-Ireland final in Dungarvan.

Senior manager David Power and his backroom colleagues, John Power and Mick Walsh, also have charge of this Junior team, and their youth policy and emphasis on development has certainly paid off to date.

While no fewer than four of the players used in the win over Wicklow were subsequently promoted to the Senior side and used in the loss to Westmeath - Naomhan Rossiter, Joey Wadding, Syl Byrne - the backroom team resisted the urge to lose even more of their second string on Sunday week in Mullingar.

Meath won the last clash between the counties at this level in Wexford Park in 2009 by 2-15 to 1-10, and they looked to be dead and buried in the semi-final until launching a late comeback in true Royal county fashion.

Louth, who had seen off reigning All-Ireland champions Cavan in round one, appeared to be cruising until a late burst by their neighbours was crowned in the last minute when captain, corner-back and former Senior regular Chris O'Connor kicked the winning point (2-11 to 0-16).

Wexford's barren spell at this level has been well documented as, from the All-Ireland semi-final of 2007 all the way up to this year's Leinster first round, they didn't win a game, exiting at the first hurdle for seven successive seasons within the province.

Meath haven't appeared in a final for a decade though, so they won't boast any great advantage in terms of experience.

With the big Senior qualifier against Down coming just two nights later at the same venue, it would be am enormous fillip for Wexford football to claim a much-needed victory in this encounter.

Wexford People