Sunday 26 January 2020

Mac's ankle is a worry

Key attacker and sweeper Murphy rated ‘50-50’ for final

Conor McDonald taking on T.J. Reid during that memorable win against Kilkenny
Conor McDonald taking on T.J. Reid during that memorable win against Kilkenny

Brendan Furlong

Now that Galway are known as Leinster final opponents, there's a lot to look forward to as Wexford continue their preparations for their return to Croke Park on Sunday week (4 p.m.).

At the start of the season few would have envisaged the respective pairings in both the Leinster and Munster finals, but Wexford are deservedly where they are, and can look forward to huge support come final day.

As the intensity of preparations continues, Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald faces an anxious wait over the next 48 hours as he monitors the injury concerns of both defender Shaun Murphy and attacker Conor McDonald.

McDonald has been carrying an ankle injury since the semi-final victory over Kilkenny which has left him unable to participate in training, while Murphy received a leg injury at last Friday evening's training session, which forced him to sit out the remainder of the weekend's activity.

'Both players are 50-50 for the final,' Fitzgerald said. 'Both will be in Santry Sports Clinic by this evening (Tuesday) for scans. Then, and only then, will we know the extent of the injuries.

'We really don't know at this stage but we are keeping our fingers crossed. It will be an anxious 24 hours, but hopefully they will get the all clear.'

Fitzgerald said the westerners were awesome on Sunday. 'There may have been no goals, but Offaly pulled eight and nine players back in defence and still Galway picked off some awesome points from a variety of angles and distances.

'They are the form team of the championship as they have played in two All-Ireland finals, four Leinster finals and won the National League.

'The first 20 minutes in the final will be huge. Galway will be out to try and hammer us. They believe they should have beaten us in the league having lost a seven-point lead. They don't rate Wexford hurling, as they believe they should have won by double that score.

'It will be a tough ask. We are a young side, have made rapid progress, far quicker than expected, with league promotion and now a provincial final. We would have taken that at the start of the year but we are keeping our feet firmly on the ground. We have to be realistic,' he added.

Meanwhile, a hamstring injury has ruled Colm Kehoe out of Wexford's opening Senior football qualifier game with Limerick in the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday (3 p.m.).

The Cloughbawn midfielder picked up the injury in the defeat to Carlow and has been unable to make the necessary progress to come into contention for selection.

Wexford's qualifier record has not been impressive but they will feel this is an opportunity to return to winning ways having secured league promotion.

First on the agenda though is Wednesday's Leinster Under-21 hurling semi-final against Carlow in Innovate Wexford Park at 7.30 p.m.

Rathnure's Brian Quigley is the only slight doubt, having received a hand injury in the quarter-final victory over Offaly which has curtailed his training.

However, the Wexford mentors are confident that he will be fit for the game, but they will leave a decision on his availability as late as possible to give the player every chance.

'We are confident that he should be ready for the game,' said selector Shane Carley, adding that he is the only fitness doubt.

Clearly happy with the side's display against Offaly, Carley envisages little alterations if any for this semi-final outing.

'We have prepared well so we do not expect any real change from the quarter-final. We will, hopefully, have a full squad to select from.

'We are under no illusions about the challenge facing us. Carlow, like Wexford, are on a high following their Christy Ring Cup victory, with many of the Under-21s in that set-up, so it will be a huge challenge but one we are looking forward to,' he added.

Wexford will be backboned by a number of quality hurlers including players like goalkeeper Darragh Hughes plus Darren Byrne, Aaron Maddock, Brian Quigley and Gary Molloy in defence, while in attack they have the in-form Cathal Dunbar, along with Stephen O'Gorman and Joe Coleman.

Darragh Pepper also impressed as a second-half substitute against Offaly so will stake a strong claim to start on this occasion.

While Carlow have made considerable progress in hurling, it will be a surprise should Wexford fail to qualify for the provincial final against either Kilkenny or Westmeath.

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