Saturday 25 November 2017

Minors a step from decider

Championship Special: Footballers tackling Louth

Brendan Furlong

Wexford Minor football manager John Nolan has a number of problems to contend with ahead of tonight's Leinster semi-final versus Louth
Wexford Minor football manager John Nolan has a number of problems to contend with ahead of tonight's Leinster semi-final versus Louth

At the start of the campaign few expected Wexford Minor footballers to figure in the last four of the provincial title race, but right now they find themselves just 60 minutes away from a decider when they clash with Louth in the Leinster championship semi-final at Innovate Wexford Park tonight (Tuesday, 7.30 p.m).

Having encountered so many initial problems, not least a heavy opening round defeat to Offaly, manager John Nolan managed to re-group with a strengthened squad to work their way through the back door.

Impressive victories over Wicklow and Carlow have set up a mouth-watering semi-final game with the Wee county who have impressed in their path to this stage of the championship.

While Wexford have gained some serious momentum, it has not been an easy task for Nolan and his backroom colleagues, who will also miss out on some key players for this huge clash.

This will leave him having to draw on all his managerial skills to bring his side to a level capable of delivering a victory, but still with home advantage they will be quietly confident of delivering a big 60 minutes in their bid to qualify for a provincial final.

The Wexford management are driven in their efforts to overcome the obstacles in their bid for a final spot. Unfortunately, they will have to field without corner-back Adam Hogan as the HWH-Bunclody player is on holidays, while substitute 'keeper Jack Quinn from the St. Patrick's club is also missing through holidays, along with Sarsfields clubman Cathal Kirwan. Drafted into the squad as substitute 'keeper is Jake Clancy, also from the Wexford town club.

To add to Nolan's problems, captain and full-forward Mick Molloy is doubtful with a knee injury, while David Goulson is just back from holidays, along with Dylan McVeigh, while ten of the squad have just completed their Leaving Certificate examinations - a factor that also hampered the side's preparations.

Nolan is still upbeat about his side's prospects, expecting them to deliver a big game on home soil, in the process giving under-age football in the county a real boost. He is confident the squad can deliver on their potential.

'Between everything it has just been very hard to get the type of preparation necessary for a game of this nature. We never got a chance to get a good run at preparations but hopefully the players can still produce a big game,' he said.

'While both Gavin Sheehan and Seán Nolan are also only back from holidays, I still feel the players will re-group to deliver a big game. Booking holidays early in the year, to be fair to parents and players, they may not have expected Wexford to be playing Minor football in July, but that is where we are, so let's hope we will still be playing in a few weeks' time.

'It's great to be playing football in the summer, as this is the ideal time for young players to express themselves, and they have been enjoying it. This is a collective squad effort and I believe they can do well. Some of the players will have to step up and provide leadership, but I feel we have those players,' he added.

'Louth will be tough. They are a fine side with a big midfield which is where there will be a huge battle. We have two fine midfielders in David Gouldson and Brian Deeny, two players who have been so influential.

'Louth will be a tough team to beat as they have shown real character in their games to date, but we will be ready to take on the challenge.

'Our midfield pairing is strong, and can influence any game, so it's vital that both Gouldson and Deeney are given the necessary supports. While bigger questions will be asked of our defence, we have a real leader in centre-back Eoin Porter. Eoin is a very intelligent player who is vital to us.'

Wexford will be anxious to exploit any weakness in the Louth defence and Nolan believes he has the attackers to do this.

The mentors will be relieved should Mick Molloy come through a late fitness test. 'Mick is a crucial player for us from full-forward and contributes so much to our attacking options. We also have an excellent forward in Jamie Myler, one of the best Minor forwards around, while Sam Wall and Jimmy Sutton have also contributed handsomely.

'But having said all that, this will be a real team effort. We have built our campaign on a squad effort. They have dealt impressively with the many challenges.

'Should they gain an early foothold this is a side capable of delivering a victory. Wouldn't it be great for Wexford football if they were secure a final spot?,' he added.

Wexford will not announce their side until just before the game which has a 7.30 p.m. start.

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