Tuesday 23 January 2018

Minors seek final spot

Scallan preaches caution ahead of trip to Tullamore

Brendan Furlong

Conor Hearne and Rory O'Connor race after the ball in the win over Dublin
Conor Hearne and Rory O'Connor race after the ball in the win over Dublin

Having impressively seen off Dublin after extra-time, the Wexford Minor hurlers will be looking to continue their winning ways when they travel to O'Connor Park, Tullamore, this Saturday to take on Offaly in the provincial semi-final (3 p.m.).

The in-form Wexford side will be heartened by the manner of their defeat of Dublin, but manager Eamonn Scallan will still be seeking the same one hundred per cent effort to secure a final spot, leaving them in a healthy position to battle for the Leinster crown.

While the victory over Dublin was most welcome, it was the manner of it which was most heartening, as they hauled themselves back in the second-half when the game looked like slipping away from them, forcing extra-time with a late levelling point.

However, it was in extra-time that they dominated the highly-rated Dublin outfit, with a strong and powerful display of skilful hurling leading the winning scores.

At the start of the year, manager Scallan and his backroom team set out their stall, with a clear emphasis of bringing Minor hurling forward to another level and qualifying for a provincial final. Now they are just 60 minutes away from achieving that goal, but Offaly is the only matter on the agenda at the moment, as the midlands venue can be difficult to come away from with a win.

Winning against Dublin was huge for Wexford hurling but all that will be lost should they fail to Offaly. Wexford will hopefully bring their game to another level which is what is needed once they reach this stage of the provincial title race.

Offaly hurling may be licking its wounds at the moment. They will be looking towards their Minors to give the game a real and much-needed lift in the county which in itself will make this a tricky assignment for the Model county boys.

Wexford have some talented players right through the team with Darren Byrne, Eoin Molloy, Gary Molloy and Michael Codd particularly impressive in defence against Dublin, while midfielders Damien Reck and Barry O'Connor are proving an effective partnership.

In Rory O'Connor, Wexford have one of the brightest young forwards in this grade, while the hard-working Conor Hearne and Connal Flood in the half-forward line will trouble most defences.

Manager Scallan and his backroom team know what it takes to win games such as these. Having come through a hectic few weeks of club activity, Wexford report no serious injury concerns ahead of the Offaly clash, with a full squad to choose from.

'We've beaten Dublin but we are not in a provincial final yet, Scallan said. 'That has not been even mentioned by mentors or players. The players are level-headed enough to realise this is their first knockout game, there is no back door.

'We are going up there to meet a good Offaly team. I saw them against Westmeath and they looked a very formidable side. They were like the Offaly teams of old, blocking, hooking, with a high workrate. They are very strong physically down the middle which they had to be to go to Mullingar and beat Westmeath before a large home following.

'Wexford are in the same boat this year as a few years ago. We won at home and went to Portlaoise and lost to a very good Laois team. This is a good Offaly team and should we not hurl to our ability we will have a battle on our hands,' he added.

'Offaly got three well-executed goals against Westmeath as they bring movement and strength to the attack, which leaves them with the ingredients to cause trouble.

'We were happy with the display against Dublin but we will need to even pick up on that. We have a strong squad. When fatigue began to set in against Dublin we introduced subs and they made an impact. That shows the strength of our squad.'

Wexford People

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