Wednesday 24 January 2018

Naomh Eanna set to dive into unchartered waters

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Dean Goodison

Naomh Eanna dive head first into unchartered waters on Saturday afternoon when they face Oulart-The Ballagh in the Pettitt's Senior Hurling Championship quarter-finals at Wexford Park (2pm throw-in).

The Gorey boys achieved their first objective by retaining their senior status with a fantastic showing in the group stages. Now they are in bonus territory with nothing expected of them and have a shot at the Leinster champions.

Given that they put it up to now departed St Martin's last time out, the Pairc Ui Shiochain club clearly won't be overawed by the situation. There is ample talent in the team which is why they were able to pick up wins and be competitive in all of their group games.

But whose available talent can match-up to what Oulart-The Ballagh bring to the table? Ask neutrals who is their favourite performer for the Leinster champions and you'll get wide ranging responses, they simply have so many stars that make game winning contributions.

Naturally, like any top team, Oulart have their flat days. The performance against Cloughbawn in the round-robin being one of those occasions. Still, the end result was the same, and that kind of result comes down to pure quality and knowing that the hard yards have been put in.

There are probably still questions marks about who are Oulart's best sextet of forward, with several combinations tried in the group stages. However, that's healthy, there's serious competition for a few starting berths and that keeps everyone on their toes.

Can Gorey produce the shock of this, or any other, year? Never say never but it's hard to see the champions dethroned at this stage. If they can stay with them through the first half then anything is possible but realistically Oulart should win without any late scares.

On the other hand, Rapparees against Cloughbawn (Wexford Park, 3.30pm throw-in) is a meeting of two sides that are difficult to separate. Both have had their moments but neither are completely convincing.

Rapps started their group stages on fire but stuttered a little when their passage to the last eight was secured. That's natural but it's hard to turn it on and off at will. Almost contrary to that, the Bellefield boys have been consistent in their scoring.

In the group games they've scored between 14 and 19 times in all five, in those same games they concede between 13 and 20. That's a pretty tight set of figures suggesting their games have all been pretty close and that rings through with what's expected in this contest.

Cloughbawn gave Oulart a great game back in May but followed it with a loss to Buffers Alley, that's the Castleboro boys for you. All five games they have played have ended with four points or less between the sides, again suggesting that a cracking contest is in the offing.

So, with that all said maybe it's time for a draw? It certainly wouldn't be a surprise but there's something about the Rapp's that screams improvement. They are favoured to be an odd point ahead at the end but this is going to be an intriguing clash.

Two games are also down for decision in the Top Oil Intermediate A championship. St James' have the look of champions about them and they are expected to make it past Rathnure without too many issues in Bellefield on Saturday (3pm throw-in).

That's immediately followed by the meeting of St Patrick's and Taghmon-Camross. The Camolin side are going well and are probably slight favourites going into this tie but their opponents are on a role in both codes and picked to nab a win in a tight contest.

In Junior football Shamrocks and Cushinstown can both bounce back from hurling disappointment and advance to the last four. Oylegate will edge Glynn-Barntown if their focus doesn't wane while Blackwater and Monageer-Boolavogue might need extra-time to be separated.

Wexford People

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