independent

Monday 16 December 2019

No margin for error

Hurlers primed for a big Parnell Park battle with Dubs

Wexford’s Rory O’Connor with the Bob O’Keeffe Cup at the Leinster championships launch in the Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel
Wexford’s Rory O’Connor with the Bob O’Keeffe Cup at the Leinster championships launch in the Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel

Brendan Furlong

Wexford have no room for error when they travel to Parnell Park on Sunday to take on Dublin in their opening Leinster senior hurling championship round robin game (3 p.m.).

The visitors will be boosted by the availability of fit again midfielder, Diarmuid O'Keeffe. The St. Anne's clubman has been recovering from a dead leg received in a club league game in the week following the county's league quarter-final elimination at the hands of Galway.

The injury was so severe that it forced him to sit out his club's four championship games in April, but despite this setback he has returned to full training over the past few weeks, and it's now expected that he will be considered for selection from the start.

Full-forward Conor McDonald, who has been nursing a groin strain that has limited his training, is expected to be fully fit to renew his battle with Dublin's Eoghain O'Donnell, now considered one of the top full-backs in the game.

But Ferns St. Aidan's attacker Paul Morris has been ruled out of the game. Morris had recovered from a knee problem, but then injured his other knee during the club championship.

That's expected to keep him sidelined for a further two to three weeks.

Dublin have had the benefit of an opening round game but, having gone under to a five-point defeat to a depleted Kilkenny outfit, this Wexford clash has turned into a must-win game for the home side.

A second successive defeat would practically end their interest in the championship campaign.

While Dublin are believed to have their best team available for some time, the playing of the game in Parnell Park is sure to influence the end result.

Given the tight nature of the ground, the game will most likely turn into a physical battle in the middle third of the pitch.

Wexford have not had the most impressive of records against Dublin over the past ten years, so in order to achieve a victory they will need to take their game to another level, even reaching greater heights than those which helped them match the top sides during the course of their Division 1A league games.

Parnell Park is one of the tightest pitches in the championship, matching that of Walsh Park, which saw the Waterford versus Clare clash turn into a huge battle around the middle area of the pitch, something that's not lost on Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald.

'Given the pitch size and the nature of the Parnell Park pitch, this is going to be a real battle in the middle third,' he said.

'It's going to be a real physical battle, of that there's no doubt, but we have prepared well and are looking forward to the game.'

Having attended Dublin's game with Kilkenny, Fitzgerald is in no doubt that they will bounce right back.

'Dublin played really well for 40 minutes,' he added.

'They possibly should have been more ahead at half-time, missing a second penalty, but they allowed Kilkenny to take over in the second-half.

'But having said that, Mattie Kenny has them well organised.

'They looked a very good side for that 40 minutes so they have much to work on, but we know exactly what we have to do to get a result.

'I've been very happy with the preparations. The players are happy, and they are looking forward to the game.

'The pundits have written us off for this year's championship, so we have much to prove, but it's going to be a huge challenge,' Fitzgerald added.

Despite maintaining their league status, Wexford will still need to qualify for an All-Ireland semi-final in order to put that All-Ireland quarter-final hoodoo to bed, and satisfy the appetite of hardline supporters.

Seeking a first provincial title since 2004, who could blame Davy Fitzgerald for looking on his side's opening game with the Dubs as being crucial to their championship prospects?

This clash will give a taster for what is to follow, but a defeat would put them under huge pressure having to travel to Galway seven days later, prior to their first home game with Carlow.

Meanwhile, as Wexford footballers try to come to terms with their opening round championship defeat to Louth, the side has been hit with the defection of Michael O'Regan from the squad.

The Glynn-Barntown player, who has struggled with injury, leaving him unable to acquire the highest level of fitness, decided to opt out of the squad in the lead-up to the Louth game.

The footballers now await the qualifier draw before learning their next round opponents.

Wexford People

Most Read

News