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Friday 23 August 2019

Plenty left to play for

Hurlers and footballers both on the road next Sunday

Diarmuid O'Keeffe taking on Stephen Walsh in Sunday's Allianz Hurling League loss to Limerick in Innovate Wexford Park
Diarmuid O'Keeffe taking on Stephen Walsh in Sunday's Allianz Hurling League loss to Limerick in Innovate Wexford Park

The scenarios and potential implications aren't quite so grave, but for Wexford there's definitely more riding on Sunday's Allianz Hurling and Football League games than might have ordinarily been expected.

In one sense it's good that Wexford hurlers still have something to aim for, now playing for position in their division for their quarter-final slot. That is unless a result or two from other games go their way, as Limerick are now clear favourites to battle it out for promotion with Waterford, who have still to visit Innovate Wexford Park on March 22.

However, the footballers are in a far more precarious position. They were handed a lifeline with their one-point victory over Limerick, but given Sligo's huge win over Louth, it makes for a daunting task for their visit to Markievicz Park on Sunday.

Wexford are on two points along with Sligo and Limerick but with an inferior scoring difference, so nothing but a win would be sufficient to lift the side away from the bottom two.

The weekend results saw Wexford hurlers drop from top of the table to third spot, losing their one hundred per cent record to Limerick, who are now on five points along with Waterford, but having an inferior scoring aggregate to their opponents. Limerick have games to come against Offaly and Laois which should improve that given current form.

Wexford hurlers now have a week to turn it around as they visit O'Moore Park, Portlaoise, on Sunday for what has turned into a huge game in many respects.

But manager Liam Dunne is adamant they must move on and move quickly. 'You have just a week to turn it around. Promotion is now out of our own hands. We'll reflect on the positives, deal with the negatives, but we've got to move on. We have to go up to Laois and secure a win.

'That's the challenge for us as management and as players. We've got to re-group and go and take on the Laois challenge next Sunday.'

Quite what they will do only Dunne and his backroom team know, but he is adamant there will be changes.

'We had Limerick beaten on several occasions. We went eight points up in the first-half, and allowed them back in before half-time with a lucky goal. We allowed them get back level in the second-half, re-grouped and went three points up with seven minutes remaining, but we allowed them back again.

'We cleared three successive balls out of defence to unmarked Limerick players in midfield. They got their fourth goal from one of those misdirected clearances.

'For Laois there will be changes, of that there's no doubt. We'll have Andrew Shore back. Conor (McDonald) got some game time today. There are others needing game time. We'll decide the road to take during the week.

The Wexford Senior footballers they have a much more difficult situation to figure out. Three teams - Sligo, Limerick and Wexford - are grouped together on two points at the bottom of the table, so it's all to play for in the battle to avoid the drop.

Wexford, however, will have to plan without the services of corner-back Michael Furlong. The Adamstown clubman was sent-off on a straight red card which definitely rules him out of the Sligo game, along with possibly the following game against Fermanagh.

'It was good and the lads took on a lot of responsibility in the closing stages to get the win. It has been disappointing in the first three games I suppose but this win should help the players' confidence,' manager David Power said.

'Michael (Furlong) will be a loss for Sligo game but we just have to get on with it. The players have been working very hard over the months, they are a young side, a side in transition, so Sligo will be a huge challenge. I've heard about their big victory over Louth but in this league every game is so different.'

For Wexford footballers this is an opportunity to leapfrog out of the bottom two. While it's a difficult assignment, they should now be in a stronger frame of mind going into this game.

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