Tuesday 21 January 2020

We would be foolish to approach game with misguided confidence

Tom Dempsey
Tom Dempsey

Tom Dempsey's Hurling Analysis

Cork versus Tipperary heralded an excellent start to the Munster championship, and we have been since serenaded by a chorus of hurling being all about Munster from our southern pundits over the past couple of weeks.

While in no way demeaning the magic of the south, I would contend that throughout my lifetime Wexford and Kilkenny have provided as many memorable games as anything witnessed in Thurles or further afield.

Yes, the Cats have dominated the province for well over a decade now and we have seen a little drop in excitement levels because of this, but the '70s, '80s and '90s rivalry are the visions that come to my mind when I think about the small ball game.

Admittedly we came out on the wrong side of things far too often, but the excitement of heading to Croker to see those epic games has been the major trigger of my passion for hurling and I know I echo the feelings of many of my generation.

So lads, just for the record, Leinster hurling hasn't been too bad either, with Offaly, Laois and Dublin playing their part and Galway giving it a recent boost in retaining past glories.

Don't forget either that teams in this part of the world aren't the only ones who suffered at the hands of the great Kilkenny sides over the past decade.

Since Davy's arrival and the championship draw, the only show in town in the south-east has been June 10 and Innovate Wexford Park and, since our men kept their side of the bargain by beating Laois, things are beginning to reach fever pitch with the scramble (would controversy be a better word?) for tickets being the foremost topic of conversation since last Wednesday.

My old friend Martin Storey was pictured in a long line queueing for tickets. Knowing Martin's passion, if unsuccessful it would take more than the surrounding walls to keep him out on Saturday evening, and nobody with a heart would prevent Rosaleen from getting in.

I also know of a prominent club Chairman who has taken a stewarding crash course in an effort to be inside the ground at the all-important throw-in.

Joking aside, whilst it is fantastic for the game to see such interest, I do hope that all genuine fans can be accommodated to witness what should be a wonderfully atmospheric occasion.

To the game itself and where do we stand? On a clear but sobering note, Kilkenny are outright favourites and despite the successes we have had this year to date, they are still the team which contested last year's final and won the previous year.

They have turned us over so often that we would be foolish to approach the game with misguided confidence.

I saw a few of their players leave Nowlan Park after the league clash and you could see the annoyance in their faces, so two months of Brian Cody training and the re-appearance of Michael Fennelly and Ger Aylward will see a very different set of men enter Innovate Wexford Park on Saturday evening.

It is always hard to second guess how things will play out before the teams are announced, but whereas Kilkenny have a forward line from hell (from a Wexford point of view), their defence is not entirely settled and this is further compounded by the rumoured absence of Pádraig Walsh.

Given that thought, the key to this game will be how each defence will cope with the opposing attack.

Kilkenny have the ability and will come out to set markers early, and our ability to be in the game 15 minutes into the second-half is vital.

We will deploy Shaun Murphy as sweeper and most likely man mark as in the league.

The down side of this is that if Matthew O'Hanlon picks up Walter Walsh and is in turn dragged out of the centre, it makes the sweeper role much more open and it will be interesting to see how we cope with the traffic coming through.

So, are we in with a shout? I have no doubt that we are, but we must appreciate that we are playing the best and most experienced and must ensure that a Tipperary-type start doesn't occur.

As supporters we must keep our feet on the ground and regardless of the outcome appreciate that this game is just a step on the road.

We are attempting to establish ourselves in the top tier of the hurling world and have made great strides this year so far.

If Kilkenny have a little too much so be it, but my gut feeling is that the first 20 minutes of this game could be worth the admission money alone.

My over-riding hope is that our young people will experience what I did over the years and this is the start of the rivalry re-birth.

Good luck lads, and whatever the result we are proud of you. Up Wexford.

Wexford People

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