Saturday 21 September 2019

Good display is needed to build on progress to date

Tom Dempsey's hurling analysis

One of our great enemies over the years has been an unrealistic expectation of victory often set by the county as a whole when facing into big games such as Sunday's against the All Blacks of hurling, Kilkenny.

We approach the weekend, however, with an obvious air of trepidation and the feeling around the county is that a good performance would copper-fasten the obvious progress we have made over the past couple of years under Liam Dunne's tutelage.

There is the danger that Kilkenny on their day can do irreparable damage to any county's ambitions and for me the real challenge for our men is to be still standing about ten or 15 minutes north of half-time.

As a county we seem to relish the underdog tag and perform much better when not seen as favourites.

The most famous case of this in my lifetime was our 17-point drubbing of the then All-Ireland champions Kilkenny in 1976. Kilkenny were bidding for their fifth provincial title in a row and I can safely say nobody saw the juggernaut coming.

I was, at the time, a fanatical eleven-year-old who idolised the team of that era but to my eternal shame abandoned my heroes to play in a soccer cup final for St. Joseph's such was the sense of hopelessness leading up to the game.

I can say with a great degree of certainty that we won't have a similar result this weekend, but there are some little things in our favour that may see the result a lot closer than some will probably predict.

Despite being All-Ireland champions there has been serious transition around Noreside over the past twelve to 18 months.

A Kilkenny team a few years back without Henry, J.J., Tommy and Brian Hogan would be seen as vulnerable and with a doubtful list of Richie Power, T.J. Reid and Eoin Larkin it would appear that their strength in depth is being tested at present.

However, just when you feel hope they come out in a recent challenge to completely dominate an almost full-strength Limerick team on a scoreline of 3-25 to 0-16.

My information is that the best forward in the country, Reid, is set to play and this will be a major plus in a division that contains amongst others Richie Hogan and Colin Fennelly.

Wexford have the ability on their day to hurt any team and if Liam Og, Conor Mac and co find their form we can test their defence and new full-back Joey Holden.


Our defence looks solid (and will have to be, particularly in the early stages where we can expect an onslaught) with great leaders in Lee Chin and Matthew O'Hanlon, but we will need to achieve as close to 50% in the middle of the park as possible to carry a realistic challenge.

I was fortunate to be in Kilkenny two years ago to witness the cauldron that was Kilkenny versus Tipperary and I expect the atmosphere to be as good if not better at 2 p.m. on Sunday as nobody does sense of occasion better than Wexford fans.

There was a discernible edge (dare I say bitterness) in the air for the Tipp game but I would predict the occasion will be a little more carnival-like between our two counties, as we harbour a deep but a little more friendly rivalry than that which exists between the Premier and the Cats.

I have no doubt that Liam will have the boys buzzing with the full belief that we can come away with a famous victory.

However, on this occasion I have to give Cody's men the nod (maybe there is a Buffers Alley woman close by that could put in a word for us).

All we can do now is face her for Mount Leinster and don't forget the gun powder.

Good luck lads, we'll be striking every ball with you.

Wexford People

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