Monday 21 October 2019

Oulart must wait

Fixture put back seven days after draw in Kilkenny final

BRENDAN FURLONG Sports reporter

THE DECISION to put Oulart-The Ballagh's AIB Leinster Club Senior hurling championship quarter-final back by seven days to accommodate the Kilkenny county final replay has been greeted with disappointment in the Wexford holders' camp.

Club Chairman Richard 'Butch' O'Connor has vented his frustration at the change which was made on Sunday after a late pointed free by Henry Shefflin earned favourites Ballyhale Shamrocks a 0-10 to 1-7 draw with James Stephens in Nowlan Park.

'I always thought a Leinster Club fixture was cast in stone,' he said.

'I remember Buffers Alley beating us in a county final, and having to play the provincial club game that Bank Holiday Monday.

'We had the case of Kilanerin three years ago being asked to play 24 hours after winning the county final. They refused and were thrown out of the championship,' he added.

The decision of the Leinster Council which is under the chairmanship of Martin Skelly from Longford does not sit well with the Wexford club.

O'Connor said all of their preparations had been geared towards next Sunday.

'We played the Cork champions (Carrigtwohill) the weekend after the county final and came away with a victory.

'We trained hard last week, and began to wind down the training on Friday night last with a view to keeping the lads prepared both physically and mentally all this week. Now all has changed.

'We may go back to training this week. It's not ideal but we just have to get on with it,' he added.

'Our manager, Liam Dunne, made the call on Sunday evening. When we received word back that the game had been pushed back to the following Sunday, we were not surprised, but disappointed.

'But I'm confident the lads will regroup and will be fully prepared for the game whichever side it will be. Having looked at the Kilkenny final it's going to provide us with a huge challenge, no matter which side comes through.'

O'Connor is delighted with the response of the Oulart-The Ballagh players since the county final when they were put to the pin of their collars to account for Rathnure on a 1-10 to 011 scoreline.

'Credit to the lads as they have put in a huge amount of preparation,' he said.

'One would also have to credit Rathnure for their game plan and the way they put it up to us. It was a huge learning curve for us. No game against Rathnure is easy as they know how to win.

'The Kilkenny champions will be no different. Both teams involved have players who have stayed at the top for a long time. But, we are looking forward to the challenge, and have put in the preparation. A win would be a huge boost for Wexford hurling,' O'connor noted.

Oulart-the Ballagh have no injury worries ahead of the showdown with the Kilkenny champions but it's not the type of run-in they would have liked.

'We could have had a game arranged for last weekend, but right now we must re-group and get on with our preparations. Liam and the players will have everything ready for the big game, of that there's no doubt,' he added.

Oulart-the Ballagh are right to be concerned about what has happened their opening round clash though as it appears that all rules and regulations regarding fixtures have been relaxed completely since Kilanerin were left with no option but to concede a walkover to Navan O'mahonys of Meath three years ago in the football championship.

However, in moving the hurling game back to Sunday week, November 6, in Nowlan Park, the provincial body are mirroring a decision made some weeks ago to alter the dates for the Dublin championship winners due to the delays in completing their domestic activities.

Their county hurling final between Ballyboden St. Enda's and O'toole's will take place in Parnell Park on Sunday next, with the winners set to meet Clonkill of Westmeath in Mullingar on Sunday week.

The Leinster Council had some room to manoeuvre as the semi-finals are scheduled for November 13. Clough-Ballacolla of Laois will travel to take on Oulart-the Ballagh, Shamrocks or James Stephens, while Coolderry of Offaly will be away to the Westmeath or Dublin representatives.

While the hurlers of Oulart-the Ballagh will be putting their activity on hold next Sunday, it's still a big day for their camogie counterparts as they play host to Ballyboden St. Enda's in a repeat of last year's Leinster Senior club decider.

This game is down for decision in Oulart at 2 p.m. and the locals will go into it with high hopes of completing a provincial three-in-a-row after easily accounting for former queens St. Lachtain's from Freshford on Sunday last by 2-11 to 0-3.

There was never any question of both big games being on the same day, as if the hurling had stayed on Sunday, the camogie would have been played on Saturday or Monday.

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