By Michael Dwyer.
With forecasted temperature levels soaring close to 20 degrees celsius, Saturday evening’s Leinster SHC quarter-final clash between Wexford and Dublin should be a picturesque one at the well-nurtured Wexford Park field.
Both teams recorded mixed league and pre-season outings. On a wintry January day in Bellefield, Dublin took the Walsh Cup spoils after defeating an experimental purple-and-gold outfit. The ‘sky blues’ doubled their margin of victory in the Allianz League to rain on Wexford’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. However, Wexford were revived when they drew their next round clash with Limerick.
While their team layout has varied over the course of the opening season, the talent of Dublin’s attack has been overwhelming. Paul Ryan’s accurate free-taking will penalise any Wexford indiscipline. Anthony Daly’s skill-set also includes Ruairí Trainor and Joey Boland who are reliable in defence and are sure to feed ball to the dynamic attack which includes Alan McCrabbe and David ‘Dotsy’ O’Callaghan.
Liam Dunne has revolutionised his side in comparison to last year’s squad. While Éanna Martin normally works as a ‘keeper, Saturday will see him hold the wing-back berth. The layout of Dunne’s first 15 has distinctive strength down the middle. The full-forward line up contains three incisive forwards as u-21 star Gary Moore and Paul Morris attract possession in their corners while the seasoned Rory Jacob gives a balance in the no.14 shirt.
It’s always hard to separate mind from heart when casting predictions like these but the Wexford camp is rich in flair and tenacity. That striking impression gives the hope that Saturday will see a long-awaited return to winning way’s for Wexford!
The weekend is rounded off with the footballer’s who travel northwards this Sunday afternoon to play Louth in the away setting of Drogheda’s Gaelic Grounds.
The attraction of this pairing is that both managers, while smart and knowledgable, are in their opening year of managing their respective counties and have two equally strong line-up’s. Aidan O’Brien and Aidan O’Rourke both seem confident in their respective side’s capability of claiming victory on Sunday.
Wexford locked horns with Louth in their Allianz League bout with two early goals from Paddy Byrne and Shane Roche poising Wexford for an eventual four-point victory.
Although this is Wexford’s first championship taster, Louth had to dismiss Laois before gaining a quarter-final spot. The Wee County gave Laois a whopping 10-point beating and completely overwhelmed the Midlander’s with dogged determination and hunger. O’Rourke has chosen the same 15 from that triumph which includes the lively John Bingham and Adrian Reid in defence while a trio of nippy attackers stand out as Shane Lennon, Paddy Keenan and Brian White.
O’Brien’s selection is of a similar quality. The work-rate and style seen under the former manager Jason Ryan is evident and the controversial blanket defence could be in-store. Graeme Molloy and Adrian Flynn stand out in the back’s while Aindeas Doyle, Ben Brosnan and PJ Banville have much needed fire-power upfront.
The one factor that is a key benefit to Louth is home advantage. The claustrophobic and clustered park of Drogheda has a minuscule capacity of 3,500. This element will surely boost the confidence and composure of the home side. For Wexford, the experience of normally competing with teams like Dublin makes Sunday’s affair a little less daunting. With steady rhythm and gritty nerve, Wexford have enough to shade a vibrant opposition. However, this quarter-final pairing should spark over an hour of engrossing football.