independent

Wednesday 20 September 2017

Fanning and O'Connor the main injury doubts

Kilkenny come to town for Leinster hurling semi-final

Mark Fanning is recovering from the hand infection which forced him to miss the quarter-final win over Laois
Mark Fanning is recovering from the hand infection which forced him to miss the quarter-final win over Laois

Brendan Furlong

Wexford will be out to seize the opportunity when they face reigning provincial champions, Kilkenny, in the Leinster semi-final at Innovate Wexford Park on Saturday (7 p.m.), but they are still concerned with injuries to a number of players.

While they will not name their team until later in the week, mentors will spend the next number of days dealing with the injured players in an effort to have them ready for the game.

However, definitely out is Oylegate-Glenbrien clubman Damien Reck, with ankle ligament damage, an injury that will leave him on the sidelines for up to eight weeks.

However, of more pressing concern are the injuries to goalkeeper Mark Fanning and midfielder Jack O'Connor.

Fanning's hand injury, received in training, forced him to miss the Laois quarter-final, having suffered an infection.

Meanwhile, O'Connor, who was having an explosive outing, was forced out of that game with an ankle injury early in the second-half. There's also concern for corner-back James Breen who is carrying niggling injuries but is still expected to be fit.

And there's now a serious doubt over both Fanning and O'Connor as the players were unable to train last week. However, the team management are prepared to wait as long as possible to give the duo an opportunity to prove their fitness.

Another player battling against time is corner-back Willie Devereux who missed the quarter-final win over Laois with a hamstring injury.

Kilkenny are favourites and justifiably so, given that Wexford's last championship victory over their great rivals was back in 2004.

While Wexford will be concerned with those injuries, they will still feel they have the back-up to meet any defections and will be keen not to spurn a glorious opportunity of a championship victory over Kilkenny on home soil.

Expectations have soared in the county but the players are keeping their feet firmly on the ground. They have been boosted by the return to form of attacker Jack Guiney. Showing a real fitness and sharpness to his game once introduced against Laois, he will be expected to make the starting 15 on this occasion.

Kilkenny players have so much championship hurling behind them that they will be confident going into this game, irrespective of the league result. They will be boosted by the return of Michael Fennelly, who is expected to take up a role at either centre-back or centre-forward, while Shane Prendergast is likely to line out at full-back in the expected absence of the injured Pádraig Walsh.

They will also have Ger Aylward, finally free from injury, back in the full-forward line. Kilkenny have struggled in vital positions so far this year, but can Wexford take advantage of this?

Many will see it as a shock if Kilkenny fail, irrespective of the keen rivalry between the counties, but players like Lee Chin and Conor McDonald could be the difference. For Wexford it has to be route one this year, and the boost to the game would be considerable if they can set up a Leinster final date with either Galway or Offaly.

Enniscorthy Guardian

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