Kilkenny's young guns out to stop the Wexford rot
It's one of the rare occasions in hurling of late where Kilkenny are playing second fiddle.
Last Sunday, the seniors collected their 70th Leinster title but tonight the county's U-21s are out to avoid kowtowing to Wexford for the third successive year in the grade.
Between winning the last two provincial titles and their rapid ascension to the senior team, the Wexford line-up has a more recognisable look to it: Conor McDonald and Kevin Foley will lead the attack while Liam Ryan is a key defender.
Kilkenny have five of their panel involved with Brian Cody's seniors but as is their way, the young guns are serving what could be a lengthy apprenticeship.
Conor Martin joins Brian Troy, Diarmuid Cody, Chris Bolger and James Maher in double-jobbing with the seniors and U-21s ,and the team have been less than convincing so far. A large slice of luck helped them past Dublin, and in the Leinster semi-final, Carlow also provided a stern examination.
"It was absolute luck at the end of the day," Martin said of their win over Dublin. "We were in it the whole game, they failed to bury us, but it just shows if luck is on your side in the day you can go all the way.
"Mark Mansfield just broke on to a ball at the end of the game, he probably was going for a point and it spun off his hurl and the Dublin goalkeeper had the misfortune and it dropped it into the goal."
"Carlow were a very under-rated team. We went in looking for a big performance and we didn't really get the performance we wanted on the day. If we go down to Wexford Park with that performance and attitude we will be blown out of it."
With home advantage, Wexford are clear favourites as they look to rescue the county's season after the senior side crashed out of the Championship at the hands of Cork last weekend.
JJ Doyle's side have shown they are a slick outfit, with their goal against Offaly already a YouTube sensation. But Martin knows that the Kilkenny public expect.
"You want to be winning all the time. In Kilkenny, every game you go out you want to win," he said.
"Wit the U-21s this year, every game we have won, even challenge matches. So I think we could be on the right track to win the Leinster final.
"I think this team needs a Leinster title to go onto bigger things.
"We were beaten in the first round last year and at minor we were beaten by Dublin in the Leinster semi-final, so I think if we got some silverware under our belt we could grow in confidence again and drive it on more."
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