Offaly need to step up - McDonald
Offaly take on Wexford tonight in the Bord Gais Leinster U-21 hurling semi-final with the Faithful County looking to reach the provincial U-21 decider for the first time since 2008.
Standing in their way are the reigning champions and a team that beat Offaly in last year's championship. The late Dermot Hogan managed Offaly last year but his untimely and tragic passing late last summer denied him of a second stint in charge with the baton being passed to one of his selectors from 2014, Wexford native Ciaran McDonald.
Wexford will start as warm favourites with at least 10 of last year's Leinster-winning team set to line out. Knowing the size of the challenge ahead, Offaly boss McDonald is under no illusions.
"They are at the top table when it comes to U-21. We will have to get up to the pace of the game very fast. It is the pace of the game now that is catching the weaker counties.
"Kilkenny brought a new man into corner-forward at the weekend (v Wexford). He didn't look at all the big names around him. He said to himself, 'I want to be better than them', and that's a message we have been trying to get through to our lads. Everyone has to put the shoulder to the wheel".
Wexford come into the game with many players still licking their wounds after Kilkenny dished out a hefty beating to the Model County seniors last Sunday.
"I don't think it will affect them. It's a totally different set-up with different management and different players. The U-21 will give them a bit of freshness and a chance to get away from it," explained the Offaly manager.
Offaly will be looking towards senior stars Cillian Kiely and Emmet Nolan to lead their charge to the final before their attention turns to Clare in the qualifiers but McDonald warns that his players can't be waiting for someone else to drive it on.
"We are looking for them to step up alright but I think what is important for Offaly at this stage, is that everyone steps up."