Saturday 25 March 2017

Stamp's return bolsters Wexford rearguard

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

WEXFORD'S hurlers have two injury worries ahead of next weekend's qualifier clash with Limerick but will be boosted by the return of teak-tough centre-back captain Darren Stamp.

Ciaran Kenny, forced off with a back injury against Kilkenny, is a serious doubt and they have worries, too, over midfielder Willie Doran, who damaged his shoulder in a club game last Friday.

But the return of Stamp, whose experience at centre-back was badly missed against Kilkenny, is a big fillip.

In his absence, Kenny had to shift from the wing to fill in at No 6 against the Cats, and, when he went off injured, Doran moved back from midfield to the central defensive role before he was substituted.

Limerick's only real injury worry is corner-back Damien Reale, who is doubtful after picking up a knee injury in a club game two weeks ago.

But they will be boosted by the return of fit-again Stephen Lucey and are also expected to have Declan Hannon back in their half-forwards after his Leaving Cert exams forced him to miss their Munster championship clash with Waterford.

The manner of Limerick's one-point defeat by the Decies -- when they were just pipped by a late John Mullane goal -- has left Wexford boss Colm Bonnar in no doubts about the task ahead.

"No one knew what Limerick were going to be like against Waterford because they were coming in under the cover of playing in Division 2," he said.

"It took them about 15 or 20 minutes to settle into the pace of the game, but, once they got into it, they were well up for it. They now have that game under their belt and they showed that they can rattle in goals, which always makes the difference in championship games," he said of the Shannonsiders' 3-14 tally against the Decies.

Limerick have home advantage next weekend, which, considering the trend in the football qualifiers, is a considerable advantage yet Bonnar believes that could help his side too.

"Sometimes playing in front of your own crowd can put very heavy expectations on you and travelling can take the pressure off you," he said.

If Limerick's hurlers get through, it will mean a hectic weekend for dual stars Lucey and Mark O'Riordan a week later when the county's footballers are due to play Offaly in the second round of the qualifiers.

Limerick County Board have already requested to avoid a direct clash if their hurlers stay involved and the Central Competitions Committee acceded to that yesterday by leaving the date for their football game open, pending their hurlers' result.

Saturday's clash in the Gaelic Grounds (5.0) is not being televised live but the Galway v Clare SHC qualifier is live on RTE (7.0).

Irish Independent

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