Tuesday 25 June 2019

Davy's native Clare will present formidable test

David Dunne tries to stop Westmeath full-back Tommy Doyle during Saturday’s preliminary quarter-final win in Mullingar
David Dunne tries to stop Westmeath full-back Tommy Doyle during Saturday’s preliminary quarter-final win in Mullingar

Brendan Furlong

Wexford face a huge challenge when they play Clare in the All-Ireland Senior hurling championship quarter-final in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Cork, on Saturday at 3 p.m.

Clare go into the game as the bookies' clear favourites with Wexford as rank outsiders, which in itself is an indication of the challenge facing the Model county.

Despite having been beaten in successive Munster finals, Clare will not fear Wexford, a situation which the Slaneysiders will relish.

And should the underdogsrepeat some of their displays of the past 18 months, a period in which they have taken the scalp of all the bigger counties bar Tipperary, then they are in with a real chance of upsetting the odds.

Wexford Senior hurling manager, Davy Fitzgerald, is refusing to play mind games ahead of the clash.

While Wexford come into the game on the back of a lack-lustre performance in their preliminary quarter-final victory over Westmeath, opponents Clare arrive in on the back of a 2-24 to 3-19 defeat to Cork in the Munster final, a second successive provincial final loss at the hands of the Rebel county.

Wexford, who had not played a championship game since their loss to Kilkenny on June 9 in the Leinster round robin, had to depend on goals from David Dunne and Conor McDonald to seal their victory over the midlanders.

Fitzgerald, who won two All-Ireland's as a player and one as a manager of Clare, is keeping his thoughts on the quarter-final clash to himself.

'I don't know, I'm not even thinking about next week,' was his immediate reaction following the Westmeath victory.

'It's a tricky one for me so the less I say about Clare the better,' Fitzgerald added.

'It's too close to my heart and I know them well. I'll be accused of playing this game or that game, so I won't say anything.

'We'll go out next week and give it our best. If we don't play better than we did today we won't be doing anything. I won't be giving any more interviews this week.'

Wexford had too much firepower for Westmeath and after they led by 1-12 to 0-8 at half-time, McDonald's goal in the 46th minute put the result beyond doubt.

'We did some great things out there, there were a few phases of play that were deadly, but it was tricky, we did what we had to do,' Fitzgerald said.

'There's lots of room for improvement. We'll see what happens.

'It was comfortable enough, I didn't think we were under pressure at any stage, and thought we played well.

'We won by eleven points, and the goalie had two great saves in the first-half. A victory is a victory.

'Look, we beat them by eleven points, but had we taken the two goal chances in the first-half along with a couple of frees, it would have been 19 or 20 points.

'In the past Wexford would have taken eleven points but that's where our expectations have taken us, which is a positive thing.

'I'd like them to be better than they were tonight as they won't win a quarter-final playing like that. If we have chances at goal we should take them but we know we have to improve on that.

'Any time I felt we came under pressure they battled away but in fairness to Westmeath they worked hard and you have to give it to them.'

Wexford will have both Rory O'Connor and Conor Firman available for selection after both players were rested from the Westmeath game following their Leinster Under-21 final exploits against Galway on the previous Wednesday evening.

O'Connor is expected to be handed an attacking role, while Firman should come back into the defence. It was heartening to see Liam Og McGovern introduced during the victory over the midlanders but it's still to be decided whether he will start the game.

But with corner-forward Paul Morris a considerable doubt, the St. Anne's man could still be handed a starting role. Morris was forced to retire with an injured knee which is still the cause of real concern.

Clare will be favourites but the pride in the purple and gold jersey should stir a huge reaction from the Wexford players.

It's certainly going to be an enthralling 70 minutes.

Enniscorthy Guardian