independent

Sunday 17 February 2019

Five key hurlers ruled out

Visit of All-Ireland champs for league start a huge task

Rival captains Matthew O’Hanlon and Declan Hannon with referee Colm Lyons when the sides last met at the Fenway Classic in Boston in November
Rival captains Matthew O’Hanlon and Declan Hannon with referee Colm Lyons when the sides last met at the Fenway Classic in Boston in November

Brendan Furlong

Wexford will be short five key players when they welcome reigning All-Ireland champions, Limerick, to Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday for their opening game in the Allianz Hurling League Division 1A (2 p.m.).

While the side's long-term injuries have been well documented, with no immediate return in sight for James Breen (knee) and Rory O'Connor, also recovering from a knee operation, the list has been added to for manager Davy Fitzgerald.

He has also ruled Lee Chin (hamstring), Damien Reck (just back from jaw injury) and Paul Morris (knee) out of the starting 15, but will be endeavouring to have them on the substitutes' bench.

'Every effort is being made to have the injured trio on the replacements' bench but nothing is definite at the moment. Really Lee is another week away from fitness, while Damien and Paul came in against Galway. One could see they lacked match practice.

'Rory O'Connor is another two weeks' away, while James Breen may need a cartilage operation. So it's difficult being down so many key players,' Fitzgerald added.

Limerick will be coming to Wexford hell bent on avenging the league defeat of two years ago at the same ground, a factor not lost on Fitzgerald, as the victory on that occasion guaranteed the home side promotion to Division 1A at the expense of the Shannonsiders.

'Look, Limerick are still smarting from that league defeat so they will be coming to Wexford to give us a beating and a half. The only thing I ask is for the Wexford supporters, who have been great, to come out and support us.'

But Fitzgerald believes they could not have a more difficult start to the league, although all of their games bring them up against the cream of hurling.

'We have the All-Ireland champions this Sunday and the Munster champions seven days later. Limerick will be determined to lay down a marker as All-Ireland champions. It's going to be very tough as I would have needed a full complement of players.'

While defeat was their lot in the Walsh Cup final to Galway, Fitzgerald was still happy with aspects of their play.

'Having looked at the stats I would be happy. We created 39 chances but only took 20 scores, compared to Galway who created 31 chances but took 24 scores. We had several goal chances while we also failed to goal a penalty.

'We will have to get our conversion rate improved, of that there's no doubt, but unlike last year we are now creating chances. We have put in the preparation, so we will not be lacking in fitness, but this is a daunting task,' he added.

Fitzgerald believes they will have Liam Ryan available despite being straight red carded in the Galway game.

'The suspension will be served in Walsh Cup competition, while we will also have Jack O'Connor back.'

Limerick will be the warmest of favourites with the bookies, but as underdogs Wexford are always capable of springing a surprise.

Meanwhile, Wexford have signalled their intent ahead of their Allianz Football League Division 4 opening round game away to Leitrim in Carrick-on-Shannon on Sunday (2 p.m.).

It may be the opening round, but manager Paul McLoughlin has already stressed the importance of the game, not just producing a performance but a favourable end result.

Wexford may be playing out of Division 4 but they have some difficult assignments ahead of them with games against the likes of Derry, Antrim and Limerick down the road, meaning it will be difficult to pick up full points.

When these sides last met in the league in Carrick-on-Shannon two years ago, Wexford - then under the stewardship of Seamus 'Banty' McEnaney - fashioned a narrow 0-16 to 0-14 victory.

No doubt McLoughlin would welcome a similar outcome from Sunday's game.

He has welcomed Daithí Waters back to the fold after an extended break following a lengthy club campaign, but it's still not known if the St. Martin's man will start the game or be used as an impact substitute.

However, Wexford will be without defender Tiarnan Rossiter, who suffered a hamstring injury in a recent challenge against Carlow, while full-back Gavin Sheehan also picked up a calf injury in the same game which makes him doubtful.

The team management are prepared to wait until later in the week before making a decision on the players' fitness.

'Training and preparation has gone well,' McLoughlin said.

'We have had sufficient games over the past month. The work has been done, so now it's down to getting matters right for the day.'

The Wexford management attended Leitrim’s recent Connacht League game with Mayo, which they lost on penalties. McLoughlin was impressed with their display and their commitment under new manager Terry Hyland.

‘Leitrim play a bit like Cavan which is to be expected under their new manager. Hyland perfected a style with Cavan which he has now brought to Leitrim.

‘They possibly should have got a result against Mayo having been nine points up.

‘We attended the game and fully realise we have a huge challenge ahead of us. They are solely a football county, unlike Wexford, so that’s a huge benefit to them.

‘It’s a huge game for Wexford. We need to take points away from home, as I believe ten points would get us promoted.

‘It’s important to be winning games as it brings confidence to the players.

‘It’s a big game of that I’ve no doubt but the players are looking forward to it.’

While Brian Malone has made a welcome return, Wexford will be looking to a number of their players to show leadership in their efforts to build momentum for the league.

The mentors have added Daire Bolger (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown), Shea Boggan (St. Mary’s, Rosslare) and Seán Nolan (Horeswood) to their squad.

Wexford will announce their side following training on Friday night.

Meanwhile, manager Paul McLoughlin has given his version of why Ian Carty is not involved with the football panel at present, responding to a snippet in last week’s edition.

‘Last year Ian was brought into our football set-up, was facilitated with a knee operation in Whitfield Clinic, and put through a rehab and gym programme,’ McLoughlin said.

The manager added that the player - who featured in two games in 2017 under Seamus McEnaney - then decided to leave the panel of his own accord.

‘It was a brief time with us. We gave him a good rehab programme including physio and access to gym facilities. Soon after he decided himself to leave the panel.’

McLoughlin went on to praise the commitment of dedicated forward Donal Shanley who is studying for a degree in medicine in University College Galway.

The St. Fintan’s clubman is currently in Germany for two months as part of his course, but continues to make the journey home to assist the footballers.

Enniscorthy Guardian

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