Wednesday 12 December 2018

Rory's hand a concern

Ace attacker injured ahead of showdown with Kilkenny

Rory O’Connor will undergo x-rays and a scan on his hand injury
Rory O’Connor will undergo x-rays and a scan on his hand injury

Brendan Furlong

While there will be little change for Wexford going into their final round robin Senior hurling championship game with Kilkenny in Nowlan Park on Saturday (7 p.m.), there is considerable doubt concerning the fitness of star attacker Rory O'Connor.

The St. Martin's clubman emerged from the Galway defeat with a hand injury, received early in the game, but it will not be known for a couple of days if he in a position to play this coming weekend.

He will undergo x-rays and a scan on the injury, leaving the Wexford management hoping that the injury is not serious enough to keep him out of the game.

At the start of the championship, O'Connor had been signposted as one to watch, and he has certainly lived up to that rating in the three games to date.

He assumed the responsibility of the frees, a burden that he has carried lightly on his 20-year-old shoulders apart from an early bad miss on Saturday, as he has continued to sparkle in general play.

The Wexford attack would be considerably weakened in his absence, but then it would demand that other more experienced players step up to the challenge, and deliver on the big stage.

Kilkenny, as league champions, will pose a huge challenge, but Davy Fitzgerald will not rush into wholesale changes following the Galway defeat.

It's expected that alterations will be kept to the minimum, with Conor Firman likely to retain his corner-back berth, having been introduced as a half-time substitute against the All-Ireland champions in place of Simon Donohoe.

Wexford have not had much chance to look ahead, but Fitzgerald's patience must be wearing thin regarding the displays of some players.

There's no doubt he is ready to demand more, and will seek a display that is in keeping with his managerial work ethic.

Wexford need to bring a passionate and committed performance, leaving the lack-lustre Galway display behind them.

However, the Wexford manager said he would put his 'house' on Kilkenny in the aftermath of his side's nine-point defeat to Galway.

'I'm not pointing this out just now. I said it to you from day one that we would struggle in games three and four and that's why I wanted our business done early if we could.

'I flagged the fatigue issue when the new format was proposed. I believe it's impossible for teams to string three performances together on consecutive weekends.

'Indeed, within minutes of Wexford hammering Offaly, I said I feared Galway could do the same to Wexford.'

The game turned out precisely as he suggested.

'There's no doubt that they were the better team.

'The thing I'm disappointed about is that, that wasn't Wexford. We were flat.

'I'm not saying that we would beat Galway, but I will tell you if we were a lot fresher we would definitely give them a better game.'

Fitzgerald remonstrated with newcomer referee Johnny Murphy from Limerick at half-time but was at pains to stress that he wasn't blaming him for the team's woes.

'I absolutely thought a few of the frees he gave in the first-half were crazy. But the referee had nothing to do with Galway being the better team,' he said.

'I just felt we were a bit flat today. I don't think we won any of the 50-50s. It wasn't the energetic display that you normally see.

'I felt Galway were a lot sharper. Whether it's down to being the third week in a row, I'm not entirely sure, but we just know today we were beaten by the better team.

'You have to take your hat off to Galway, they'll be hard beaten. We need to get over this first phase of the championship and hopefully be there in July.

'It will be a different championship from then on,' he added.

Now facing into a huge game with Kilkenny, Fitzgerald said: 'If I was a betting man now and I was going to that game, I would put my house on Kilkenny.

'You never know, we might pull a performance. We will stick out another 15 and see what the craic is,' he added with a wry smile.

On what is a busy day for Wexford, the Senior footballers will be looking to give their championship a positive bounce when they take on Waterford in the qualifiers at Innovate Wexford Park with an earlier 1.30 p.m. start.

Wexford's prospects have not been helped by a big casualty list for they will be without their captain, Daithí Waters, along with full-back Jim Rossiter, and attacker Paul Curtis.

Waters' inter-county season is all but over as he recovers from a knee injury along with a fractured eye socket, while defender Rossiter is also out of contention for the remainder of 2018 with a cruciate knee injury.

Meanwhile, the hamstring injury sustained by Curtis is also long term.

Enniscorthy Guardian