Tuesday 21 November 2017

Wexford won't take the Antrim challenge lightly

WHEN WEXFORD collide with Antrim in the All-Ireland Under-21 hurling championship semi-final at Semple Stadium, Thurles, on Saturday (4 p.m.), manager J.J. Doyle will not be talking up their chances.

While Doyle is somewhat worried at their five-week lay-off since that marvellous Leinster final victory over arch-rivals, Kilkenny, he still looks upon the club scene as having filled a necessary void, giving the players much-needed playing time.

But the break has also been kind to the team as it allowed Minor attacker, Conor McDonald, time to recover from a knee ligament injury, which for a while looked like ruling him out of the semi-final. In addition the returning Diarmuid O'Keeffe and Aidan Nolan have joined the extended squad for training and are pushing for a place in the final 24 for the game.

When asked about the break, Doyle said: 'We've had a very competitive club campaign. Thankfully all the players came through unscathed but also important is that it gave the players necessary game time.

'We've also had three 15-a-side games in training, all of which were very competitive. The players know they are pushing for places so the games were competitive. We will be selecting from the form in those games along with club outings. We'll not be looking back at how someone played months back as it will be down to who is performing at the moment.

'Regarding Diarmuid O'Keeffe and Aidan Nolan, they have been training with the extended squad. Aidan has been back four weeks while Diarmuid is back just two. They are back and training and available for selection if we deem they are ready.'

Looking towards Antrim, Doyle, who managed the Wexford camogie side in All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Galway at the same venue on Saturday last, says they will not be taking anything for granted.

'We travelled to look at the Ulster final. Antrim looked impressive. They scored 6-21 and had five shots saved by the opposing 'keeper, while having a total of 49 shots on goal. In addition they had made five substitutes seven minutes into the second-half. Kevin Ryan knew we were there spying on our opponents so he possibly did not want to give everything away.

'Ulster have never had a team in an All-Ireland Under-21 final, so they will be hungry for victory, but so will Wexford. Mentally we have developed since defeating Kilkenny. They now possibly realise they are good hurlers, and in fairness the players have pushed on since that victory. They now have a belief in themselves and in their team-mates.

'We will be treating Antrim seriously and taking nothing for granted. At the moment we are looking no further than Antrim. That is where it's at at the moment,' he said.

There will be at least two changes to the squad, as Jack Hobbs who started the Leinster final is out with a groin injury, while Niall Murphy, scorer of the extra-time winning goal in that game, is also out as the result of an arm injury received in a car crash.

'We have 30 to 35 players in the squad so when we select the 24 for the game there will be disappointed players. But as I've said to them, they've made their contribution in the squad training and are still a vital part of the set-up. We can only select 24 so that inevitably leads to disappointment,' added Doyle.

'We don't fear anyone, but will still not be taking anything for granted, so we'll not be taking Antrim for granted.'

Wexford will announce the side at training tonight (Tuesday).

Gorey Guardian

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