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Kingdom and Clare stand between us and the semi-finals

Brendan Furlong


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Conor McDonald shoots to score a point during Wexford's Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group A meeting with Clare in Cusack Park in Ennis earlier this year.

Conor McDonald shoots to score a point during Wexford's Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group A meeting with Clare in Cusack Park in Ennis earlier this year.

Conor McDonald shoots to score a point during Wexford's Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group A meeting with Clare in Cusack Park in Ennis earlier this year.

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WEXFORD AND Kerry players know little about each other, but the Model county’s status will not faze the Kingdom side, particularly following their Joe McDonagh Cup exploits.

Kerry defeated Antrim in their final round game in Belfast to qualify for the decider, and the two teams went at it again in Croke Park on Saturday.

This was a typical game of old-style hurling, with the direct approach being adopted, before Kerry succumbed to a one-point defeat having staged a dramatic second-half comeback.

The Wexford hurlers’ path to Croke Park is now clear, with Kerry and Munster’s losing finalists, Clare, standing in their way. Wexford will have to beat both teams in order to reach the All-Ireland semi-final.

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No doubt the hurlers had some interesting viewing over the weekend, taking in the Kerry versus Antrim McDonagh Cup final, before Kilkenny showed their usual determination to bring down Galway, winning their third provincial title in a row.

It was a victory that gives added weight to Wexford’s final round-robin championship victory over our neighbours.

Besides Croke Park, Semple Stadium was also of major interest on Sunday, as their quarter-final opponents, should they take care of Kerry, were set to emerge from this game.

And hopefully now they will get a crack at Clare, a side they have had some interesting battles with over recent seasons, both on and off the pitch, during the Davy Fitzgerald era.

Wexford have much to play for over the coming weeks, coming off the back of what was a huge weekend of hurling.

The Limerick versus Clare Munster final was an enthralling contest, with the reigning provincial and All-Ireland champions taken to extra-time before lifting their fourth title in a row in this competition.

It was an extra proud day for the Shannonsiders as their captain, Declan Hannon, lifted the new Mick Mackey Cup for the first time, a trophy befitting one of the great players of his era.

Of course, the Kilkenny versus Galway Leinster final clash did not have the same intense local rivalry. It was a game submerged in a defensive battle that Kilkenny eventually edged through, mainly thanks to 0-12 from T.J. Reid placed balls.

We have arrived at the knockout stages of the All-Ireland championship. And with all due respects to both Antrim and Kerry, the final six in contention now features Limerick, Kilkenny, Wexford, Clare, Cork and Galway.

Many believe the All-Ireland championship is still wide open, but Limerick remain favourites, particularly with Cian Lynch to return to their attack following injury.

The weekend went a long way towards sorting out the main contenders, and the impact should be seen over the forthcoming rounds. Limerick were expected to come out of Munster, but many experts and pundits gave Clare no chance in the lead-up to the campaign, so they were the real surprise packets, while Cork got in with a third place spot.

There were no surprises in Leinster with Kilkenny, Galway and Wexford emerging from the pack.

And now the question from a local perspective is: are Wexford coming good at the right time? They could sit back last weekend and watch Limerick and Clare taking lumps out of each other, while the same applies to Cork who were watching Kilkenny and Galway.

First and foremost, Wexford must deal with Kerry, who will be trying to lift themselves having lost a third Joe McDonagh Cup final in a row.

You can be sure Wexford will be well up for the Kerry contest. They will need little reminding of what can happen with any complacency, going back just a few weeks to that shock draw with Westmeath.

Ultimately, the dropping of a point in Mullingar after that narrow loss to Dublin deprived them of a provincial final place. That warning should suffice.

There is still quite a lot of hurling to be played, and will it be the back door or front door the champions will come through?

In my opinion Limerick are still favourites. I will stick with the Shannonsiders as I predicted early in the season. We could still see a Limerick-Clare All-Ireland final, which could provide a third enthralling encounter between the Munster neighbours.

Wexford on their day can match most teams. They put everything into that Kilkenny victory, and a repeat should see them comfortably dispose of Kerry.


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