Wexford Minor hurlers meet Kerry in novel Leinster tie

Ronan FaganWexford People

“OUR LADS are under absolutely no illusions but that Kerry represents a strong challenge.”

That’s the promise of Wexford Minor hurling manager Michael Jacob ahead of Saturday’s Leinster championship Tier 1 Group 1 opener against the Kingdom in Portlaoise (2 p.m.).

“Our full focus is one hundred per cent on this game. Kerry have a good Minor team. We have seen a couple of videos – including them playing Tipperary – and they were very impressive.

“We are not looking any further than next weekend and hopefully getting an opening win.”

Wexford are then due to host Dublin on Saturday week, April 1, before heading to Offaly on Good Friday, April 7.

Ultimately the top side in Wexford’s group secure direct passage to the provincial semi-finals, while second-placed go into the quarter-finals, with third-placed landing a preliminary quarter-final. The bottom side is eliminated.

Jacob, whose management are facing into their second successive campaign, is satisfied with Wexford preparations after exposing the squad to a series of searching assignments on the challenge game circuit.

And Wexford are working with a 43-strong panel in readiness for the Minor backroom also overseeing the county’s involvement in the forthcoming Celtic Challenge tournament.

“We have a fair idea where we are with the squad,” Jacob said.

“We have played all the Munster teams. Originally we were due to play Galway too, but then they entered the Leinster championship. We have also played Kildare, Wicklow and Carlow, so we are well prepared game-wise.”

The match-day squad for the Kerry game is due to be finalised midweek, and the manager is happy to note: “There is really good competition for places. We have decisions to make; there is nobody guaranteed anything on this team.

“And when the Celtic Challenge gets under way, if there are lads on the extended squad showing up well in that, then they will be putting themselves in the frame for the Minor championship too.

“The Celtic Challenge certainly is not being used as a token gesture.

“At this age group, it is really all about developing players and getting them forward for the Under-20s and Seniors.

“We have to be competing at this level. But the bigger picture is developing for the teams further along up the ladder.

“Five or six of the lads involved with our Minors last year have gone up to the Under-20s this year. And there are lads with us now who are good enough to go up to Under-20 next year.

“Winning the Minor doesn’t mean you’re going to be Senior, just as not winning the Minor doesn’t mean you won’t be a Senior.

“It is all about getting players through and developing them. These lads are 16 and 17 years of age – they’re only young lads.

“We don’t put pressure on them to win. But we know that if they perform to their ability that we will be competitive.”

Wexford are close to declaring a clean bill of health, but unfortunately a collarbone injury sidelines potential county dual player Thomas Cummins (Horeswood) for the championship.

Faythe Harriers’ Darragh Browne returns from a foot injury, although the Kerry game might come too soon for him as he will only have his first hurling involvement this week.

Wexford number three survivors from last year’s championship, with versatile Ferns St. Aidan’s player Charlie Roark being named as captain, and Ciarán Doyle of St. Anne’s vice-captain, while 2022 goalie Jason Rossiter (Oulart-The Ballagh) is also retained.

Wexford squad: Robbie Quinn (Askamore); Bobby Murphy, Patrick Quigley (Bannow-Ballymitty); Callum Whelan, Niall Furlong, Tomás Walsh (Buffers Alley); Billy Redmond, Paddy Redmond (Craanford); Páuric Doyle (Davidstown-Courtnacuddy); Charlie Roark, Danny Dreelan, Stephen O’Toole (Ferns St. Aidan’s); Darragh Browne (Faythe Harriers); Colin Carley, Liam Cooney (Glynn-Barntown); Steven Walsh (Gusserane); Thomas Cummins, Tom Dempsey (Horeswood); Desmond O’Connor (HWH-Bunclody); Conor Fanning, Doran Daly-O’Toole (Liam Mellows); Evan Dunne, Jack Turner, Patrick Kinsella, Robert Cahill (Monageer-Boolavogue); Ciarán O’Brien (Naomh Éanna); Ben Harpur, Jack Dunne, Jason Rossiter, Kian O’Connor (Oulart-The Ballagh); Jack Nolan (Oylegate-Glenbrien); Ryan Donohoe, Seán Hyland (Rapparees); Charlie Mooney (Rathnure); Ciarán Doyle, Corey Ryan (St. Anne’s); Joshua Duggan (St. Mary’s, Rosslare); Jamie Doyle, Joe O’Leary, Liam Kielthy, Rian Ormonde (Shelmaliers); Jack Gethings, Vincent Higgins (Tara Rocks).

Manager: Michael Jacob (Oulart-The Ballagh). Selectors: Michael Morris (Marshalstown-Castledockrell), Roger Ennis (Horeswood), Helena Jacob (Oulart-The Ballagh), Richie Kehoe (Faythe Harriers). Coach: J.J. Doyle (Marshalstown-Castledockrell). Strength and conditioning: David Kehoe (Crossabeg-Ballymurn).