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Captains to miss out

Hurlers in Laois, while footballers face Antrim

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Corner-forward Mikie Dwyer steals a march on Galway defender Jack Grealish during Saturday’s Walsh Cup final in Portlaoise

Corner-forward Mikie Dwyer steals a march on Galway defender Jack Grealish during Saturday’s Walsh Cup final in Portlaoise

SPORTSFILE

Corner-forward Mikie Dwyer steals a march on Galway defender Jack Grealish during Saturday’s Walsh Cup final in Portlaoise

Even though they will be short some key players, Wexford will still be seeking a winning start to the Allianz Hurling League when they open their Division 1, Group B, campaign away to Laois in MW Hire O'Moore Park, Portlaoise, on Saturday (7pm).

With joint captains Lee Chin (knee ligament) and Matthew O'Hanlon (hip and knee ligament) ruled out of the game, manager Davy Fitzgerald will also be without the services of midfielder, Diarmuid O'Keeffe (travelling).

The trio are also likely to miss out on the Clare home fixture on the following Sunday, and may only return for the latter stages of the group games.

The absence of the three players will leave Wexford short of the spine of their team which was quite evident in their two Walsh Cup games.

Fitzgerald will be confident that the bench will be sufficiently strong to see him through a game that is still causing some anxious moments for the manager.

Also out is attacker David Dunne with a quad injury received during the Walsh Cup victory over Kilkenny, while Liam Og McGovern (rib cartilage) has only a 50-50 chance of making the league opener, but will be given every opportunity to prove his fitness.

It's not the ideal scenario for any manager but, on a brighter note, Fitzgerald spoke of Diarmuid O'Keeffe returning to Irish shores next Tuesday. He will then resume full training immediately in the hope of being available for the latter stages of the league.

'It's nice to have another piece of silverware so early in the season,' Fitzgerald said.

'I will take the positives from the Walsh Cup. We used some 26 to 27 players from the squad, ensuring that almost every player has had some game time, which is important.

'Galway was our third game in seven days. We played Tipperary during the week so the squad has had an abundance of game time to go with the training.

'Look, there were aspects of the Galway game that I would not be happy with. We started well, but I would not be happy with the middle third of the game. Still, the lads showed great resilience with the way they finished to win a game that looked gone from them.'

Looking ahead to the league, Fitzgerald is taking it a game at a time.

'Laois will be difficult. They will see this, a home game against Wexford, as a real possibility of two points. That's what we must guard against.

'I will be taking it a game at a time but I'm out for winning all games. I will give Laois every respect, the players will be the same. It's a huge game, two early points are important.'

Rory O'Connor and Cathal Dunbar are expected to start following their Fitzgibbon Cup exertions along with the impact they made when introduced against Galway, while Mark Fanning will return as number one custodian.

Meanwhile, Paul Galvin will have his first competitive game in charge of the Wexford Senior footballers when they make the long journey north to take on Antrim in their opening Division 4 game in Glenavy on Sunday (2 p.m.).

When these sides met last year, Wexford emerged with a five-point victory, but Galvin will have a new-look side on show given the evidence of their three O'Byrne Cup games where they suffered three successive defeats.

Galvin received a boost since with the return of the long-serving Brian Malone to training.

The seasoned Shelmaliers clubman will bring much-needed experience to the defence, while former player Ciarán Deely has announced he is part of the backroom team.

The Horeswood clubman was manager of London when they caused a surprise in their defeat of Wexford in last year's campaign in Ruislip.

Galvin has brought a new look to the squad in his short time in charge, but his young side face a daunting challenge in Antrim.

Wexford People