Thursday 14 December 2017

Bonnar wary of wounded Cats

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

WEXFORD hurlers couldn't be facing Kilkenny at a worse time according to manager Colm Bonnar, but he's hoping home advantage will be their "16th man" on Saturday.

Bonnar's charges will host last year's beaten All-Ireland finalists as part of a big Leinster double-header at Wexford Park.

This is the first time since 1944 that the Model county have hosted Kilkenny in a championship match, but Bonnar fears that the Cats' claws will have been sharpened since the league final and the manner in which they capitulated to Dublin.

That result indicated that Brian Cody's four-in-a-row team are more vulnerable than in recent years, but Bonnar is not buying that, pointing out how many big names were absent that day.

"If anything, Kilkenny are a bit more dangerous now," he said. "The press they got after the game and the way Dublin were able to rattle them, has been a wake-up call for them.

"Some of them reacted and that will have been brought home by Brian Cody," he added of the Cats' surprisingly loss of discipline, which resulted in a costly ban for John Dalton.

"It was a bit of a shock to them, that performance and how strongly Dublin finished," he said. "But when you have five or six All-Ireland medals and four or five All Stars, what you need is question marks: have you got the ability? Are you still the hurler you used to be?

"They've still only been beaten once in the last five years and I'd feel a bit happier if they'd won the league and everything had been rosy with them."

Despite the long history between the counties, this is the first time Bonnar will lead them into a championship game against Kilkenny in what is his third year in charge, so he's relishing the challenge and feels home advantage will help, especially with the county footballers facing Westmeath on the same bill.

"No doubt Wexford Park is a difficult place to come into and we know the majority of people will be Wexford fans and it'll be a full house," he said.

However, he has warned his players that playing at home will be absolutely no advantage should they allow Kilkenny to get a run on them.

"We'll have to set the mark from the word go and the longer we can stay in the game, the more our support will get to them," he said.

"Kilkenny will hope to put us away in the first 20-25 minutes. From our league game in Nowlan Park, we were well in the game, but, in the space of 10-15 minutes, they had four or five goal chances and could have put them away. You have to stop Kilkenny scoring goals, Dublin showed that."

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