Kinsella: Defence key to stopping Cork

RORY KINSELLA has it all figured out. Well almost. In so far as it is possible to analyse a game accurately, he is convinced the key to winning Sunday’s Guinness All-Ireland hurling semi-final in Croke Park will be in stopping Cork’s half-backs.

Taking account of his coaching background, the fact that he played with Wexford and managed them for three years after Liam Griffin, few would question his judgment.

A teacher in Bunclody and brother of county secretary Mick Kinsella he says Wexford supporters are not at all convinced their team is going to be victorious. He himself agrees that Cork have to be favourites.

"I know they have only played two matches and Waterford could have beaten them, but traditionally Cork have it over us," he says.

People are inclined to forget that not so long ago things weren't going very well for them at all, except that they seemed to have turned the corner. They had to produce a big performance to beat Clare and they were lucky enough to beat Waterford," he says.

His analysis of Wexford's games to date would find general favour. They didn't really perform against Offaly until the second half and they could have been in trouble if Kilkenny took their chances in the Leinster final.

"In fairness to Fitz (goalkeeper Damien Fitzhenry), he was very good. But, then we kind of opened up like the Red Sea for Eddie Brennan to come through and get the goal that almost put an end to it. Henry Shefflin got another goal, but we didn't deserve to be beaten by 11 points."

Fitzhenry helped inspire the comeback in the qualifier game with Waterford, making a vital save near half-time before Rory Jacob scored a cheeky goal. Until then, Kinsella felt that their team looked dead and buried. "We didn't perform against Antrim either, but we won," he says.

We got around to discussing the game in detail, dissecting the various lines on each side. The conclusion he drew was success at half-back for whichever side manages it will be a huge factor.

"The players on the Cork side are almost the launching pad for them just like Kilkenny were in the Leinster final.

"We didn't contest the high ball. We weren't catching it, we weren't trying to keep it moving. and we weren't preventing them from catching it. I presume Paul Codd will play in the centre. Larry Murphy, because of his strength and experience, has made a big difference.

"We have as good a goalkeeper that's around. There was a lot of indecision in the full-back line against Antrim, but I feel Darragh Ryan would definitely settle it.

Liam Dunne is playing well all through. I thought he was harshly treated by referees over the last few years. He's probably one of the most skilful players that I ever worked with, a superb hurler. Collectively, with Darragh playing, we have a good set of backs."

The excellence of Rory McCarthy at midfield in the second half of the Antrim game was a big positive for the team and himself personally. Yet, Kinsella feels that midfield won't be decisive precisely because of the impact of the new sliotar:

"It's unreal how lively it is. It's causing problems with the length of puck-outs and it's causing problems for free-takers. It doesn't seem to be flying as true as the other one.

"The Wexford midfielders are going to play a massive role in helping out our half-forwards. Inside, Rory Jacob is a quality hurler, while he missed a good few chances against Antrim, at least he was getting them. He has skill to burn.

"I wouldn't even use the word that Larry Murphy is rejuvenated. Larry never went away and he is not old. People talk about him as being a veteran, but, he's only 30.

"People are saying Wexford are on their knees, but they are only 70 minutes away from an All-Ireland final. It's their fourth semi-final in seven years. This is a team that was discounted by all the pundits, not even mentioned in the top eight in a few articles at the beginning of the year. Eight teams ahead of us.

"Last year we were terribly unlucky to get Clare just six days after the Leinster final, we just we weren't up for it. This year we got a fortnight and it made a difference. If we had to play Waterford a week after the Leinster final you'd doubts if the game would have ended up the way it did."

The bottom line for him is that Wexford will be in trouble if their half-forwards don't do their job.

"Look at our record for this year. We have not been playing consistently well for the 70 minutes and we need to do that. It depends what happens on the day," he says.

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