Wexford can’t afford to slip up

IT’S make-or-break for Wexford in tomorrow’s delayed Allianz NHL game against Kilkenny (Nowlan Park, 6.15).

After losing to Galway in the first of three games in the second phase, the Leinster champions accept they have no chance of qualifying for the final if they slip up again.

County board secretary Mick Kinsella is part of the new management team headed by Séamus Murphy. Kinsella, brother of former manager Rory, is coach/selector and brings a wealth of experience to the roles. He was involved as coach in the early 80’s when Wexford defeated Cork in a League semi-final but lost to Kilkenny in the final.

“Why did I get involved? - because I am passionate about hurling, more than football,” he says. “I’m thrilled with the way the footballers have progressed. We feel they have a great chance of beating Tyrone in the League semi-final. It’s clear that Tyrone respect them, because they were not prepared to agree to a double-header either in Nowlan Park or Wexford Park. Kilkenny, in fairness, had been prepared to come to Wexford.”

Last season, Wexford failed to make the second phase (along with Kilkenny). Kinsella says they were “absolutely thrilled” to advance after an impressive first phase campaign when their only defeat was to Cork (by a point).

“We had that hiccup last Sunday, losing to Galway. We recognise that we face an uphill battle to get to the final, having to face the two teams who won last Sunday, Kilkenny and Clare. And Clare have made it known they are very serious about getting to the final. We would love to, of course, but it’s going to be difficult.”

There is an acceptance on the management side that at times the lack of physique - especially among the forwards - can be a handicap.

“It’s so different from the 50’s. It must be what we are feeding them down here,” he joked. “Eoin Quigley is not what you would call a small man, but he is inexperienced. We have Willie Doran at centre-forward, even though his best position would be at centre-back. The others would be depending on using their skill and craft,” he added.

Kinsella agrees that they can’t expect any favours from their great rivals especially after the dramatic late goal from Michael Jacob in last year’s Leinster championship ended the Cats’ hopes of a seventh consecutive provincial title.

“We have a feeling they won’t want to let us climb up the ladder,” he said. “They haven’t forgotten what we did to them, sending them ‘on the scenic route.’ The last time we met was in the Walsh Cup and they beat us by six points. But that was early in the year.”

Murphy has left captain Michael Jacob and leading scorer Paul Carley out of his team. Their places are taken by Barry Lambert and Mitch Jordan.

WEXFORD (SH v Kilkenny): D Fitzhenry; M Travers, D O’Connor, K Rossiter; D Ruth, D Stamp, D Lyng; R McCarthy, W Doran; B Lambert, E Quigley, M Jordan; N Higgins, R Jacob, D Mythen.

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