Move over Munster, Leinster is hurling’s hotbed now, reckons Fitzhenry

WEXFORD goalkeeping legend Damien Fitzhenry reckons the Leinster Championship will put Munster hurling in the shade this year.

Kilkenny’s dominance in recent years has decaffeinated Leinster hurling, whereas the battle for supremacy in Munster has remained stimulating.

But Fitzhenry is convinced the southern province will be knocked from its pedestal this summer by Leinster.

“Over the last 10 or 12 years, Leinster hurling has been the bridesmaid to Munster hurling. But this year I think that will change and the Leinster Championship will be that bit better,” he says.

“Kilkenny are still there, but Dublin beat them in the league final so they’re real contenders now. You have Galway, Wexford, Offaly and Antrim too, all good teams, so I think it’s going to be a fantastic Leinster Championship.

“In the past, the Munster Championship was the whole essence of the hurling calendar. But that’s going to change this year.”

It’s six years since Kilkenny lost a match in the Leinster Championship, but Fitzhenry is convinced they’re vulnerable this year.

“Dublin proved that by beating them handsomely in the league final,” he says. “The other counties are definitely getting closer to Kilkenny too.

“In fairness to them they’ve had arguably the greatest team of all time over the course of the last seven or eight years, but it’s just an impossibility to keep that going indefinitely with the same group of players.

“It’s definitely looking good for all the other teams in the province to catch up with them eventually, and that’s not before time.”

He doesn’t think his own native county are up to Kilkenny’s standard just yet though, and says an acceptable year for the Slaneysiders would be to reach an All-Ireland quarter-final through the back-door.

“The first thing we have to do is beat Antrim this weekend. They won’t be a pushover, and after that you’d have a home draw against Kilkenny which would obviously be a huge ask.

“We mightn’t topple Kilkenny, but I think a good run through the qualifiers all the way to an All-Ireland quarter-final would have to be regarded as a reasonably good year for Wexford.”

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