Fanning hoping to give Model badly needed title boost

DUBLIN will be straining to retain their Leinster U21 title in tonight’s Wexford Park decider but their hosts will be motivated by a desire to restore pride as much as thoughts of rare silverware.

It has been another dispiriting summer for the Model County’s seniors after the boost of retaining their Division One League status in unlikely fashion. A routine defeat of Antrim was followed by losses to Kilkenny and Limerick and a painfully familiar early summer departure.

The south-east needs a lift.

U21 captain Mark Fanning agreed: “It is important because the big thing in Wexford is looking towards the future. We want to give the county a lift because things have been said in the media that the senior hurlers are failures.

“They are not. So it is important to give the county a lift and an U21 Leinster would be nice.”

It is nine years since Wexford last claimed Leinster honours at this grade but the current crop take to the field with more hope than usual invested in them by a public whose confidence has been dulled by the repetitive taste of defeat.

Much of that optimism can be attributed to the quarter-final defeat of Kilkenny at the same venue in June, a game which marked the first time Fanning and most of his teammates had ever claimed the scalp of a Cats selection.

U21s like Matthew O’Hanlon and Harry Kehoe have already made the breakthrough onto the senior panel and, though provincial titles have eluded them in recent years, Fanning is adamant that further talent is braced to follow.

“It is a matter of giving those lads a chance in the senior team now,” he believes.

These sides met at the same juncture 12 months ago in Parnell Park when Dublin won by six points but only after a tense closing quarter when Wexford hit a post while the hosts netted at the other end.

Only two of that Wexford team will be absent tonight and half a dozen of them have already claimed a Leinster U21 title this year with the footballers.

Wexford manager Tony Dempsey has made two changes to the team which hit Laois for 7-18 in the semi-final with Pádraig Donnelly in at left corner-back as Eoin Moore moves to midfield and Rory Sludds drops to the bench.

John Leacy returns from injury at centre-back at the expense of James Gahan while Dublin have made just the pair of switches from the 15 that sauntered past Offaly in the last four.

Thomas Connolly and Niall McMorrow are the players drafted in. Connolly, who is a younger brother of senior footballer Diarmuid, is named at full-forward with McMorrow selected alongside him at top of the left as Ciarán Brennan and Eamonn Dillon dropping to the bench.

A win for the Dubs would mark their third in this age group in five years and buttress the success of their minor counterparts in recent times, all of which has put Wexford’s efforts in recent times firmly in the shade.

“That is probably a fair statement because we haven’t done much at underage,” said Fanning. “We beat the Dublin minors in 2008 in a replay and it is the same group of lads. It will be tough. Dublin are a good team.

“A lot of money has been put into hurling up here as well. Down in Wexford we probably haven’t got the same resources to put into it. It is a tough one to know really. We are hoping, hoping that we will do it.”

WEXFORD: M Fanning; W Devereux, M O’Hanlon, P Donnelly; M O’Regan, J Leacy, S Murphy; E Kent, E Moore; S Tomkins, H Kehoe, L Óg McGovern; P Morris, J Breen, P Doran.

DUBLIN: G McManus; B O’Carroll, D Kelly, J Doughan; D Curran, M Quilty, C Gough; D Sutcliffe, D Plunkett; M Schutte, L Rushe, R Mahon; K O’Loughlin, T Connolly, N McMorrow.

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