Pretenders prepare to grab Leinster crown

The Leinster senior hurling final gets underway today and for the first time in seven years, All-Ireland

The Leinster senior hurling final gets underway today and for the first time in seven years, All-Ireland

champions Kilkenny won't figure in it.

Pretenders to the provincial throne Wexford and Offaly contest the showpiece at Croke Park, and Wexford manager John Conran has stuck with the winning formula that saw his side defeat the hotly fancied Cats in the semi-final.

Defender Keith Rossiter, who missed the championship opener with a broken hand, is back in the fray and Conran can call on the experience of Paul Codd, Colm Kehoe and Larry Murphy, who all begin today's match on the bench.

Offaly manager Mike McNamara has named the same side that trounced Dublin by 2-25 to 1-13 in the other semi-final.

There are positional changes, however.

Gary Hanniffy switches with brother Rory from right wing to centre-forward and student Brendan Murphy, who scored two goals in the Dublin game when moved to full-forward, retains his place there.

Joe Brady moves to the left wing in his place.

Offaly full-back Ger Oakley faces a tough task in his first season in the heart of the defence. The flying Wexford full-forward line tore Kilkenny's All Star back line to shreds in the semi-final, and Oakley faces the first serious test of his abilities following his move from midfield.

Wexford are favourites in light of their Kilkenny victory, but Offaly will be hungry to take provincial

honours and become the second team (after Munster champions Waterford) to secure an All-Ireland

semi-final spot.

The losers face a daunting task in Anthony Daly's Clare in the All-Ireland qualifiers.

OFFALY (SH v Wexford): B Mullins; B Teehan, G Oakley, D Franks; Brian Whelahan, N Claffey, C Cassidy; M Cordial, Barry Whelahan; R Hanniffy, G Hanniffy (capt), J Brady; B Carroll, B Murphy, D Murray.

WEXFORD (SH v Offaly): D Fitzhenry; M Travers, D Ryan, D O’Connor; R McCarthy, D Ruth, J O’Connor (capt); A Fenlon, T Mahon; B Lambert, E Quigley, P Carley; M Jacob, M Jordan, R Jacob.

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