Waterford must tread carefully at Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday, according to selector Dan Shanahan.
The reigning NHL champions took down Liam Dunne’s side in a promotion decider last March (0-22 to 0-16) and travel as the warmest of favourites to progress to the last four after accumulating seven points from five Division 1A fixtures.
Shanahan expects a raucous atmosphere to greet them however as the purple and gold aim to bounce back and cause an upset in front of their home supporters.
“We’re going into the lion’s den. They were favourites going into that game last year and we’ll be favourites going into the game on Sunday which is dangerous.
“They have beaten Clare down there two years ago and beat us fairly convincingly in Nowlan Park. Personally, I think there’s nothing between any of the teams in 1A or 1B.”
Wexford scraped into the quarter-finals courtesy of a late win over Laois yet Shanahan regards their persistent showing against Clare as a more accurate barometer of their capabilities.
“I have no doubt Liam Dunne is down there with his selectors saying we have a great opportunity to knock one of the top teams out of the league. They haven’t had a good year so far but down in Wexford Park you see what they can do. You see what they did against Clare for 50 or 60 minutes and they were with Clare until the end.
“We will never underestimate Wexford. They are a good team with a good manager and you have to give them the respect they deserve. It will be one hell of a battle.”
Waterford fielded an unfamiliar line-up, showing 10 changes, for the fifth round game versus Galway but managed to produce a rousing display at Walsh Park and pinch a draw.
“As a management, we weren’t surprised the way the lads performed against Galway. I was disappointed we didn’t win. You must put lads under pressure to be on the first 15 and to be on the first 26 as well.”
Gavin O’Brien’s equaliser snatched second place in the Division 1A table but the Déise finished as the lowest scorers on 1-90. Shanahan isn’t overly concerned by that statistic. “This question has been asked a number of times about why we’re not scoring enough goals but we’re still winning games. If we win this weekend 10 points to nine, we’ll take that. It’s not a big thing. We are creating one or two goal chances if you look back through the games. Maybe we haven’t taken them but I have no doubt, with the quality we have up front, if they get the chance again they will finish it no problem.”
The younger members of the team have carried the baton throughout the spring series. 19-year-old Shane Bennett bagged six points from play a fortnight ago while another All-Ireland minor winner Patrick Curran boasts 0-22 from four starts.
“Those lads are after getting stronger since the start of last year and you see the physical condition they are in now. They have matured a lot in the last 12 months. There’s no expectations on their shoulders we just want them to go out, work hard and hurl the way they can hurl.”
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