We preview the highly anticipated clash between Wexford and Kilkenny, we also have live updates, betting advice and team news.
The Leinster hurling championship between two great rivals will throw in at 7pm in Wexford Park
when the reigning Leinster champions, Kilkenny travel to face neighbours Wexford. Can Wexford replicate their victory over The Cats in the league or will Kilkenny reach another Leinster final? We look ahead to Saturday evening’s big clash.
Nobody does a bandwagon quiet like Wexford. Wexford Park possibly hasn’t seen a demand for tickets not since 1996. The impressive league campaign and the victory over Kilkenny in the league means that Wexford fans for the first time in a long time anticipate a result against Kilkenny. It wasn’t just the victory but the way that Wexford beat their neighbours was most impressive. Shaun Murphy cleaned up in his sweeper role and distributed the ball to almost perfection into the forwards but what was most alarming for Brian Cody that for the first time under Cody, a Wexford team physically bullied his side.
The likes of Jack O’Connor, David Dunne, and Aidan Nolan all of whom have great pace and caused Kilkenny great trouble with Dunne and O’Connor combining for Wexford’s first goal against the Cats. Rumour is that O’Connor may not be available for the game on Saturday and would be a huge loss for the yellowbellies as he has been an important piece in Davy’s game plan with his pace at wing-forward causing many a defence plenty of trouble. The matchups also went Wexford’s way with O’Hanlon on Walter Walsh, James Breen on TJ Reid, and Liam Ryan on Richie Hogan all coming in Wexford’s favour.
However, we all know there is nothing more dangerous than a Kilkenny side with a point to prove. They have been written off by parts of the media after a disappointing league campaign but we all know that Cody emphasises the Championship over the League. Micheal Fennely has returned from his achilleas injury and could start on Saturday but a question would be asked about his fitness if the only hurling he has done is club games and training. If fully fit, he is a game changer. It’s not coincidental that Kilkenny slide in form happened after his injury. Another possible return is Ger Aylward. In the last championship meeting between the sides Aylward destroyed the Wexford full-back line with a hat-trick as Kilkenny thrashed Wexford in 2015. Aylward has been missing with a cruciate ligament injury nut has returned or his club Glenmore scoring 3-1. Aylward would be familiar with some of the Wexford players having played with the likes of O’Hanlon and Breen at Good Counsel and would be another forward that Wexford will have to deal with.
Kilkenny struggled with the sweeper back in the league. A factor was there failure to win primary possession and the distribution was poor and allowed Murphy to intercept passes and build attacks for his side. If the likes of Reid, Walsh, and Hogan can with their own ball and take out the sweeper, this will go a long way to aid a Kilkenny victory. Kilkenny also have an issue at full-back with Pádraig Walsh missing through injury. They have been trying out Kieran Joyce in that roll but also have the option of Joey Holding who is a previous All-Star winner. Whoever is given that position will have to deal with the in-form Conor McDonald who was highly influential in the previous meeting especially in the air.
There are a lot of questions to be asked heading into Saturday evening which makes this game so intriguing. Was the league defeat a once off or are we seeing a changing of the guard in Leinster? Can Kilkenny answer the critics or is this the beginning of the end? Can Wexford live up to the expectations of the county and pull off another victory over the kingpins of hurling. There will be no better place to be than Wexford Park on Saturday evening and I expect a cracker between these sides. Kilkenny will be itching to set the record straight and with the returns of Aylward and Fennelly back to the fold it would be hard to back against anything other than a Kilkenny victory.
VERDICT: KILKENNY BY 5-10
Amazingly both teams have refused to name teams till an hour before throw in, once we have teams they will appear here.