The minor hurlers of Laois and Wexford will face off at O’Moore Park this Saturday evening for the right to host Kilkenny in the semi-final of the Leinster Championship.
Both sides are on their second chance in the provincial championship having won one and lost one of their two championship matches thus far. Wexford will be hot favourites for this encounter; their loss was a narrow one at the hands of Dublin last week. They trailed by 11 points to 2 after just 20 minutes. But by the time the clock had ticked over to 52, they had stormed back to parity having outscored the Dubs by 2-3 to 1 in the period around the half time break.
In those final minutes however, the young hurlers from the capital showed why many feel that Croke Park could be taking centre stage in a new small ball dynasty with two late points to turn the tide. The Model County felled Offaly in the previous stage thanks to two first half goals off Jack Guiney placed balls as the yellow bellies held on for a thrilling 3-13 to 3-10 win.
Guiney is one of five names who return to Martin Storey’s panel from last year’s group: Goalkeeper, Conor O’Leary, fullback, Garret Foley, Conor Hughes in midfield and Gary Moore top of the left. The entire quintet lined out against Dublin and is likely to form the spine of the team again on Saturday evening (throw in 7pm).
For Laois, this match will be a step up in class. Despite accounting for a Tipperary selection in a challenge match last week, their championship results provide slim hope. In the first stage they lost out to Westmeath for the second year in a row. While their follow up clash with Meath provided some easier fare. They won comfortably, despite taking time to ease their foot off the pedal and concede four late goals in the 2-21 to 4-8 win in Pairc Tailteann.
If they are to prevail, Laois must get plenty of ball to Cha Dwyer and Stephen Maher in attack. While at the other end, they must limit the mid-range free chances, as Guiney is fast proving himself to be a cold blooded striker of dead balls.
Both counties are seeking to end a long drought of minor success. Wexford are without a title since 1985 and you have to go back a further seven years for the last time they lost to Laois at this level.
June 25th is the semi-final date with Kilkenny. But the fear which black and amber jerseys once inspired is not only on the wane at senior level. The minor Cats could only sneak past Westmeath by two points in their last outing and in the next round, they will have to travel to meet Saturday’s winner.
Laois – E Rowland; M Collier, P Lawlor, D Palmer, B Duggan, W Young, G Burke, J Ryan, C Gleeson, PJ Scully, S Maher, R Peacock, T Dowling, C Dwyer, J Campion.
Wexford – C O’Leary; S Murphy, A Kenny, G Foley; W Furlong, S O’Gorman, N Cullen; C Hughes, K Foley; P O’Connor, J Guiney, A Nolan; P Doyle, R Clarke, G Moore.
Verdict: Wexford with a goal to spare.