Improving Wexford can do it again
Liam Dunne’s side have the momentum to get past Limerick while Tipperary should prove too strong for struggling Dublin
The main debilitating aspect of Wexford’s run of six championship matches in eight weeks is not principally tired minds and limbs but rather the likelihood and impact of injuries.
It’s virtually impossible to play that number of games without sustaining injuries as Wexford manager Liam Dunne fully appreciates.
A classic example is the recurrence of the groin problem suffered by Keith Rossiter – Liam Og McGovern picked up a knock too – that forced him to retire early against Waterford.
They are key players.
Wexford were more vulnerable in defence after Rossiter’s departure last weekend, coughing up a couple of goals and goal chances to Waterford.
McGovern is equally important to the team. Not alone does he score and bring others into the game but he creates space. He is very fluid in terms of the way he plays; he doesn’t just hang around the corner forward area but roams in search of possession.
Several Wexford players have made outstanding contributions in their run to this stage of the championship and he’s right up there at the top of the list.
I can make a case for both teams. Wexford have surprised everyone. I saw them in the flesh against Dublin and thought to myself, that they were a work in progress.
There was no denying their talent and potential. They missed a host of chances – that was mainly down to inexperience but the green shoots were visible.
Against Clare, in both matches, I was struck by their progress in a relatively short period of time. Inexperience still undermined their option taking, in terms of shot selection and execution, but they had made strides.
Last Saturday I was very impressed by an incremental improvement once again.
Work ethicTheir work ethic and application was phenomenal and their use of the ball had improved; as of now they have no idea what their limit is as a team. They over-elaborated at times and racked up a hefty wides’ tally but the rate of progression is fairly rapid.
They have players at the top of their form, corner back Liam Ryan, centre half back Eoin Moore, the midfield of Lee Chin and David Redmond – their clash with Limerick’s James Ryan and Paul Browne will be central to the outcome on Sunday – and in attack, Paul Morris and Podge Doran.
Then there is the outstanding Conor McDonald, a seminal influence in their forward line and someone who has been unplayable at times this season.
There is one caveat; over the years Wexford haven’t played well or often in Thurles whereas it would be a second home to Limerick. It’s hard to go against Wexford because their wining form is fresh in the memory.
I didn’t expect Limerick to beat Cork in Cork because that was an assignment beyond any 2014 team. Jimmy Barry Murphy’s team were in form and looking to atone for last year’s Munster final defeat.
Throw in the historical footnote provided by the venue, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, and you had the perfect motivational recipe for Cork.
However Limerick came out of that Munster final with holes. Their two wing backs Gavin O’Mahony and Paudie O’Brien were replaced, the midfield was totally dominated by Aidan Walsh and Daniel Kearney and their forwards didn’t have any more impact than they did against Tipperary.
The improvement I expected to see from Limerick between the Tipperary and Cork matches didn’t materialise.
There are question marks about the depth in the Limerick panel. If you asked me six or eight weeks ago who would win between Limerick and Wexford then I would have had no hesitation in saying Limerick.
I am now inclined to side with Wexford on the proviso that Rossiter and McGovern are fully fit. They are an improving package and there is scope for further progress.
Systems failureDublin are coming off a disastrous Leinster final but the nature of teams trained by Anthony Daly guarantees there will be a kickback.
The Dubs suffered injuries to key players going into that final. The key to Dublin is their athleticism and their best athletes were all replaced on the day. Their set-up and tactics were totally off; they suffered a systems failure. They don’t have depth to their squad; ironically that shortfall can be found in the Dublin footballers’ panel.
If Danny Sutcliffe, Conal Keaney and Ryan O’Dwyer haven’t recovered from those injuries it will be a fatal blow. Their best hope is to use their phenomenal athleticism, win ball and run at Tipperary. There was a negativity to the way Dublin set up against Kilkenny but that outlook will need to change.
Tipp are back on track, albeit that they have enjoyed victories over pretty questionable opposition in Galway and Offaly. Dublin will pose a greater threat. The biggest problem Tipperary face is winning enough ball in their forward line.
If Tipperary win enough ball with the skill levels of Lar Corbett, Séamus Callanan, Noel McGrath and John O’Dwyer, they will score and cause problems for anyone. However the issue for them is ball winning.
Pádraig and Brendan Maher man the number three and six positions but both have struggled in those positions at various times earlier in the season. Tipperary’s chance of winning will improve considerably if the two Mahers dominate that central corridor.
The Dublin defence is still athletic. Peter Kelly is an ideal defender for Séamus Callanan because he is big, strong and fast. The Dublin defence will pose a different set of questions to anything the Tipperary forwards have experienced so far in the qualifiers.
For Dublin there is a huge gap to bridge from their performance in the Leinster final to the one that’s going to be required to beat Tipperary; particularly in the latter’s backyard.
The gap looks too big for me, especially in the three-week window.