Offaly hope for home comfort against Waterford in qualifiers

Wexford look to have a straightforward challenge against Antrim

Offaly manager Ollie Baker: has made three changes from the side that lost to Kilkenny. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

Offaly manager Ollie Baker: has made three changes from the side that lost to Kilkenny. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho


Ollie Baker may have got his wish for home advantage in Tullamore (and no disrespect to lovers of the old grounds at Birr), but there’s a price for everything, and here it came in the form of Waterford, the only Division 1A team at this phase of the qualifiers.

Despite their relative proximity, it’s only their third ever championship meeting between the counties: Waterford have won the previous two, both also in the qualifier stages, the first in 2005, winning by nine points, and again in 2008, winning by six.

Baker has made three changes from the team that stood bravely up to Kilkenny: Cathal Parlon is ruled out with a broken bone in his hand, and is replaced by Derek Morkan, just back from injury, while Derek Molloy and Dan Currams are both given starting berths.

Waterford won’t mind playing in Tullamore, and will no doubt be equally keen to rebound from the Munster quarter-final defeat to Clare, having been up at half-time, by four points.

But if Offaly can raise the sort of physical challenge they presented to Kilkenny then Baker may well have another wish come true.

It’s not the most ideally timed turnaround for Wexford after last Saturday’s defeat to Dublin in the Leinster quarter-final, although manager Liam Dunne won’t want to be dwelling on that game for too long either, and the relatively straightforward challenge of Antrim might just be what his team needs to revive spirits.

They’ve actually met three times before, Wexford winning the lot, and there’s nothing to suggest they won’t make it four from four; Antrim were a little disappointing in losing to Laois earlier on, despite what we now know about Laois, indeed make five changes from that day: returning after suspension is Karl Stewart, with Simon McCrory and Chris McGuinness back from injury, while Chris O’Connell takes over from Ryan McGarry in goal, and Darren Hamill replaces Ciarán Clarke at left corner forward.

With Andrew Shore suspended, Michael O’Regan starts for Wexford, with one further change seeing Podge Doran called into the attack, with Eoin Quigley making way.

Pulse racing
Also Saturday, London host Westmeath in a first round qualifier, but it’s not exactly the sort of game to get the pulse racing.

Westmeath but lost to Antrim, 3-18 to 2-13, despite leading early in the second half, while London went out to Carlow, 4-17 to 2-13, at the same stage.

Now comes the prize for going the furthest, and with home advantage, London won’t want to give it up easy. But if Westmeath can rebound from the Antrim defeat then the prize is likely theirs, and the prospect of either Offaly or Waterford in the qualifiers next weekend.

WEXFORD: M Fanning; E Moore, T Waters, B Kenny; R Kehoe, M O’Regan, C Kenny; D Redmond, L Chin; J Guiney, G Sinnott, H Kehoe; P Morris, P Doran, J Jacob.

ANTRIM: C O’Connell; B McFall, A Graffin, C McKinley; S McCrory, N McManus (capt), P Shiels; J McGreevey, N McAuley; T McCloskey, C Carson, S McNaughton; C McGuinness, K Stewart, D Hamill.

WESTMEATH: P Collins; L Varley, T Gallagher, P Fennell; D Fennell, A McGrath, Adam Price; E Price (captain), J Clarke; B Murtagh, A Craig, D McNicholas; N O’Brien, R Greville, J Shaw.

LONDON (tbc).

OFFALY: J Dempsey; C McDonald, D Kenny (Capt), D Mooney; R Hanniffy, G Healion, D Morkan; B Carroll, K Brady; C Egan, D Molloy, C Slevin; S Dooley, D Currams, J Bergin.

WATERFORD: S O’Keeffe; S Fives, L Lawlor, N Connors; J Nagle, M Walsh, D Fives; P Prendergast, K Moran; J Dillon, S Prendergast, S O’Sullivan; J Barron, M Shanahan, B O’Sullivan.