Leinster SHC round five Wexford v Kilkenny, Innovate Wexford Park, 7.0
One difference between great teams and good teams is that the former seem capable of accessing form at will whereas it can be a more capricious business for the rest.
Wexford’s form has been better this year than in 2018. They came back from their travels unbeaten despite being under the hammer for much of the proceedings in both Parnell Park and Salthill.
The problem for them this evening is that Kilkenny also look to have improved even if that has been obscured by the number of injuries they have had to negotiate. They have beaten Dublin more convincingly and lost to Galway more narrowly – albeit both at home rather than away – than last year.
TJ Reid’s form has been the talk of the championship and you’d be backing him to come up with more than one point from play, his return in this fixture 12 months ago. It’s not like the old days when the well-practised line about DJ Carey was that opponents needed “to keep the ball away from him” because Reid goes out and helps himself to it.
He has been averaging more than 0-5 from play in the three matches so far before taking into account the 2-28 from placed balls. Davy Fitzgerald will have a plan because Wexford will need to stack the deck to survive.
The slow clearing of injuries again improves Kilkenny but they still have vulnerabilities. Wexford will bring the same physicality as Galway and they very nearly turned over Brian Cody’s team in Nowlan Park last year before running out of puff.
Kilkenny probably have the edge in that Wexford have shown a tendency to be slow starters and recovering from that might prove trickier in this fixture.
Last meeting: 9th June, 2018 Leinster round five, at Nowlan Park, Kilkenny. Kilkenny 0-22, Wexford 1-18. Just the ticket: Seating: adult – pre-pay €20.00, match day €25.00, juveniles (U16), €5.00; Terrace: pre-pay €15.00, match day €20.00, juveniles (U16), €5.00. Concessions available. Odds: Wexford 7/4, Kilkenny 8/13 and 8/1 the draw. Verdict: Kilkenny to win
Dublin v Galway, Parnell Park, 7.0
For most of the year this fixture has shimmered with possibility for Dublin: new manager Mattie Kenny up against his own county and many of the players he coached on home ground with qualification still potentially in their own hands.
It hasn’t gone too badly so far for Dublin after the disappointment of getting overtaken by Kilkenny on day one. A dying-seconds equaliser against Wexford and an assured performance in Carlow despite being down to 14 men sets this up nicely.
There was further good cheer on Friday when Shane Barrett had the Carlow red card rescinded and is free to play, adding further physical presence. Galway on the other hand had corner back John Hanbury's sending off against Kilkenny confirmed and he is suspended.
Unfortunately the rest of it hasn't been great news for Kenny. Injuries are beginning to bite with doubts about Liam Rushe and Paul Ryan compromising an attack that already labours to put up convincing scores.
There is the added misfortune of timing. Galway looked a different side last week in Nowlan Park and the ability to compile a winning score down in Kilkenny without Joe Canning has been a great lift for morale, showcasing some excellent form from Conor Whelan and Cathal Mannion.
Whatever chances existed of doing a number on the Galway team that struggled against Carlow and Wexford, have been much reduced by the revival of Micheál Donoghue’s side.
Parnell Park is tight and claustrophobic enough for Dublin to make it hard on Galway but they need more scores when the match is going in their favour and greater resilience when they’re under pressure.
Regardless of form, Galway would always be a tough proposition because of their ball-winning attack but with the injection of confidence from winning in Nowlan Park, it's hard to see the Westerners slipping up here. Last meeting: 9th June, 2018, Leinster round five, at Pearse Stadium, Galway 0-26, Dublin 2-19. Just the ticket: Sold out Odds: Dublin 7/4, Galway 8/13 and 8/1 the draw. Verdict: Galway to win