Limerick to spoil Wexford fairy-tale

The Treaty County look poised to emerge victorious from tomorrow’s All-Ireland SHC quarter-final in Semple Stadium

The rain was lashing down in a hotel outside Thurles and it was weeks before a ball had even been struck when Eamon O'Shea, the Tipperary manager, said something which stuck in the minds of those present. Watch Wexford, he said.

Their drawn and replay games against Clare, both extra-time thrillers, seemed to resurrect a genuine sense within the county that Wexford are contenders again.

Last Saturday night they confirmed their stunning surge in form by beating Waterford in Nowlan Park – and how pleasant for Wexford hurling people to have a happy evening in the Marble County headquarters.

It is as if after seasons of inch-by-inch progression, everything Liam Dunne has planted has come to bloom at once.

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Switching Lee Chin to midfield has added to Wexford’s explosiveness in that sector.

Liam Óg McGovern's turn-and-take-em-on style has caught everyone's eye; Jack Guiney and Conor McDonald between them add a dangerous glint to Wexford's attack but throughout the lines, they are playing with crisp, heads-up alertness and composure and generally look to be on fire.

Keith Rossiter's injury concern is a cloud: it remains to be seen whether he has recovered from the back knock that forced him off against Waterford. Designated role The other trouble for Wexford is Limerick are not taking kindly to their designated role in this championship. They haven't played ball with the notion that the usual internal mischief would do for them after Donal O'Grady left the scene in spring, rising to a heavyweight win over league finalists Tipperary and then pushing Cork all the way in the Munster final.

But for errant shooting and a failure to drive home a blistering opening period, they could have pressed the Cork men harder and that result came down to the home team taking their two best goal chances.

Both Paudie O’Brien and Gavin O’Mahony were under the cosh when Cork attacked the fringes but as a unit, the Limerick defence, with Wayne McNamara a totemic presence, should be better able to soak up the variety and cleverness of Wexford’s attack.

Word that Declan Hannon played at number six during a recent closed-doors challenge against Dublin hinted at a radical restructure but it will be a surprise if that materialises.

The heavy obligation on Shane Dowling to keep the scores tipping over for Limerick is a concern for them and they will be hoping Kevin Downes, in particular, begins to spark on Sunday. They face a serious task here: Wexford are part hurling team, part popular movement. But there is substance and experience to this Limerick side. They also hold a quietly burning belief they have unfinished business at semi-final level. Wexford are the story of the summer but Limerick could bring it to an abrupt conclusion.

Keith Duggan

Keith Duggan

Keith Duggan is a features writer with The Irish Times