O’Hanlon relieved after Wexford clear tricky first hurdle

Offaly challenge looms but victory over Dublin has established precious momentum

It's a busy Saturday evening in the championship and not everyone is happy about it. For the Wexford hurlers it's about trying to handle four games over four successive weekends – nothing to do with Saturday's clash with the Champions League final.

Despite some previous suggestions they may consider a switch, Leinster, Munster and Ulster have stuck with their schedule: Wexford, who opened their Leinster campaign by beating Dublin on Sunday, are on the road to Offaly on Saturday evening (7.0pm) – one of three games to clash with the final showdown between Liverpool and Real Madrid, which has a 7.45pm start in Kiev.

The Ulster SFC quarter-final between Down and Antrim throws-in at 7.00pm, as does the Munster SFC semi-final between Tipperary and Cork. There was no budging there because according to the Munster Council there was no request for an earlier throw-in.

"I'm a United man, so it won't bother me too much," said Matthew O'Hanlon, the Wexford co-captain who, like his manager Davy Fitzgerald, is more worried about the demands of playing four games over four successive weekends. After Saturday evening, Wexford are at home to Galway on Saturday week, then away to Kilkenny on Saturday June 9th.

“It’s absolutely massive,” says O’Hanlon, reflecting on Sunday’s two-point win over Dublin. “You’ve have got four games, in four weekends. We were looking at this game, first game, first chance for two points, and momentum is a great thing.

“The camp this week will be full of confidence after getting a win, as opposed to a close loss. And look we can’t dwell on it too much. It’s all about rest and recovery, and focusing on Offaly up in Tullamore, who are going to be no means a walkover. They are going to put it up to us no doubt.

“Credit to Dublin. They made a game of it in the end. That second goal really rattled us and then they got a point ahead. Then the game was in the melting pot. There was a four or five minute spell where nothing seemed to be going right for us and they were winning everything. We couldn’t get a score, but look it’s all about managing those situations in matches and then when you get the chance being clinical.

Bottom team

Fitzgerald has questioned the sense of his team being asked to play four weekends in succession.

“I just think one more week in between,” said Fitzgerald.

O'Hanlon has also questioned the scenario whereby the bottom-placed team in Leinster's round-robin are relegated to the Joe McDonagh Cup for 2019 (at this point it's looking like Dublin or Offaly). There is one exception whereby if Kerry win the Joe McDonagh Cup, they playoff against the bottom team in the Munster's round-robin. The winners there stay in Munster, while the losers are relegated and, in that circumstance, the bottom team in Leinster aren't relegated).

"I don't think it's right at all," said O'Hanlon. "I think it's something that probably wasn't highlighted in Congress enough, and the people in Congress didn't make enough of the decision.

“It’s basically saying Munster hurling are these aristocrats, and they are looking down on Leinster. Because why should the fifth-place team in Munster not get relegated if the fifth-place team in Leinster does get relegated?

“You can see there is no lack of quality in the five teams that are in Leinster. I don’t think it’s fair, and I don’t think it’s fair on the Joe McDonagh teams, especially if Kerry were to win the Joe McDonagh. They have earned the right to get up, if that’s the way the rules are, and they have to play a play-off in Munster, where they don’t in Leinster.

“It makes no sense. It’s something that definitely needs to be looked at it because it’s not fair. It’s through now. But the powers-that-be definitely need to look at it.”

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics