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Dublin: 20 °C Saturday 21 July, 2018

Smooth 'dry run' primes Davy Fitz's Wexford hurlers for a massive crack at Cody's Kilkenny

The Slaneysiders are in a good place ahead of the mammoth Leinster SHC semi-final on 10 June.

Davy Fitzgerald poses with young fans at O'Moore Park on Sunday.
Davy Fitzgerald poses with young fans at O'Moore Park on Sunday.
Image: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

IT WAS A day that couldn’t have gone much better for Davy Fitzgerald and Wexford.

The manager was banished to the stands following his altercation with Tipp’s Jason Forde in the Allianz League semi-final, and will remain there for the mouth-watering Leinster SHC semi-final meeting with Kilkenny on 10 June.

But yesterday’s clash with Laois at O’Moore Park was the ideal chance for the Slaneysiders to have a ‘dry run’ ahead of a game that promises to be a 25,000 sell-out.

Selector JJ Doyle said after the game: “Yeah, it is not ideal but we know how it is going to work and it will be the same again for the Kilkenny game.

“People on the outside think it is a bigger deal than it is for us.

“We have been together now since November, played a lot of games, we all know our roles.”

JJ Doyle Wexford selector JJ Doyle. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Yesterday, Doyle and fellow selector Pauric Fanning sat alongside Fitzgerald in the stand, while Seoirse Bulfin directed operations from the touchline.

The communication channels were open and while Fitzgerald was mic’d up, that was for another reason.

On the pitch after the game, Fitzgerald was spotted with TV presenter Lucy Kennedy, who was present with a camera and sound crew.

Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

It appears that Fitzgerald was being filmed for a forthcoming episode of the RTÉ series ‘Living with Lucy’, one that should attract a big viewership.

It was a day when Fitzgerald could afford to devote some attention to a distraction.

On the pitch, his players went about their business in a confident and efficient manner.

After recovering from an early three-point deficit, they overpowered Laois and won by 14 points.

The shame for Fitzgerald is that he’ll sit out the remaining hours of his eight-week ban on 10 June. Had the game been on the Sunday, he’d have been free to patrol the touchline alongside Kilkenny boss Brian Cody.

Brian Cody Brian Cody's Kilkenny are next up for Davy Fitzgerald and Wexford. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Scanning through the match programme before throw-in, the names of Liam Óg McGovern, Andrew Shore and Shane Tomkins were listed among the Wexford subs.

All three suffered cruciate knee ligament injuries last year (Shore and Tomkins both underwent surgery on the same day) and while McGovern was behind his colleagues on his recovery time-line, he was sprung from the bench.

McGovern was one of Wexford’s best players last year, and scored two late points in the famous qualifier victory over Cork.

He now has less than a fortnight to prove that he’s worth a start against Kilkenny but with not much hurling under his belt, he’ll do well to earn a start.

cruciaes Wexford trio Liam Óg McGovern, Andrew Shore and Shane Tomkins were listed among the Wexford subs yesterday. McGovern came on in the second half.

Jack Guiney is another pushing hard for inclusion. He came off the bench at half-time yesterday and put in a barnstorming performance.

Guiney was directly involved in Wexford’s first two scores after half-time, created a goal for Aidan Nolan, had one disallowed and then finally found the net with a legitimate effort.

Guiney’s sheer strength and physical presence terrorised the Laois inside line and they had no answers to the Rathnure man.

Amazingly, it was Guiney’s first taste of championship hurling in almost two years.

He played against Westmeath in 2015 before being dropped from the squad by then manager Liam Dunne. Last year, he absented himself from the panel and played no championship hurling at all.

Jack Guiney Wexford's Jack Guiney (file pic). Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Fitzgerald has handled the Guiney situation well, bringing him back in late last year before handing him some game time during the spring. But you can’t underestimate how good 24-year-old Guiney will have felt last night and today, knowing that he’s firmly back in the mix.

Out of 3-25 scored on Sunday, 3-19 came from play. Regardless of the opposition, that’s good shooting. In the second half alone, Wexford helped themselves to 2-14.

Even without goalkeeper Mark Fanning, who was in hospital for treatment on an infection, Wexford were solid at the back.

Sweeper Shaun Murphy must have had a pain in his arm with the amount of ball he was clearing, while corner back Simon Donohoe and Matthew O’Hanlon also excelled.

At midfield, Nolan dovetailed well with Jack O’Connor, and it should also be considered that McGovern and Guiney are competing for one of five starting spots in attack, given that Wexford operate with a sweeper.

Based on yesterday’s displays, Paul Morris, Lee Chin, Conor McDonald and Harry Kehoe will almost certainly retain their starting spots for Kilkenny.

Lee Chin Lee Chin scored three points for Wexford on Sunday. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

David Redmond will have to prove himself after he was whipped off at half-time, and replaced by Guiney, but he’s also an option at midfield.

Barry Carton, David Dunne and Eoin Moore also did well when they came in, illustrating a real depth in Fitzgerald’s squad.

He now has a situation where he has 20 or more players of the required standard, and that’s a brilliant position for the Clare man.

Of course, all of the above comes with the caveat that Laois provided the opposition. Eamonn Kelly has improved them but Wexford, as he pointed out, are further down the road in terms of progression.

Source: CR's Video Vaults/YouTube

The acid test for Wexford is one that has been flagged for some time now – Kilkenny on 10 June.

The ground will be heaving and it’s set up for a humdinger. Kilkenny won’t lack for motivation after losing the League quarter-final clash between the counties, and in their own Nowlan Park back yard, but Wexford look like men on a mission.

And they know they’ll never have a better chance to revive that glory day in 2004, when Mick Jacob knifed that famous late goal to floor the Cats at Croke Park.

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