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Dublin: 11 °C Monday 27 May, 2019

Where do Limerick and Wexford's battered hurlers go from here?

Both counties are faced with the prospect of recovering from demoralising provincial championship defeats.

Liam Dunne and TJ Ryan must pick their teams up after heavy weekend defeats.
Liam Dunne and TJ Ryan must pick their teams up after heavy weekend defeats.
Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

FIRST THINGS FIRST, they haven’t become bad teams or bad players overnight.

Wexford and Limerick were unfortunate on Sunday, unlucky is the wrong word to use, to run into two hurling juggernauts operating on full throttle.

Wexford lost by 24 points to Kilkenny, Limerick by 16 on home soil against Tipperary.

40 points combined when both counties would have fancied their chances of getting so much closer than that.

Waking up this morning, the round 1 qualifier draw brought varying degrees of fortune.

For Limerick, it’s Westmeath in Mullingar. Result.

For Wexford, it’s a visit from Cork. Difficult.

TJ Ryan It was a tough day at the office for TJ Ryan against Tipperary. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Limerick, first. Boss TJ Ryan set up his team to contain on Sunday against Tipp, obviously conscious of the firepower of Seamus Callanan and John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer.

The pair finished with 2-12 between them on a day when Richie McCarthy suffered the kind of day that’s threatened him in recent years.

That the full-back hasn’t been cleaned out by now is a testament to his determination and hurling ability but there comes a day when the dam bursts – and Sunday was it.

Limerick sat an extra man behind their half-back line, attempting to screen McCarthy and prevent the type of one-on-one situations that Callanan loves.

But there’s no legislating for individual errors and McCarthy was most badly affected by the collective malaise.

Ryan realised that he couldn’t win a high-scoring shootout but allowing Tipp primary possession from puckouts simply invited the winners on.

Seamus Callanan celebrates scoring a goal Seamus Callanan enjoyed himself against Limerick. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Brilliant movement inside from Callanan and O’Dwyer opened up acres of space but Tipp have the players in deep positions who can stick the ball in their hands from 50 yards.

How many times did we see Callanan and O’Dwyer sprint away from their markers, McCarthy and Seamus Hickey, to collect hopping ball?

The lack of pressure being applied in the middle third was a factor in Tipp’s success, with Brendan Maher sitting deep and firing the arrows.

But if Limerick played into Tipperary’s hands, it was a similar story at Nowlan Park as Wexford capitulated.

Perhaps we should have seen this one coming. Following a line of form, Wexford have regressed, failing to secure promotion from Division 1B of the Allianz League and losing to an unpredictable Cork in the quarter-finals.

Liam Dunne and Brian Cody at the end of the game Liam Dunne's Wexford played second fiddle to Brian Cody and Kilkenny. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Wexford were still expected to close the gap on Kilkenny but this was a throwback to the old days, when they routinely suffered big beatings against the Cats.

In 2008, Kilkenny beat Wexford by 19 points. Yesterday, they went five better.

How Wexford pick themselves up is anyone’s guess but Cork on home soil will focus the minds.

To their eternal credit, followers of the purple and gold continue to show incredible loyalty to the team.

They travelled in their thousands last summer when Wexford got on a roll in the qualifiers but now, more than ever, Dunne and his players need them.

Seamus Harnedy and Daithi Waters Cork's Seamus Harnedy and Wexford attacker Daithi Waters will meet in the qualifiers. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Innovate Wexford Park will present an intimidating cauldron to the visiting Cork team and a win would put the the hosts within touching distance of an All-Ireland quarter-final again.

Coming from where they find themselves now, Dunne would bite your hand off for a place in the last six of the All-Ireland series but while they won’t win the All-Ireland, they could stop somebody else doing it.

The big issue that must be resolved is Jack Guiney, and if you’re to believe reports, the onus should be on the Rathnure man to make the first move in terms of reconciliation.

Wexford simply cannot afford to be without a player of Guiney’s ability but Dunne takes a dim view of players stepping out of line.

It’s a meeting that should take place in private, with Guiney then advised to apologise to his teammates before returning to the circle, if he wishes to.

Dunne’s stance was hardline and arguably a little excessive. Maybe dropping the player and reminding him of his responsiblities was the way to go.

Jack Guiney Wexford need Jack Guiney back in the fold. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Right now, Limerick are better equipped than Wexford to regroup. They’ve played in the last two All-Ireland semi-finals and for the 15 or so minutes after half-time on Sunday, when they reached championship pitch against Tipperary, they hurled with the fury we’ve become accustomed to.

They’ve an easier draw than Wexford too and that’s a massive help. Limerick to advance is a given but not so for Wexford.

Only time will tell how these two fare out but the worry is that the first cut may be the deepest.

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