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'It's a huge challenge' - Wexford gearing up for star-studded Leinster U21 final with Galway

Both squads are littered with senior players.

NO SOONER HAD Wexford dispatched Dublin in the Bord Gáis Energy Leinster U21 hurling semi-final and Model boss Tom Mullally turned his sights to the formidable challenge awaiting them in the final.

Tom Mullaly Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Competing in the province at the grade for the first ever time, Galway will be strong favourites for the Leinster decider given their side is back-boned by All-Ireland minor winning crops of 2015 and 2017.

“It’s a huge challenge,” Mullally told The42 after their 3-15 to 3-12 victory in Parnell Park.

“Galway are the best senior hurling team in the country. They’ve got the best panel and the strongest players but we’re there. We’ll give it a shot and see where it goes.”

The Tribesmen accounted for Mullally’s native Kilkenny by two points in their last four clash as Evan Niland posted 1-6, while their team boasts five players with senior experience.

Niland, Jack Grealish, Sean Loftus, Tomás Monaghan and Brian Concannon have all been on senior championship panels under Micheal Donoghue in the past year.

But Wexford will be no pushovers and have six members of their own on Davy Fitzgerald’s senior squad – Darren Byrne, Conor Firman, Aaron Maddock, Damien Reck, Joe O’Connor and Rory O’Connor.

Davy Fitzgerald attends the game Davy Fitzgerald was in Parnell Park last night. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Wexford are back in their fifth Leinster U21 hurling final in six years and it’s a good sign for underage hurling in the county.

Mullally was in charge when were soundly beaten by Kilkenny in last year’s decider, but he’s experienced provincial success in the past as manager of Carlow outfit Mount Leinster Rangers back in 2013.

Wexford shot 10 wides in a poor opening period of last night’s semi-final win over Dublin and trailed by 1-8 to 0-8 at the interval, but they posted 3-7 in an impressive second-half showing.

Donal Burke with Shane Reck and Darren Byrne Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

What changed after half-time?

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“I suppose just getting to know each other a little bit more,” he explained. “There’s an element of senior players coming back in. It’s the grade, it takes a while for players to get used to it.

“I thought at half-time they were calm, composed and in control. They weren’t trying panicking or anything like that or they weren’t afraid of the second-half either, which was good.

“Probably just a bit of composure and maybe that little bit of apprehension disappearing and general confidence (building) over the course of the 60 minutes.”

The introduction of Mikie Dwyer in the 44th minute was pivotal as the Fethard ace struck for two goals in the final quarter, while Joe O’Connor was in commanding form at midfield, Damien Reck got on plenty of ball and Seamus Casey was extremely reliable from placed balls up front.

“That’s what we’re looking for,” he said of Dwyer’s impact. “We’re like any team, we talk about the value of the panel and it showed itself today.

Wexford players return to the dressing room Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“Both in the first-half Gary Molloy came on and had an excellent influence on the game and all the subs who came on in the second-half had a great impact as well which is good to see because it means we’re all of a positive together.

“Today it all worked out but the next day is another challenge.”

A big challenge indeed.

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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