The fact that so many reckon that this could be Dublin’s breakthrough year, will undoubtedly allow the Slaneysiders to slip under the radar nicely. In what will surely be Davy Fitzgerald’s last campaign in charge, the primary aim will be to go a step further than last seasons’s limp exit and qualify for an All-Ireland semi-final.
With the recent revelations about Dublin’s injury woes, specifically surrounding John Hetherton, Cian O’Callaghan and Fiontan MacGibb, this may well turn the tide in favour of the men from the south-east, who will have a bye in the opening round, before heading to Parnell Park for a vital clash with Dublin on May 19th.
It’s been well acknowledged that winning one’s home games are absolutely essential to ensure progression, so those that do nab an away win or even a draw, coupled with wins at home are put at a distinct advantage. In all honesty, I don’t think Wexford would have been overly delighted with the draw they got. Two weeks in a row isn’t that much of an ask, but two opening rounds in Parnell and Salthill are an entirely different matter, where two bubbling cauldrons on the cusp of overflowing will await them. Closing with two home games against Carlow and Kilkenny, at this early stage would likely signify two wins, but it’s entirely possible that irreparable damage may already have been dealt at that stage.
Massive seasons are expected of, and needed from, Rory O’Connor, Conor McDonald, Paudie Foley, Liam Ryan and Lee Chin, with O’Connor in particular expected to exude excellence and be the catalyst for more positive results. Cathal Dunbar is poised to be a real thorn in the side of opposition defences, but questions remain over the depth of the squad as a whole, as well as the presence of a consistent, reliable free-taker.
There was a 9-point gap between Galway and Wexford in last year’s Leinster championship round-robin clash, and seven points eventually between themselves and Clare in the All-Ireland Quarter. Wexford aren’t 9 and 7 points worse than those at the top brass, as all hurling people will know, but their failure to record a competitive win against any of the traditionalists last season will have hurt badly, and hampered the growing momentum in the county. There is an awful lot riding on the opening fixture, and while they have managed to slip in relatively unnoticed up to now, the result of that game will put them in the public eye once more, it’s up to them whether that’s in a positive or negative light.
The truth is that Leinster is as competitive as Munster this year, with the exception of Carlow, who, though capable of pulling off an upset, are unlikely to do so. The results of home games will be pivotal, and Wexford will have fire in their bellies to improve on last year’s showing. You just get the sense that the way the fixtures have panned out won’t work in their favour, and they may not even make it out of the province this time round.
Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @gaawrap.