A crucial game in the Leinster Senior Hurling Championship, Kilkenny and Wexford do battle at Nowlan Park this evening, in what is essentially a provincial semi-final with the winners meeting Galway in the Leinster final.
Let’s take a look at five key questions ahead of this crucial game:
1) Will Fatigue Be An Issue For Wexford?
Davy Fitz’ men take to Nowlan Park this evening for what will be their 4th game in as many weeks in the Leinster Championship.
Last time out, against Galway, Wexford looked flat and lacked the usual energy that people are so used to seeing from The Yellowbellies. They started slow and never grew into the game, looking tired and lethargic, especially in the 2nd half.
Wexford look in desperate need of a rest but won’t expect to get it when Kilkenny come to town. They’ll be the fresher team.
Davy Fitz’ team may find themselves with more space than they did against Galway but, it’ll likely be another gruelling game for the away side.
The tired legs of the men in purple and yellow could be the X factor in what’s set to be a feisty affair at Nowlan Park this evening.
2) Can Kilkenny Take Advantage Of Their Break Last Weekend?
While Wexford were chasing Galway shadows across Pearse Stadium last week, Brian Cody’s men were enjoying the luxury of the break.
The week off came at the ideal time for The Cats, as they will likely have needed it to regroup following their eight point loss to Galway in round two of the championship.
Cody will also be gunning for a chance to overturn the result of last year’s Leinster semi-final defeat to Wexford, meaning that Kilkenny will go into this one an extremely dangerous outfit, both well rested and keen to avenge a niggling loss.
3) Will Either Of These Two Be A Match For Galway?
Regardless of previous results in this season’s Leinster Championship, the answer to this one is still a resounding yes.
Galway have been truly dominant and are absolutely the favourites, and the team to beat, going into the final, but the victor between Wexford and Kilkenny will certainly still fancy their chances.
Wexford simply won’t play as poorly as they did in the first game against The Tribesmen and will rise to the occasion as they seek revenge for last year’s final defeat. They’ll also have, although perhaps it’ll come too late, the benefit of almost a month’s rest to prepare for the final.
Kilkenny ran Galway very close in their game at Pearse Stadium and Brian Cody will fancy another crack at taking them down in a Leinster final. It’s also impossible to underestimate any Kilkenny side, regardless of inexperience or youth, in a major final.
4) Have The Cats Got A Point To Prove?
Since Davy Fitzgerald took over at Wexford two years ago, their rivalry with Kilkenny has been one of the most captivating storylines in all of hurling.
These two have been no strangers to one another this year, with Kilkenny getting the better of Wexford in the league as well as a 12-point semi-final victory in the same competition.
But it’s the championship where Cody and Kilkenny thrive and he’ll want to prove that they are still the dominant force in this rivalry. As previously mentioned, they’ll also look to last season’s Leinster semi-final defeat as added motivation ahead of this game.
Many have said that Kilkenny’s days atop Leinster hurling are over, but The Cats could go a long way to disproving that theory with a resounding victory over their rivals at Nowlan Park this evening.
5) Will Davy Fitz Regret Saying Kilkenny Are Favourites?
Davy Fitzgerald is not a man known for mincing his words. Following Wexford’s defeat to Galway last week, he said this:
“If I was a betting man now and I was going to that, I would put my house on Kilkenny. That’s a fact and that’s being straight.”
The former Clare keeper went on to mention how the break would certainly help Kilkenny, but as true as that may be, his comments may come back to haunt him.
This Wexford side need anything but negativity going into this game and could’ve done with a public boost of confidence from their manager.
There’s the idea then, that Davy Fitz knows exactly what he’s doing and that he wants to fire up his men, who could thrive in this underdog situation that has been created.
Either way it’ll be interesting to see whether Davy will be proven right or proven wrong.