Wexford face neighbours Waterford in Wexford Park this Sunday with the winner of this clash gaining promotion to Division 1A. Are the Model Men destined for the top flight?
The Wexford hurlers were the success story of last year’s championship. After conquering then reigning All-Ireland champions, Clare, and Waterford, they eventually fell at the hands of Limerick at the quarter-final stage in Thurles.
After bowing out in disappointing fashion to the Treaty County, the Model men have bounced back impressively this Spring. With only one loss to their name, that being a one-point loss to Limerick in a thrilling contest, Liam Dunne’s side head in to this weekend’s clash full of confidence.
Wins over Offaly, Laois and Antrim have Wexford sitting in second place in the league standings on six points. With Waterford boasting a tally of seven points, Wexford know that only a win will suffice on Sunday afternoon.
The current standings are as follows:
POS TEAM Pl. W L D Pts.
1 Waterford 4 3 0 1 7
2 Wexford 4 3 1 0 6
With most of the attention on the stars of last year’s u-21 side, the performances of Ian Byrne and the returning Tomás Waters have gone, somewhat, under the radar. However, both have laid down a strong marker for a starting spot during the summer months.
The performances of both Byrne and Waters will only add to the competition for places on Slaneyside. With Andrew Shore’s suspension saga also resolved, things are looking bright by the sunny south-east.
With a year’s experience of major championship clashes under their belt, Wexford’s young side will look to build on last year’s performances. A win on Sunday would be a perfect start to what is an eagerly anticipated year for Wexford hurling folk.
Standing in the way of the Yellowbellies is a Waterford team who have been motoring along nicely so far. A draw against Limerick on the opening day has been their only blot on their league record of 2015.
With Pauric Mahony, Austin Gleeson and the ever-reliant Kevin Moran in top form, Waterford will provide serious opposition for the home side on Sunday.
Many will say it is ‘only’ the league but this is a crucial contest for both counties in their pursuit of re-joining the elite. Both teams would benefit hugely from plying their trade at a higer standard, in Division 1A next year, and respective managers Derek McGrath and Liam Dunne will be keen to gain promotion.
Speaking to the Irish Daily Mirror, Liam Dunne said his team are looking forward to Sunday,
“It’s great that we go into the last game of the league with an opportunity of going up to Division 1A, particularly against a team who have been up there for many years. They have lots of experience there, but we are looking forward to the challenge.”
A big crowd is anticipated in Wexford Park and with the advantage of the home crowd, Wexford look set to continue on their upward curve back to hurling’s elite.
Seán Ó Murchú, Pundit Arena