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Wednesday 28 September 2016

Dubs' cubs set to shine

Wexford’s Conor McDonald in action against Dublin Darragh O’Connell in the recent Leinster SHC quarter-final in Croke Park. Photo: Sportsfile
Wexford’s Conor McDonald in action against Dublin Darragh O’Connell in the recent Leinster SHC quarter-final in Croke Park. Photo: Sportsfile

Wexford's meek showing at senior level these past two years, since they threatened to explode as a new force in 2013, couldn't be more starkly contrasted against the fortunes of their under-21s.

Tonight, at home, they play Dublin, where a win would put them into a Leinster semi-final with Goliath-slaying Westmeath and arguably on the way of a fourth provincial title at the level.

"It's basically the whole backbone of the team. We've four out of the six forwards," says Conor McDonald, the instantly recognisable face of hope in Wexford hurling, of this year's blend.

"The competition for places is scandalous in that under-21 setup," he goes on.

"Even in training there, watching them, it's a level in itself that is very respectable."

Behind all that talent, Wexford have a manager with a penchant for winning titles too.

JJ Doyle took the Wexford camogie team to three All-Ireland titles before this glut of gold at under-21 hurling level and given the state of the senior team just now, it's natural enough that he is being linked to bigger things.

"I think we have the upper-hand on them a little bit over the last few years," added McDonald in outlining the reversal of the relationship between Dublin at Wexford at this grade of late.

There are legitimate causes for optimism in Dublin though.

Ger Cunningham's decision to invest so much trust in youth has enhanced the perception of this bunch, given so many of them have already played league and championship at senior level.

Well-stocked

Much was expected of Cian Boland this year, though he hasn't played at all to date owing to injury, though Joe Fortune has named him in his starting 15 for tonight and if he does play, the St Oliver Plunkett's/ER player will bring plenty of zip to that middle third of a team already possesses what looks on paper a well-stocked defence.

Wexford are natural favourites here but there's enough experience in Dublin to upset the form.

DUBLIN: J Treacy; P O'Dea, C Mac Gabhann, E O'Donnell; M McCallion, S Barrett, J Madden; J Malone, J Bellew; S Ó Riain, S Treacy, C Boland; AJ Murphy, C Bennett, E Conroy.

WEXFORD: O O'Leary; S Donohoe, L Ryan, B Quigley; A Maddock, P Foley, R White; J Firman, J O'Connor; J Cash, S Kelly, C Devitt; C Dunbar, C McDonald, D Pepper.

ODDS: Wexford 4/7, Draw 9/1, Dublin 13/8

VERDICT: Dublin

leinster u21hc q-final: wexford v dublin, Tonight, Wexford pk (7.30, tg4)

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