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Sunday 22 October 2017

Forewarned Cats gear up for cauldron

Kilkenny’s TJ Reid of Kilkenny battles with Wexford’s James Breen during their Allianz HL Division 1 quarter-final. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Kilkenny’s TJ Reid of Kilkenny battles with Wexford’s James Breen during their Allianz HL Division 1 quarter-final. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

LEINSTER SHC

KILKENNY v WEXFORD

(Innovate Wexford Park, Tonight 7.0, Live Sky Sports 3)

JUST two years ago, Wexford travelled to Nowlan Park for a Leinster semi-final ... and lost by 24 points. No one expects anything on that pulverising scale this evening.

More to the point, some Kilkenny folk are fretting that the unthinkable might become reality: a first championship defeat to Wexford since Michael Jacob's famous smash-and-grab goal 13 years ago.

Could it actually transpire? Well, it happened in a league quarter-final - in Nowlan Park, to boot - so it would be foolish to dismiss the possibility now that battle will resume in a cauldron, 20,000 fans squeezed into Wexford Park, the majority dreaming of an upset.

Wandering

A few things have changed since April 2, mind you. Davy Fitzgerald will be high up in the main stand, completing his eight-week ban rather than wandering into Brian Cody's personal touchline space. That will rob us of some of the theatre, even the amateur dramatics, but it still promises to be a pulsating occasion.

The notion that Davy Fitz's stamp won't be all over Wexford's performance because of his suspension is a nonsense. In Cody's favour, they have been forewarned by Wexford's successful use of Shaun Murphy in the sweeper role two months ago - the tactic was hardly a surprise to long-time students of the Clareman, but they still scored two goals and were denied another brace only by the netminding brilliance of Eoin Murphy.

That said, the suspicion is that Kilkenny's brains trust have been plotting for ten weeks. Cody's delay in announcing a team has added to the intrigue but the feeling is that, if Michael Fennelly's recuperating body is able for 50 minutes, he'll start. That would be a huge positive.

Kilkenny's scoreboard over-reliance on Richie Hogan and more especially TJ Reid (he alone tallied almost 50pc of their 5-104 league haul) has been much debated. Long-term they'll need more from their other forwards to launch another assault on Liam MacCarthy ... but tonight, our hunch is that they'll silence the Model County masses.

ODDS: Wexford 3/1 Draw 10/1 Kilkenny 1/3

VERDICT: Kilkenny

Saffrons to swing it

CHRISTY RING CUP FINAL

CARLOW v ANTRIM

(Croke Park, Today 5.0, live TG4.ie)

THERE'S a good reason why the odds are relatively close here. The sides drew in the regulation league stages before Antrim edged the Division 2A final while, at the start of this competition, Carlow were left to rue several wasted goal chances en route to being pipped in extra-time by a last-gasp point. They've recovered to reach the final but Antrim deserve their marginal favouritism.

ODDS: Antrim 8/11 Draw 17/2 Carlow 13/10

VERDICT: Antrim

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