herald

Saturday 21 October 2017

Model must win back momentum

Leinster SFC Carlow v Wexford (Netwatch Cullen Park, Tomorrow 3.0)

Wexford football boss Séamus McEnaney
Wexford football boss Séamus McEnaney

So, is Banty playing it cute or is the Wexford manager genuinely worried?

"If we could beat Carlow by one point - after a replay - I will be delighted," said Séamus McEnaney to The Herald ahead of tomorrow's championship opener.

We suspect his caution is for real. And it should be.

Victory for Wexford would secure a tantalising/terrifying quarter-final date with the Dubs on home turf, and they are favourites for several perfectly valid reasons.

They've far more championship pedigree than their hosts. They won promotion from Division 4 whereas Carlow didn't. They retain a cohort of players who have played in Leinster finals. Their high-profile outside boss has revitalised the local scene in his first season.

But? Well, there are just as many reasons to suggest that Wexford could be vulnerable.

The Carlow 'whipping boys' stereotype is no longer justified. Under Turlough O'Brien they've just enjoyed their best league in years, garnering nine points.

In Paul Broderick - whose Division 4 haul reached 3-35, 2-12 from play - they have a marksman who can hurt you. They were the only side to avoid spring defeat to Westmeath, drawing in Mullingar.

Oh, and in round seven, they stuffed Wexford by ten points.

That brings us to the nub of this conundrum: how do you read Wexford's form graph since they secured promotion two rounds ahead of schedule?

On face value, it's appalling: they lost three games, including the Division 4 final, by a cumulative 47 points.

Obviously you can cite Banty's wholesale changes in mitigation for their 24-point rout at home to Westmeath ... but they were far less experimental against Carlow.

"We played ten players in that game who are going to play in the championship, and we got 'bet' out the gate," McEnaney pointed out.

They were subsequently crushed again, by Westmeath, in a Croke Park final that raised awkward questions about Wexford's stalled momentum and whether they'll recover it in time against neighbours who smell blood.

Yet their Monaghan manager, in typically ebullient mood, says they've been focussed totally on Carlow since securing promotion with two games to spare - an outcome that signified a "brilliant" league.

If that is the case, and their attitude is spot-on, then the midfield drive of Daithí Waters and the mercurial forward talents of Ben Brosnan, Ciarán Lyng and PJ Banville might push them across the line. Just.

ODDS: Carlow 2/1 Draw 15/2 Wexford 8/15

VERDICT: Wexford

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