Limerick and Wexford will meet on Saturday in phase two of the hurling qualifiers. Wexford were put to the sword by Kilkenny in the Leinster semi final, while Limerick lost a classic encounter against Waterford after a late and heart-breaking John Mullane goal.
Limerick enter the contest as favourites after a superb showing against Waterford and a terrific league campaign, when they won all seven matches en route to the Division 2 title.
Limerick and Waterford played out a terrific encounter in the Munster semi final, with Waterford narrowly triumphing by 3-15 to 3-14. Limerick produced an impressive and gutsy display, with Kevin Downes’ two goals being particularly noteworthy. Despite their best efforts, however, Limerick succumbed to a late goal and the county must now negotiate their way through the qualifiers.
Wexford have enjoyed a mixed 2011 so far. The Model County finished second last in Division 1 of the league, only racking up one win and one draw. In the Championship, Wexford ran out comfortable 3-16 to 1-11 victors over Antrim in the Leinster quarter final before suffering a heavy eleven point defeat to Kilkenny.
Surprisingly, it will be only the seventh Championship meeting between the two counties. Wexford have been the more successful county in those six outings, scoring four victories.
The last meeting between the sides came in 2009, when Limerick ran out 1-13 to 0-14 winners. That victory broke a run of three successive defeats for Limerick, with Wexford winning in 2001, 1996 and 1955.
The sides met in the 1996 All Ireland final, when Wexford famously beat Limerick by 1-13 to 0-14 to claim their sixth All Ireland hurling title.
In an interview with the Limerick Post, Limerick manager Donal O’Grady complimented Wexford. He said, “[Wexford] hammered Antrim and they only fell away from Kilkenny in the last half an hour. They will be a huge threat and it will be do or die”.
O’Grady also spoke to the Limerick Post about the county’s narrow defeat to Waterford: “We know that we could have beaten Waterford, but that is championship hurling. You have to take your chances when you get them. Sometimes in Division two hurling you will get more chances than you deserve and also your sloppy play will not be punished as much. Championship hurling is totally different”.
In the Wexford Echo, Wexford manager Colm Bonnar said: “I reckon this will be a very tight game, very similar to that clash two years ago”.
Bonnar also referenced his side’s heavy loss against Kilkenny: “Had we taken our chances against Kilkenny, people would be a lot more positive about our performance that day”.
Wexford captain Darren Stamp returns to the fold for the Model County. Ciaran Kenny and Willie Doran, however, are suffering from injuries and miss out.
Limerick’s starting line-up features a newcomer in teenager Declan Hannah. The youngster missed the county’s encounter with Waterford as he was sitting his Leaving Cert. The only other change for Limerick sees David Moloney coming in for Damien Reale.
Limerick: Nicky Quaid; David Moloney, Seamus Hickey, Tom Condon; Wayne McNamara, Brian Geary, Gavin O’Mahony (capt); Donal O’Grady, Paul Browne; Niall Moran, James Ryan, Declan Hannon; Graeme Mulcahy, Kevin Downes, Sean Tobin.
Wexford: Niall Breen, Paul Roche, Matthew O’Hanlon, Keith Rossiter, Lar Prendergast, Darren Stamp (capt), Malachy Travers, Eoin Quigley, Michael Jacob, PJ Nolan, Harry Kehoe, Stephen Banville, Rory Jacob, Garrett Sinnott, Jim Berry.