In advance of our crucial, winner takes all, U-21 hurling Leinster SF on Wednesday night, we’ve a new blog post from Potter:
Hurling takes centre stage for our county teams with the minors, U-21’s and seniors all in action over the coming week. The seniors will have to turn up and hurl well to beat Westmeath. A simple slide-rule of form through Galway (who Westmeath put up a very good score against) and Offaly (who Galway handled easily) would suggest that Wexford will find it tough enough. In reality, it’s hard for any Wexford supporter to accept that, especially at home, we won’t have enough to beat the midlanders.
The U-21 game is a different kettle of fish. Kilkenny in Nowlan Park is the ultimate test of any team’s resolve. It has aways amused me that the road we walk down towards Nowlan park is called Lacken Drive. There could hardly be a less appropriate name for a street adjacent to the home of Kilkenny hurling, especially in the Cody era.
Wexford have often played well there, beating Offaly repeatedly, and Waterford in a minor epic, in senior championship games there in recent years. One of my favourite memories was an U-21 game there a dcade ago. we made alate decison to head out across the Blackstairs after a day dipping sheep. by the time we washed the muck off and got to the ground it was almost half-time. The lads on the gate let us in for free, but it still seemed like bad value for a while, as our lads just couldn’t pull their game together. They hung in there, and Rory Jacob, in a portent of what his big brother would do in the senior semi-final in 2004, buried a late goal to carry the day.
The TG4 highlights suggested a good performance against what looked a moderate Offaly side. A special mention to Lee Chin, who looked fresh and sharp in the break between 140 minutes against Longford for the footballers. It’s great to see such a strong overlap between the hurlers and footballers at underage. The confidence the footballers gained last year can only be good for the hurlers.
The most memorable expedition over the mountains for our U-21’s only had Kilkenny as a pit-stop. It was for the All-Ireland final in 1996, and the county emptied to support the boys against Galway, one week after the senior win over Limerick. It was so much fun to drape our flags through the window on a glorious September day as we passed through the marble City, and for once, the Noresiders had to suck it up. They were congratulatory, in fairness, the edge only came after we beat them for the second year running with Billy Byrne’s five minute onslaught the following summer.
My favourite story of Wexford/Kilkenny banter came a few years earlier, on our way to Thurles for the first of the three game League final saga with Cork in 1993. We were stopped at the lights outside St John’s Church as the Msss crowd were emerging. A few town boys began slagging us off, saying we would never win anything, and they’d handle us in the summer (they were right on both counts, but boy were we close that year). my brother wound down the window, and said we mightn’t have their hurlers, but at least we had a coastline, they had to come to Wexford in the summer for a wash. The lights changed and we were off, as they scratched their heads.
There hasn’t been any beach weather lately, so hopefully Tony Dempsey’s charges can provide a ray of sunshine for us all, Lacken Drive? I don’t think so, not this group.