IT’S HIGHLY UNLIKELY that Colm Bonnar bounced out of bed with “that Friday feeling” yesterday morning.
Though it seldom happens that the second game of the season becomes the defining moment of a team’s league campaign, that is exactly the prospect which the Wexford boss faces as he prepares for the weekend.
On Sunday afternoon, Waterford will be the visitors to Wexford Park in a game which the hosts don’t necessarily have to win, but in which they must at least give a good account of themselves.
Before a sliotar had been struck in anger last weekend, Bonnar had already had his say, bemoaning the disadvantage which newly-promoted teams such as Wexford face under the current league structure.
Though he undoubtedly had a valid point to make, Bonnar’s comments have taken on a whole new meaning in light of the 21-point mauling which his side were subjected to at the hands of Galway last weekend.
If Wexford fall to a similar fate on Sunday, it will surely create an atmosphere of despondency in the dressing room which will be impossible to shake for the remainder of the campaign.
For their part, Waterford got off to a much better start, forcing Dublin to rely on a last-gasp Conal Keaney equaliser when the sides met at Walsh Park. If Richie Foley can produce anything like the form which saw him score 2-10, Davy Fitzgerald’s men will almost certainly add to Bonnar’s misery.
Saturday Night Lights
Anthony Daly’s Dublin will be hoping for another strong showing when they welcome All-Ireland champions Tipperary to headquarters for the first game of a mouth-watering double-header. The Dubs have been boosted by the return of Joey Boland at centre-back while the rest of the team remains unchanged.
Declan Ryan has not been so fortunate, however, as injuries have forced the Tipperary boss to make a few alterations that he would rather have done without. All-Star Noel McGrath has been ruled out by injury, and Ryan has been forced to hand league debuts to both Paddy Fanning and Sean Carey.
Meanwhile, ahead of Sunday afternoon’s clash against Cork at Nowlan Park, Kilkenny manager Brian Cody has indicated that he sees victory in the league as a solid platform from which the Cats can attempt to retain their All-Ireland crown.
We want to get to the league final if we can. There is no secret about that. We want to win the league if we can.
Kilkenny’s task will be made more difficult by the return of Ronan Curran and Niall McCarthy, both of whom sat out Cork’s five-point win over Offaly last weekend.
Galway’s John McIntyre has been forced to prepare for Sunday’s game against Offaly without centre-forward Cyril Donnellan who is yet to recover from the hand injury which ruled him out last weekend. A broken thumb means that Joseph Cooney is unlikely to figure either, although McIntyre will welcome the return Iarla Tannian for the game at O’Connor Park.
If McIntyre thinks that he’s got injury problems, he can thank his lucky stars that he’s not Joe Dooley. The Offaly boss is missing seven of his regular panel, with James Rigney the latest to be ruled out after breaking his arm in last weekend’s defeat against Cork. Peter Healion comes into the side in Rigney’s place, with Dylan Hayden getting the nod over Shane Kelly in midfield.
NHL Division One Fixtures
Dublin vs. Tipperary (Saturday, 17:15)
Offaly vs. Galway (Sunday, 13:00)
Wexford vs. Waterford (Sunday, 14:30)
Kilkenny vs. Cork (Sunday, 14:30)
NHL Division Two Fixtures
Limerick vs. Westmeath (Saturday, 14:30)
Kerry vs. Down (Sunday, 13:30)
Antrim vs. Clare (Sunday, 14:30)
Laois vs. Carlow (Sunday, 14:45)