SUNDAY: Wexford v Cork, Wexford Park, 2pm. Live on TG4.
LEAGUE results at this juncture in the year can vary from week to week. A good performance can be followed by an indifferent one.
Cork and Wexford had good victories last weekend, over Kilkenny and Waterford, respectively
The Cork-Wexford rivalry extends beyond games in Wexford Park, and in New Ross and Enniscorthy, results for the visitors have never been easy to come by.
Given how admirably Wexford performed against Waterford, in Walsh Park, a similar situation should apply here.
However, Cork will have been energised considerably by their own display against Kilkenny and an away victory for a team with quite a few newcomers would be another statement of significance, even if it’s only the first Sunday in February.
Coming out of Walsh Park, with the win last Sunday, will heighten the interest for Wexford supporters, but how seriously are Waterford taking the secondary competition?
Nonetheless, Wexford are driving on this season, after a fine inning in 2017 and appear to be a side to reckon with now.
The last time next Sunday’s protagonists collided in competitive fare was in the All-Ireland qualifiers in 2016. Wexford came away from Semple Stadium that day with a hugely unexpected victory, 0-23 to 1-17.
Davy Fitzgerald might have an eye on the league this season and may well put more emphasis into it than other counties.
The fact that both counties, next Sunday, won their opening games, takes a certain amount of pressure off, and, win, lose, or draw, they will be there or thereabouts in the league table on Sunday night.
Cork’s win over Kilkenny will have pleased John Meyler no end and his team selection, comprising of a number of newcomers, was justified.
You couldn’t call Eoin Cadogan a newcomer, but it was his first competitive outing in a red jersey for a couple of years and the 70 minutes of hard hurling will have benefited him. The likelihood is that he will have Conor McDonald for company, on the edge of the square on Sunday, and that duel alone should be a highlight of the day.
McDonald started in the corner against Waterford, with David Dunne at full, and the latter ended up going home with 2-2 attached to his name.
Lee Chin was on the forty and he posted 0-8, six from frees, and if he is retained there, and Cork newcomer, Tim O’Mahony, starts again in the number-six jersey, it will be a big test for the Newtown player, who had a very auspicious debut there, against Kilkenny.
Wexford goalkeeper, Mark Fanning, posted 0-3 from placed balls and that was another illustration of how influential the number-ones are becoming in the scoring stakes.
Kevin Foley and Diarmuid O’Keeffe secured some fine points, too, for next Sunday’s home team and Fitzgerald is constructing one of the best Wexford sides for some time.
Cork’s other newcomers, Sean O’Donoghue and Robbie O’Flynn, did very well, the latter notching two fine points and the Inniscarra player exhibiting his liking for a physical battle. Patrick Horgan’s return will bolster the attacking options and there was a nice spread of scorers last weekend.
Shane Kingston took his goal well, while Seamus Harnedy led by example, with some very well-executed scores. His final point was a real gem, while Conor Lehane was majestic, after a slow start.
Given the schedule of games, John Meyler wants to have a stronger squad.
Young Jack O’Connor came in last weekend for the last 10 minutes and rifled over a nice point.
Away games in the national league are always a formidable ask and they don’t come any more difficult than a February day against Wexford.
You can never be certain of the outcome of these type of games, but, on home soil, Wexford will be entitled to start as slight favourites.
However, Cork will go in after last weekend in a good place and might well return with the two points.
A hesitant vote goes to them.