Allianz HL D1B: Wexford are promoted
Allianz Hurling League Division 1B
WEXFORD 1-17 OFFALY 1-15
By Kevin Egan at Tullamore
Wexford will take part in the top tier of the Allianz National Hurling league for the first time since 2011 next Spring after they eventually overcame a resilient Offaly side, and some poor shooting on their own part, to record a five point win at O’Connor Park in Tullamore this afternoon.
A half time score of 1-7 to 0-8 in favour of the visiting Slaneysiders would suggest that the game was finely poised at the break, however to most of those in attendance, anything other than a comfortable away win looked highly unlikely at that stage.
Offaly failed to take advantage of the aid of a stiff breeze in the opening 35 minutes, sending several aimless deliveries into their outnumbered inside forwards, and while Sean Cleary (0-3) and Shane Dooley (0-4) scored well in that opening period, Wexford mopped up plenty of loose ball and played some good methodical hurling, working the ball out of defence with a series of good intermediate range passes.
Paul Morris, David Redmond and Jack O’Connor were among the Wexford players that registered fine points from play in that opening period, however their key score came from Conor McDonald three minutes before the interval, when he soared above three other players to field Aaron Maddock’s high delivery and slam a low shot past James Dempsey.
Despite only scoring once from play in the second half, Offaly stayed in contention throughout that period – but this was in no small part due to some terrible shooting from the Wexford attackers. 25 attempts on goal yielded a return of just nine points, and it’s hard to know if Wexford’s final tally of 16 wides or the six shots they dropped short will be the greater area of concern for David Fitzgerald when they gather again this week.
It always looked as if Offaly would need a goal to really exert some pressure on their opponents and their best chance came after 47 minutes when James Breen was deemed to have held Cillian Kiely’s hurl as the two men waited to contest a high ball into the Offaly square. Cathal McAllister awarded the penalty but Shane Dooley’s low strike was brilliantly parried by Mark Fanning, deflecting the sliothar out for a ’65.
Dooley pointed the resultant dead ball and as the game entered the closing stages, the gap was as low as two points. Wexford spurned a goal chance of their own when they fumbled a three on one overlap, but despite coughing up that chance to make the win safe, late points from Aidan Nolan, Diarmuid O’Keeffe and David Dunne were enough to secure the victory and take all the pressure off their clash with Laois at Wexford Park in a fortnight.
Offaly supporters will be keen to see Wexford continue their run of victories in that tie as a home win there, combined with a Faithful County triumph in Tralee, will give them fourth place in the table and keep them clear of a relegation playoff, and in the process set up a quarter final tie against All Ireland champions Tipperary.
Scorers for Wexford: C McDonald 1-6 (0-4f), P Morris, D O’Keefe & A Nolan 0-2 each, J O’Connor, D Redmond, L Chin, H Kehoe, D Dunne 0-1 each.
Scorers for Offaly: S Dooley 0-10 (0-8f, 0-1 ’65), S Cleary 0-3, S Quirke & O Kelly 0-1 each.
WEXFORD: M Fanning; S Donohue, L Ryan, J Breen; D Reck, M O’Hanlon, D O’Keeffe; J O’Connor, A Maddock; D Redmond, L Chin, S Murphy; H Kehoe, C McDonald, P Morris. Subs: A Nolan for Morris (8 – temp), Nolan for Maddock (47), D Dunne for O’Connor (21), J Guiney for Morris (56), B Carton for Redmond (60).
OFFALY: J Dempsey; P Rigney, M Cleary, P Delaney; D Morkan, D Shortt, S Gardiner; S Ryan, Aidan Treacy; J Mulrooney, C Kiely, O Kelly; S Dooley, S Quirke, S Cleary. Subs: E Nolan for Ryan (25 – temp), D King for Delaney (31), Nolan for Mulrooney (HT), B Conneely for Ryan (40), P Geraghty for Cleary (61), T Carroll for Quirke (61).
Referee: Cathal McAllister (Cork)