Leinster SHC: Wexford crush Offaly
Leinster Senior Hurling Championship
WEXFORD 5-24 OFFALY 2-9
By Kevin Egan at Bord na Móna O'Connor Park
A fixture that was expected to be a tricky hurdle for the Wexford hurlers turned into a landslide this evening at Bord na Móna O’Connor Park, as David Fitzgerald’s men produced one of their most impressive performances in years, completely overwhelming an Offaly team that ended the game with just 12 players on the field as a result of red cards to Seán Gardiner, Oisín Kelly and Ronan Hughes.
However, while the final twenty minutes was something of a procession as Wexford took advantage of their depleted opponents, who by then had lost both Gardiner and Kelly, David Fitzgerald’s side were dominant throughout the tie, wrapping up the victory long before that stage.
Joe Bergin fired over the first point of the game for the home side, but, from the second minute, Wexford were sharp, purposeful and powerful in their hurling, playing with all the vim and vigour of a side that didn’t want a repeat of last week’s shootout against the Dubs.
Conor McDonald showed superb reflexes and instinct to pounce on a loose ball off the post and sweep home the first goal with just three minutes on the clock, and by the time ten more minutes had expired, Wexford had put clear daylight between the sides. Paul Morris, Jack O’Connor and McDonald picked off superb points from tricky angles before a glorious sequence of play saw Simon Donohoe set up Aidan Nolan for the second Wexford goal.
2-5 to 0-2 became 2-10 to 0-5 by the half hour mark, as Wexford continued to break tackles, win frees and move the ball through the lines with intelligence and consideration.
Two penalties in the space of two minutes – both of which saw Sean Gardiner pick up yellow cards – helped Wexford into a 3-12 to 0-6 interval lead. Eoghan Cahill, who had another brilliant game despite being peppered with shots, repelled Aidan Nolan on the first attempt but he could do little to stop Mark Fanning’s top corner bullet with the second.
Lee Chin and Jack O’Connor made it five Wexford goalscorers on the night in the third quarter and while Oisín Kelly produced a wonderful finish to give Offaly fans something to cheer about, he soon joined Gardiner on the bench after getting a straight red card for an incident involved Wexford wing back Paudie Foley.
With Offaly now down to 13, Wexford sent a deluge of shots raining down on the Offaly goal and while Davy Fitzgerald will be concerned by the team’s wide count – they ended the game with 19 – plenty more found the target too. Harry Kehoe came off the bench to chip in with 0-3, with Diarmuid O’Keeffe and Damien Reck also on target from long range. Perhaps the most encouraging sign of the night from a Wexford perspective was the reappearance of Liam Óg McGovern, who recently made his return from a second cruciate ligament injury.
Shane Dooley’s injury time goal was of no consolation to an Offaly side that now faces a huge test to overcome this in time for what is effectively a relegation showdown in Parnell Park next week, but the mood will be very different in Wexford as they prepare for the visit of All Ireland champions Galway to Wexford Park.
*Scorers for Wexford: *Rory O’Connor 0-7 (0-4f, 0-1 ’65), Lee Chin 1-4 (0-4f), Jack O’Connor 1-3, Aidan Nolan 1-1, Conor McDonald 1-1, Harry Kehoe 0-3 (0-1f), Mark Fanning 1-0 (pen), Paul Morris 0-2, Kevin Foley, Diarmuid O’Keeffe & Damien Reck 0-1 each.
Scorers for Offaly: Shane Dooley 1-5 (0-5f), Oisín Kelly 1-1, Joe Bergin, Kevin Dunne, Tommy Geraghty 0-1 each.
WEXFORD: Mark Fanning; Simon Donohue, Liam Ryan, Damien Reck; Paudie Foley, Matthew O’Hanlon, Diarmuid O’Keeffe; Shaun Murphy, Aidan Nolan; Lee Chin, Kevin Foley, Jack O’Connor; Paul Morris, Rory O’Connor, Conor McDonald. Subs: Conor Firman for Donohoe (46), Liam Óg McGovern for R O’Connor (51), Harry Kehoe for Morris (51), Willie Devereux for Foley (54), David Dunne for Chin (64).
OFFALY: *Eoghan Cahill; Paddy Delaney, Sean Gardiner, Ben Conneely; Damien Egan, Pat Camon, David O’Toole Greene; Shane Kinsella, David King; Oisín Kelly, Conor Mahon, Brendan Murphy; Shane Dooley, Joe Bergin, Kevin Dunne. Subs:* Tommy Geraghty for Murphy (half time), Colin Egan for Mahon (half time), Dan Currams for Kinsella (42), Paddy Rigney for Conneely (48), Ronan Hughes for Bergin (54).
Referee: James McGrath (Westmeath)