Jordan Hayes, Offaly, and Niall Hughes, Wexford, in Tailltean Cup action.
Jordan Hayes, Offaly, and Niall Hughes, Wexford, in Tailltean Cup action.

Tailteann Cup: Offaly win thriller

Tailteann Cup preliminary round

Offaly 3-11 Wexford 2-13

By Ronan Fagan at Bellefield, Enniscorthy

Offaly are home to Wicklow next Sunday as Niall McNamee crafted the decisive goal to break Wexford hearts in Sunday’s absorbing Tailteann Cup preliminary round contest in Bellefield, Enniscorthy.

After McNamee had prised open a 3-10 to 2-10 lead on 54 minutes, Wexford grabbed three of the remaining four points.

But the locals couldn’t bridge the gap as Offaly avenged last month’s Leinster Championship loss to the same opposition.

Wexford were left to rue a couple of near goal misses before half-time – Ben Brosnan having his shot smothered, while defender Glen Malone had a subsequent bid cleared off the goal-line, before Offaly broke leading 1-7 to 1-5.

McNamee was back from injury along with his cousin and namesake, Ruairí, in eight personnel changes from their earlier duel with Wexford, who only made four alterations.

Offaly boss John Maughan was left lauding Wexford following their committed response to the chastening 23 point humbling by Dublin.

“We were licking our lips at the chance of redemption. There was a bit of that,” Maughan acknowledged regarding the rematch.

“But nonetheless, I would have to give great credit to Wexford.

“They are a very spirited team despite the significant defeat to Dublin. They showed great character today, massive talent and I applaud them. They are very fit - great pace. They were remarkable – it’s an unbelievable transformation over the last couple of weeks.”

A frenetic encounter saw Offaly over-turn a 0-2 to 0-1 deficit when Diarmuid Egan’s rammed a rebound off the underside of the crossbar and inches over the goal-line in the eleventh minute after midfielder Bill Carroll had forced an initial save (1-1 to 0-2).

But fortunes ebbed and flowed throughout as Wexford tied on 1-2 apiece after 16 minutes when defender Dylan Furlong angled a bullet to the net from the left after strong approach play from Alan Tobin, Kevin O’Grady and Michael Furlong.

The sides shared the next four points before Offaly forged clear by 1-7 to 1-5 at the break as Niall McNamee (two frees) and Bill Carroll rose the pivotal flags while the Offaly goal lived a charmed life in the face of those Brosnan and Malone threats.

Offaly looked to steal a march when their extremely adventurous corner-back Lee Pearson profited from a neat Niall McNamee delivery to net a 2-8 to 1-6 lead after 39 minutes.

Wexford recovered to level for a fourth time after 53 minutes, on 2-10 apiece, after Niall Hughes fisted an Eoghan Nolan delivery off the underside of the crossbar and to the net before he and sub Mark Rossiter added points.

However, the Offaly response was telling as McNamee turned creator and executioner for the key score a minute later, before unrelenting Wexford only just ran out of road in their gallant bid to force extra-time.

Scorers for Offaly: Niall McNamee 1-5 (0-3fs), Diarmuid Egan, Lee Pearson 1-0 each, Anton Sullivan 0-2, Keith O’Neill, Johnny Moloney, Bill Carroll, Niall Darby (free) 0-1 each.

Scorers for Wexford: Niall Hughes 1-1, Dylan Furlong 1-0, Ben Brosnan 0-3 (1 mark, 1 free), Kevin O’Grady, Eoghan Nolan 0-2 each, Glen Malone, Eoin Porter, Dean O’Toole, Mark Rossiter, Donal Shanley (free) 0-1 each.

Offaly: Paddy Dunican; Lee Pearson, Declan Hogan, Niall Darby; Rory Egan, Johnny Moloney, Cian Donohoe; Bill Carroll, Jordan Hayes; Ruairí McNamee, Diarmuid Egan, Anton Sullivan; Jack Bryant, Niall McNamee, Keith O’Neill.

Subs: Cathal Flynn for Egan (HT), Conor McNamee for Bryant (48), Mark Abott for Egan (63), Kieran Dolan for Perason, inj. (70).

Wexford: Darragh Brooks; Michael Furlong, Eoin Porter, Gavin Sheehan; Páraic Hughes, Glen Malone, Dylan Furlong; Liam Coleman, Niall Hughes; Dean O’Toole, Kevin O’Grady, Alan Tobin; Seán Ryan, Eoghan Nolan, Ben Brosnan.

Subs: Donal Shanley for Tobin (45), Mark Rossiter for Ryan (45), Tom Byrne for O’Toole (61), Cian Hughes for Brosnan (66), Nick Doyle for E Nolan (68).

Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois).