Leinster SHC: Wexford finish strongly against Carlow
Leinster Senior Hurling Championship Round 4
WEXFORD 2-28 CARLOW 0-19
By Ronan Fagan at Innovate Wexford Park
Wexford delivered the goods in the second-half as they quelled a determined Carlow effort to notch an important first victory of Leinster SHC qualifying on Saturday evening at Innovate Wexford Park.
After draws away to both Dublin and Galway, Davy Fitzgerald's Wexford were conscious of the importance of not alone clinching victory against Carlow but also doing so by a sizeable margin in order to boost their ambitions of making the Leinster final.
But Carlow had Wexford in some bother during the first-half, after which the home-side led by just 1-10 to 0-11, before they lifted their game - aided by a 53rd-minute Conor McDonald goal – as they accomplished their targets in advance of next Saturday's big home showdown against Kilkenny.
Wexford initially didn't appear to be in any bother against Carlow as the purple-and-gold swept clear by 1-2 to 0-0 within five minutes, with Conor McDonald and Lee Chin (free) pointing before that duo sent Rory O'Connor racing through the heart of the defence to power to the net.
But Carlow mounted a stern first-half challenge, and although Wexford opened up a 1-4 to 0-1 lead, Carlow twice went close to goaling, with Paudie Foley sparing Wexford with a goal-line clearance from Edward Byrne and Martin Kavanagh, before 'keeper Mark Fanning was forced into denying Chris Nolan in a separate incident.
Relieved Wexford responded by easing 1-7 to 0-4 ahead through Chin (2 frees) and Paul Morris. But defender Eoin Nolan and Martin Kavanagh (free) mustered points to encourage Carlow after 22 minutes (1-8 to 0-6).
Carlow were slowly but surely gaining real purpose, and Wexford were plunged into a 15-minute long scoring impasse while Martin Kavanagh (2 frees) and Chris Nolan got the underdog back within 1-8 to 0-9 after 30 minutes.
In fact, although Lee Chin ended Wexford's scoring famine with a pointed free on 35 minutes, their neighbours were continuing to create some unease for Davy Fitzgerald's men as late points from Seán Whelan and John Michael Nolan had Carlow within 1-10 to 0-11 at the break.
The Wexford boss swapped his observation deck in the Stand for a more hands-on approach from the sideline on the resumption, and Wexford certainly lifted their game as they created some daylight after 49 minutes (1-18 to 0-14) with Cathal Dunbar growing prominent as he lofted three points.
Carlow weren't without hope. But Wexford dealt them a serious blow on 53 minutes when substitute Aidan Nolan crossed for Conor McDonald to overcame an initial slip to goal and blow open a 2-18 to 0-16 advantage.
Two quick-fire points from Lee Chin generated further confidence amongst the purple-and-gold as sub Seamus Casey and Paudie Foley also weighed in to make it 2-22 to 0-17 before Wexford lost Shaun Murphy to a second yellow-card.
Carlow lost two players in similar circumstances – Richard Coady and sharpshooter Martin Kavanagh – as their gallant effort fell under a deluge of closing Wexford points, with subs Joe O'Connor and David Dunne joining Chin (free and '65), Conor McDonald and Diarmuid O'Keeffe in bolstering Wexford's score-difference, which could become crucial in determining which counties make the Leinster final.
Scorers for Wexford: Lee Chin 0-11 (8 frees, 1 '65), Conor McDonald 1-4, Rory O'Connor 1-1, Cathal Dunbar 0-3, Paul Morris, Diarmuid O'Keeffe, Pádraig Foley 0-2 each, Seamus Casey, Joe O'Connor, David Dunne 0-1 each.
Scorers for Carlow: Martin Kavanagh 0-13 (1 '65, 9 frees), Chris Nolan 0-2, Eoin Nolan, Seán Whelan, John Michael Nolan, Edward Byrne 0-1 each.
WEXFORD: Mark Fanning; Damien Reck, Liam Ryan, Simon Donohoe; Shaun Murphy, Matthew O'Hanlon, Pádraig Foley; Rory O'Connor, Diarmuid O'Keeffe; Liam Óg McGovern, Lee Chin, Kevin Foley; Cathal Dunbar, Conor McDonald, Paul Morris. Subs: Shane Reck for Murphy (temp., 27-32); Aidan Nolan for Morris (50); David Dunne for O'Connor (58); Seamus Casey for McGovern (58); Shane Reck for Donohoe (60); Joe O'Connor (0-01) for Dunbar (70).
CARLOW: Brian Tracey; Kevin McDonald, Paul Doyle, Michael Doyle; Eoin Nolan, David English, Richard Coady; Jack Kavanagh, Seán Whelan; John Michael Nolan, Martin Kavanagh, Edward Byrne; James Doyle, Seamus Murphy, Chris Nolan. Subs: Jon Nolan for Joyce (56); Seamus Murphy for Byrne (64); 22 Ger Coady for M Doyle (66); Diarmuid Byrne for John Michael Nolan (68).
Referee: Colum Cunning (Antrim).