Heavy defeat for Model men
Model side failed to match Limerick's intensity at any stage in final
Sport can often be cruel but the reality is that Wexford deserved to take nothing from this game as they rolled over to an embarrassing 16-point defeat to a classy Limerick side in this one-sided Bord Gais All-Ireland Under-21 hurling final at Semple Stadium, Thurles, on Saturday evening last.
Limerick 0-26 Wexford 1-07
So it happened for the second successive year, defeat in an All-Ireland final, despite having taken three provincial titles in a row.
They were outwitted, outplayed, lacked the driving power and pace of their opponents, but more importantly they played without the Wexford passion, a factor so noted in the county's play, leaving the result a foregone conclusion by the end of the opening quarter.
One could say this is becoming a bad habit.
Limerick were everything Wexford were not.
Wexford were not quick, incisive and clinical, they lacked pace and power when in possession, but even more so, they were unable to match the individual speed, thought and support play of their opponents, whose dominance was such the final scoreline could have been even more embarrassing.
Unlike Wexford, Limerick were fluent, cohesive and committed. When under any pressure they resisted well, still played as a unit, still managing to threaten the Wexford goal with amazing runs and play even from deep in defence, as the ripped through the hearth of the model county defence at pace.
Disturbingly one saw a Wexford team function like two dis-connected units.
They had a back five as Simon Donohoe was given the fruitless task of following the roving Cian Lynch, with the result the front six were left to their own devices, as the Shannonsiders half-back stormed all over this game, while midfield controlled their sector, so the efforts of the Wexford attack were feeble been unable to create anything with only 1-2 of their miserly total coming from play, with just a single first half point from open play, a story that tells it all.
Wexford looked flat compared to their opponents for they were unable to stand toe-to-toe in the individual battles and but for some desperate defending the eventual winners would have been in for three first half goals to add to their misery.
Wexford trailed by seven points at the interval but one can imagine what the first half would have been like had Limerick availed of their chances but as it transpired they could go on and dish out even more punishment in what was a clinical display as their opponents simply bowled over.
While Limerick were a joy to watch the same could not be said of their opponents.
In the absence of passion, Wexford could bring little to the table, and their inability to match the Shannonsiders in even the simple aspects of the game, left their supporters shell-shocked. Wexford's first touch was abysmal, the quality of their striking was poor, their attempts at marking simply of juvenile standard, but more disturbingly the players seemed incapable of influencing the game with a real game plan as their play disintegrated all over the pitch.
Make no mistake Manager J. J. Doyle sent his side out with a plan to combat his opponents.
Whether this was ignored or the players were incapable of imposing the plan on the game, is difficult to access.
But I would go with the former, many of the players ignored their individual instructions, particularly regarding key elements of their opponents game plan, with the result they were embarrassingly dismantled.
At the end of the evening it was embarrassing for Wexford as their opponents began to withdraw key players, deciding to lift a penalty over for a point, while picking off points when goals were for the taking.
Yes, it was that embarrassing, so much so it showed Wexford hurling in a poorer place than anyone had envisaged 60 minutes earlier.
Wexford have had bad days in the past but this will go down as one of the greater disappointments in any grade of inter-county hurling as it was embarrassing to sit and watch the purple and gold surrender what was always so renowned with Wexford's play 'PASSION and POWER'. With those two elements missing we had nothing to offer.
Against this Limerick side, Wexford needed a good start, but it was Limerick who opened the scoring through a Pat Ryan fifty meter point after five minuites, with Conor McDonald levelling from a 21-meter free one minute later, but by the end of the opening quarter it was the Shannonsider who had stormed into a 0-7 to 0-2 lead, as Barry Nash and Ronan Lynch were storming the Wexford defence, while Tom Morrissey was also proving influential, particularly as their half-back trip began to impact on the game.
While Andrew Kenny had his sides second point after seven minutes, they had to endure an eighteen minute barren spell without a score until Conor McDonald pointed a 25th minute free, with both sides having goals disallowed after referee Johnny Ryan had blown for earlier infringements.
Wexford's solitary response to this period of Limerick dominance was a Conor McDonald pointed free three minutes before the break, while in between it took some daring goalkeeping from Oliver O'Leary to keep his goal intact, as Limerick strolled to a 0-11 to 0-4 interval lead.
Wexford needed a positive start to the second half to keep themselves in the game but it was Limerick midfielder Pat Ryan who resumed service with an opening point, while Paidi Foley lofted over a huge 70-meter points free one minute later, but by the end of the third quarter, Limerick were simply in cruise control leading 0-16 to 0-7.
Wexford simply had no answer and had some of the Limerick chances found the net the scoreline would have been more embarrassing.
As it turned out they were just satisfied through the closing ten minutes to pick off points with their substitute Peter Casey choosing to tap a penalty over the bar and this after a simple Wexford move involving subs Shane Murphy and Sean Kenny, set Conor McDonald up for a 51st minute goal which was just a token response from a side now sadly deflated and looking towards the exit doors for some relief and comfort.
So Wexford's drought carries on into a 51st year but the fall-out from this defeat will be far greater than any of the previous nine final defeats given their feeble challenge on this the biggest stage of their young careers.
Wexford: Oliver O'Leary; Simon Donohoe, Liam Ryan, Eoin Conroy; Jim White, Padraig Foley (0-1 free), Jack O'Connor; Conor Devitt, Tony French; Andrew Kenny (0-1), Kevin Foley, James Cash; Cathal Dunbar (0-1), Conor McDonald (1-4, 0-3 frees, 0-1 sl)., Peter Sutton. Subs: Shane Murphy for French (35); Sean Kenny for Devitt (41); Sam Kelly for Kevin Foley (46); Jake Firman for Cash (47).
Yellow Cards: J O'Connor (38).
Limerick: David McCarthy; Sean Finn, Richie English, Michael Casey; Diarmuid Byrnes (0-2, 0-1 free), Barry O'Connell, Gearoid Hegarty; Darragh O'Donovan, Pat Ryan (0-3); Barry Nash (0-5), Tom Morrissey (0-4), David Dempsey; Ronan Lynch (0-6, 0-5 frees), Colin Ryan, Cian Lynch (0-3). Subs: Peter Casey (0-3, 0-1 pen) for Colin Ryan (49); Andrew La Touche-Cosgrave for Pat Ryan (52); Jack Kelliher for Ronan Lynch (54); Mark O'Callaghan for Finn (57); Jody Hannon for O'Donovan (58).
Yellow Cards: C Lynch (39).
Wides: 6 (6).
Frees: 7 (8)
Referee: Johnny Ryan (Tipperary).