Holders book tie with Louth
Wexford reach final again
Wexford Reserve footballers have another Leinster final to look forward to later this month after defeating Longford in the penultimate round for the second season on the trot in Innovate Wexford Park on Thursday.
Wexford 1-15 Longford 1-9
The home side recovered after conceding an early goal, and again after seeing their three-point half-time lead quickly reduced to one, to set up a clash with Louth at this stage of the provincial Junior championship for the first time since 1984.
On that occasion Wexford won a low-scoring affair in Croke Park, and this time around they will be on the road to Drogheda on Wednesday, June 22, as they seek to hold on to the crown won at Meath's expense on our own soil last year.
Football was in need of a pick-me-up after the frustrating Senior loss to Kildare, while the county in general sought something positive to cling on to just 24 hours after the Under-21 hurling loss to Dublin at the same venue.
And the Wexford men delivered, with seven of the starters having also featured on the first 15 for that win over Meath in 2015.
Twelve months ago Longford had been beaten in their own Pearse Park by 3-11 to 0-12 thanks to a Kevin Rowe hat-trick, and they had the advantage of a quarter-final win over neighbours Cavan under their belts this time around.
That possibly contributed to their early goal as Wexford took a while to hit their stride, but once they did it was clear that the pace deployed from the half-back sector in particular would yield rich dividends.
Longford wing-back James Carroll chalked up their first point early on, and Wexford had recorded two of their eleven wides (the visitors had six) before Conor Sinnott equalised in the fifth minute.
Centre-back Shane Doyle raced on to the subsequent kick-out and returned it over the bar with interest, but a setback followed midway through the opening quarter.
Longford midfielder Shane Kenny robbed Graham Carty of the ball under the stand and floated in a teasing delivery to the town end which was touched to the net by corner-forward Jayson Matthews (1-1 to 0-2).
The lively Larry Moran - once the scourge of St. Peter's College during his St. Mel's days - added a brace of points as Longford seemed capable of reversing last year's outcome.
However, they were outscored by 1-5 to 0-1 from the twelfth minute up to half-time as Wexford started to eagerly latch on to any breaks around midfield and power forward at every opportunity.
Nobody typified that eagerness to run at the heart of the Longford defence better than number five Paul Curtis, playing on the left rather than the right, and he kicked a point from a Glen Malone pass to kick-start the recovery.
Niall Hughes then gathered a poor Longford kick-out and made it a two-point game, before the visitors lost midfielder Aidan McElligott to a black card after impeding the run of Jason Barron.
Curtis was initially whistled back for a free but the referee wisely instructed an umpire to raise the white flag when he saw his shot had gone over the bar.
That came seconds before the end of the opening quarter and left Longford clinging to a 1-3 to 0-5 lead.
Wexford quickly drew level when Niall Hughes fed Conor Sinnott with a crossfield pass, and they regained the lead in the 19th minute when Seán Ryan was set up by Glen Malone.
Longford's scoreless spell of over nine minutes was ended by David McGivney from a free, and goal chances abounded at both ends before the break although only one was taken.
Niall Harney slipped at the key moment after substitute Ian Carty and Seán Ryan had combined to put him though, while Longford's Larry Moran directed a shot off the angle of post and crossbar before it ended up harmlessly wide.
The Wexford breakthrough arrived in the 28th minute when a superb ball over the head of the last defender by Paul Curtis found Ryan who popped a pass to the inrushing Niall Harney.
His first shot was turned on to the crossbar by netminder Ciarán Garvey, but Harney's momentum brought him into contact with the rebound and he bundled it over the line (1-7 to 1-4).
The ever-dangerous Moran drove a chance across the face of goal at the other end, with play brought back for a free which David McGivney missed from a handy position.
He also dropped another effort into the arms of grateful goalkeeper Philip Murphy, leaving Wexford somewhat lucky to have that three-point interval advantage.
However, it quickly became one when play resumed as Jayson Matthews pointed after a mere 20 seconds, with wing-back Vinny Hourican winning the subsequent kick-out and playing a one-two with McGivney before splitting the posts (1-7 to 1-6).
Wexford quickly stopped the rot though, settling down again to play some constructive football and adding four points on the trot up to the 41st minute.
Seán Ryan fired over at the second attempt after his first shot was blocked, while Conor Sinnott won a free and converted it off the ground.
Niall Hughes picked out Glen Malone for the next score before the Kilanerin lad doubled his own tally with a high kick after substitute James Stafford supplied the final pass.
Longford substitute Andrew Dalton got their side of the scoreboard ticking over again with his first touch, but Wexford always seemed capable of responding to a point for the midlanders with one of their own.
So it proved as Ian Carty drove over from a goal chance after good work by James Stafford and Conor Sinnott.
And again, when Shane Kenny scored at the other end, Sinnott replied with a shot touched over by goalkeeper Ciarán Garvey after a quick Jamie Carty free (1-13 to 1-8).
James Carroll kicked what proved to be the last Longford point in the 49th minute, and Ian Carty added his second before playing a key part in the last score of the game, a third for Paul Curtis, midway through the final quarter.
Longford ended with 14 men as a frustrated Aaron Quinn led with his elbow when Niall Harney went in to challenge him, shortly after the centre-back had collected a yellow card.
Philip Murphy handled safely under pressure in added time to deny the visitors a consolation goal, with Wexford now aiming to win titles at this level back-to-back for the first time ever.
Last year Meath were pipped by a point in an exciting finish in Innovate Wexford Park before the Slaneysiders succumbed to a strong Kerry side in the All-Ireland semi-final in Dungarvan.
Next opponents Louth travelled to Newbridge on Wednesday and forged a victory over Kildare to underline their title credentials.
Wexford: Philip Murphy; Páraic O'Keeffe (capt.), Jason Barron, Robbie Vallejo; Robbie Barron, Shane Doyle (0-1), Paul Curtis (0-3); Glen Malone (0-1), Shane Byrne; Niall Harney (1-0), Conor Sinnott (0-4, 1 free), Graham Carty; Adam Parle, Niall Hughes (0-2), Seán Ryan (0-2). Subs. - Ian Carty (0-2) for Parle (15), Jamie Carty for Byrne (22), James Stafford for G. Carty (HT), Johnny Connors for Harney (58), Tony Smith for Ryan (60), Ed O'Byrne for Sinnott (60).
Longford: Ciarán Garvey; Conor Farrell, Daniel Keogh, Liam Hughes; Vinny Hourican (0-1), Aaron Quinn, James Carroll (0-2); Aidan McElligott, Shane Kenny (0-1); Seamus Hannon, David McGivney (0-1 free), Nigel Rabbitte; Jayson Matthews (1-1), Larry Moran (0-2), Enda Dalton. Subs. - Cathal Reilly for McElligott, black card (15), Andrew Dalton (0-1) for Rabbitte (40), Enda Macken for Hourican (44), James Kenny for Hannon (58), Emmet Masterson for Matthews (58), Fergal Sheridan for Dalton (60).
Referee: Davy Moore (Laois).