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Early Pettit goal put Wexford on road to Leinster final
It's always impossible to know what to expect before the first outing in the Leinster Intermediate hurling championship, and this was certainly the case for the small Wexford following in O'Moore Park, Portlaoise, on Wednesday for the semi-final against All-Ireland holders Galway.
Leinster Intermediate Hurling Championship Semi-final Wexford 1-16 Galway 0-16
By all accounts, several players had turned down the opportunity to represent their county which is a sad reflection on their own attitudes more than anything else.
Those who did answer the call of Liam Dunne and company pleasantly surprised us though as their passion for the purple and gold shone through in a committed and competent display.
Of course, Galway couldn't call on any of the players who brought them provincial and national honours last year, but that should be measured against the fact that the Wexford 15 were performing together for the first time.
One of the most interesting inclusions was long-time Senior Richie Kehoe who was handed the captaincy and lined out at centre-back. And his sweeping role in that position went a long way towards securing victory as he was dominant throughout and read the game to perfection.
Behind him Seán Murphy was a strong presence at full-back, while county footballer Simon Donohoe really grew into the game as it progressed and he was flying by the finish, even contributing a vital point from deep inside his own half at a time when Galway were threatening to take over.
John Doyle and Jack Pettit were the stand-out attackers, amassing 1-5 from play between them. Doyle picked off a few excellent points from the midfield area, while Pettit grabbed the goal in the ninth minute which ultimately proved the difference between the sides.
Doyle was an unused substitute for the Under-21s in the loss to Dublin, while Pettit - a Minor last year - didn't feature on their panel of 24. Darragh Hughes, sub-goalkeeper on the night the Leinster crown was lost, manned the posts on this occasion, with five more players used by the Under-21 mentors also featuring: Simon Donohoe, Aaron Maddock, Jake Firman, Joe O'Connor and Kevin Sheridan, as well as county footballer Donal Shanley.
The first-half didn't go in accordance with the usual script because Galway proved very wasteful in front of the posts rather than Wexford. Indeed, the westerners sent eight efforts off target before the eventual winners had a couple of misses in the 27th and 29th minutes, but Wexford had established a solid platform earlier.
There was a lively start to the action as Aidan Helebert pointed Galway into the lead after 26 seconds but Tommy Dwyer - a very experienced player at this level - responded immediately from the puck-out.
Ryan Mahon utilised his pace to the full in creating the lead score for full-forward Jack Pettit in the second minute, and Wexford were never headed thereafter.
Billy Dunne - another of last year's Minors who didn't feature with the Under-21s - picked out Pettit to make it 0-3 to 0-1 before his delivery from midfield led to Mahon splitting the posts in the fifth minute.
It was a very bright, positive start by Wexford, and even though Roy Lane pulled a score back at the other end, John Doyle then got in on the act after a Simon Donohoe clearance broke into his path (0-5 to 0-2).
A fourth Galway wide in less than eight minutes was followed by the crucial goal. Doyle was fouled on the right wing, and when Tommy Dwyer landed the free into the danger zone, netminder Joe Keane could only bat it into the path of Jack Pettit who was on hand to fire home for a six-point lead.
A solo point from last year's All-Ireland winning Minor captain, Seán Loftus, narrowed the gap, but Wexford would have added a second goal if referee Gavin Quilty had applied the advantage rule in the twelfth minute.
Big centre-forward Danny Martin Carroll had burst through the challenge after a Ryan Mahon pass and the ball ended up in the net, but the Kilkenny official had prematurely blown his whistle and Tommy Dwyer's converted free offered scant consolation (1-6 to 0-3).
Another Dwyer placed ball after a foul on Jack Pettit stretched the lead, but the Galway side managed by Senior boss Micheál Donoghue went on to enjoy their best spell from the 16th to the 19th minutes when points from Niall Morrissey (two frees), Aidan Helebert (free) and Richie Cummins narrowed the gap significantly.
Wexford got back on track when a Richie Kehoe clearance found Ryan Mahon who displayed neat control before being hauled down. The referee consulted with an umpire before deciding it was a 20-metre free rather than a penalty, and Dwyer duly obliged.
And the Ferns midfielder quickly added another point after Galway's Adrian Morrissey was booked for a high challenge on John Doyle (1-9 to 0-7).
Aidan Helebert knocked over a free but three Galway wides followed in quick succession to sum up their evening before Dwyer had the first Wexford miss from a long-range free.
A good save by Darragh Hughes denied Cian Burke a goal after a Paul Gordon pass, with John Doyle adding the second wide before Helebert and Dwyer swapped late points from frees (1-10 to 0-9).
Galway continued to be the more wasteful side on the re-start, topping the wides count in the end 16-7.
Their most threatening forward, Cian Burke, did grab a point within 13 seconds of the re-start, but an excellent John Doyle score after catching a Wexford puck-out restored that gap of four.
The electronic scoreboard went on the blink at half-time, and the Slaneysiders had extended their lead to 1-14 to 0-11 by the time it returned to proper working order in the 43rd minute.
Another Burke point for Galway had produced a strong response in the form of three scores on the trot from Gary Moore, John Doyle and Billy Dunne.
In Moore's case it was encouraging to see him back in a Wexford jersey after a long injury lay-off, while the scores from Doyle and Dunne were top-drawer efforts from midfield.
There was always going to be a kick in Galway though, especially as they fielded a very young team full of Under-21s whose fitness was never going to be an issue.
Lo and behold, they picked off four points without reply between the 44th and 55th minutes, from Seán Loftus (two), Niall Morrissey (free) and substitute Brian Concannon to leave Wexford with a fight on their hands to preserve that long-held lead (1-14 to 0-15).
John Doyle hit the fourth wide of the half (after earlier efforts from a Tommy Dwyer '65 and free, and then Billy Dunne), before the point which settled the side down came from an unlikely source.
Richie Kehoe played a handpass to corner-back Simon Donohoe on the left, and with space and time to have a go, he unleashed a monster drive from his own '65 which sailed over the bar.
Doyle followed up with the last Wexford wide, but he quickly atoned in the 59th minute when he landed a free from 80 metres to all but close the door on Galway's challenge.
Niall Morrissey did manage to pull one point back from a free in added time, but the resolute Wexford defence never looked like giving away the goal the Connacht side clearly needed, and they now march on to a Leinster final clash at home to Kilkenny on Wednesday, July 13.
Wexford: Darragh Hughes (Naomh Eanna); Aaron Maddock (St. Martin's), Seán Murphy (Buffers Alley), Simon Donohoe (Shelmaliers, 0-1); Jack Kelly (Rapparees), Richie Kehoe (Faythe Harriers, capt.), Kevin Sheridan (Oulart-The Ballagh); Billy Dunne (Oulart-The Ballagh, 0-1), Tommy Dwyer (Ferns St. Aidan's, 0-6, 5 frees); John Doyle (St. Patrick's, 0-4, 1 free), Danny Martin Carroll (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown), Joe O'Connor (St. Martin's); Ryan Mahon (Rapparees, 0-1), Jack Pettit (Our Lady's Island, 1-2), Gary Moore (Glynn-Barntown, 0-1). Subs. - Shane Murphy (St. James') for Moore (39), Jake Firman (St. Martin's) for O'Connor (39), Donal Shanley (St. Fintan's) for Shane Murphy (51), Nicky Kirwan (Oulart-The Ballagh) for Mahon (57), Ross Donohoe (Buffers Alley) for Pettit (57), also Oisín Foley (Crossabeg-Ballymurn), Diarmuid O'Leary (St. Patrick's), Michael O'Hanlon (Horeswood).
Galway: Joe Keane; Vincent Doyle, Ronan Burke, Shane Bannon; Stephen Roche, Martin Dolphin (capt.), Seán Loftus (0-3); Niall Morrissey (0-4 frees), Adrian Morrissey; Cian Burke (0-2), Aidan Helebert (0-4, 3 frees), Roy Lane (0-1); Richie Cummins (0-1), Paul Gordon, Jamie Ryan. Subs. - Ronan Bellew for R. Burke (HT), Jack Kenny for Lane (42), Brian Concannon (0-1) for A. Morrissey (42).
Referee: Gavin Quilty (Kilkenny).