Lilies best in first U21 test
Limerick up next for Wexford
A new season began in the Halo Tiles and Bathrooms Ferns Centre Of Excellence on Friday as Seamus McEnaney's youngsters lost their opening game of the Peter McNulty Under-21 football tournament against visitors Kildare.
Kildare 1-10 Wexford 1-7
The early season competition is a useful tool at the best of times, getting game-time into legs after the winter break, but it will be even more vital for McEnaney as he gets to know all the players at his disposal.
Buffered by fog before and after, the game was played in unseasonably perfect conditions. Two evenly-matched sides cancelled each other out for the most part, with only a burst in the last ten minutes enough to see the Lilywhites to victory.
This run-out might be the first of at least four games in this tournament, but with a Leinster opening round tie against Carlow just over six weeks away, there is plenty to be gleaned from every semi-competitive outing.
By and large Wexford defended well. Kildare created around a dozen scoring chances in each half, missed most in the first period but were a little less profligate after the change-around.
The Slaneysiders lacked a spark at times. McEnaney's message of 'keep the ball' was constant but his Under-21 side understandably have a distance to go before they perfect his ideology.
Tom Byrne did look sharp at full-forward. Often used deeper in the past, the Kilmore man showed impressive shooting ability as his side's top scorer. However, it was Tim Bowler's introduction with two minutes of normal time remaining that really caught the eye.
The Duffry clubman, who was a constant in David Power's Under-21 team last year, almost netted twice in the time he was on the field, using his pace and trickery close to goal to scare the life out of the visiting defence.
Wexford started with a mini-burst too. Mikie Dwyer kicked his county ahead in the sixth minute from the right of the posts after a clever Niall Hughes pass. A classy brace from Byrne gave the hosts a 0-3 to 0-1 lead after eleven minutes.
Threatening only occasionally, Wexford didn't register again in the first-half. Kildare would have taken the lead had Matt Doyle not made a superb save from Sam Doran, and the visitors had to settle for a 0-3 tie at the interval.
Byrne's third point, countered by Eoghan Boyle, proved the opening scores of the second period.
Then came a moment of class. Untracked from deep, Conor Firman ghosted behind the Kildare full-back line, latching on to Hughes' handpass before lashing high past Luke Mullins.
The three-point lead lasted seconds. Kildare worked the ball down the field and hit the net themselves when Doran put the finishing touches to a well-worked one-two with Boyle (1-4 each).
Wexford never led again. Twice Ian Carty nailed dead-ball efforts to tie the game after Kildare points, but three scores in a row by the Lilywhites, the best run of the game, proved to be a winning salvo.
Bowler went close twice in his limited time on the field. He did fantastically to win a 50-50 ball close to goal and forced Mullins to save.
Then, just 90 seconds later, the Duffry man ghosted in on the left but thumped his shot into the side-netting.
Next up for Wexford is a trip west to Limerick on Saturday before McEnaney's men finish their group campaign at home to Clare seven days later.
The Treaty men won the match-up against their neighbours by 4-11 to 2-13 on Friday.
Wexford: Matt Doyle (Glynn-Barntown); Joe Sutton (Fethard), Conor Firman (St. Martin's, 1-0), Seán Barden (Adamstown); Martin O'Connor (HWH-Bunclody), Daire Barden (Fethard), Ronan Devereux (Crossabeg-Ballymurn); Niall Hughes (Kilanerin, capt.), Paddy Devereux (Crossabeg-Ballymurn); James Stafford (Glynn-Barntown), Ian Carty (Taghmon-Camross, 0-2, 1 '45, 1 free), Kyle Firman (St. Martin's); Mikie Dwyer (Fethard, 0-1), Tom Byrne (Kilmore, 0-4, 2 frees), Glen Malone (Shelmaliers). Subs. - Stephen O'Gorman (Taghmon-Camross) for Malone (38), Nick Doyle (Starlights) for Sutton (40), Daire Bolger (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown) for S. Barden (52), Dillon Redmond (Starlights) for O'Connor (53), Tim Bowler (Duffry Rovers) for Carty (58), Malone for D. Barden, inj. (60+3).
Kildare: Luke Mullins; Stephen Comerford, Mark Dempsey, James Healy; Rúadhan O Gilláin (0-1), Jamie Flynn (capt.), Shane Maughan; Aaron Masterson, Daniel Courtney; Cian Costigan (0-1), Barry Kelly (0-1), Chris Byrne; Paddy Woodgate (0-3, 2 frees), Eoghan Boyle (0-1), Sam Doran (1-1). Subs. - Jack Robinson for Doran (38), Danny O'Sullivan for Healy (38), Kevin Foley for Byrne (40), Ian Meehan (0-2) for Costigan (47).
Referee: John Hickey (Carlow).