Lilies thwart final hopes
A spirited Wexford side came up just short against Kildare in the semi-final of the Peter McNulty Under-21 football tournament in Hawkfield on Saturday.
Kildare 2-11 Wexford 2-10
Despite the defeat, this team continues to grow by the game and if this pair do end up meeting in the championship semi-final there will be nothing to fear from a side which won its three previous fixtures in the tournament with relative ease.
First up though the Slaneysiders must win tricky home clashes against Longford and Westmeath. With the addition of a few more, the side that came up just short against Kildare will likely not be too far from the 15 that starts the championship opener on February 24.
It was certainly a team filled with quality, in a game that was a real treat for the decent crowd. Both sides matched up man-for-man, playing with great early-season intensity, and it made for an extremely attractive spectacle.
While the hosts were first to score, Wexford soon got on an early run to edge clear. Donal Shanley had the perfect free-kick technique for a difficult crosswind and he wiped out Conor Delahunty's opener in the fifth minute.
After Daire Barden broke forward for a superb point, the visitors grabbed their first goal.
It was a great team major which was worked with handpassing from Niall Hughes in midfield, through Seán Ryan and Eoin Roche and ended with Matthew Joyce being the 'man-over' goalscorer.
Kildare pulled a pair back but a Ryan point gave Wexford a 1-3 to 0-3 lead after 18 minutes.
Shanley and Rory Feely matched points before the Slaneysiders nabbed their second well-worked team goal.
This time Shanley got into space around the '45 and drove at the Kildare defence before off-loading to Joyce, and the Glynn-Barntown men fed Ryan who calmly shot low to Declan Campbell's net.
The 2-4 to 0-4 lead didn't last long as Feely and Barry Kelly combined with the former sending an unstoppable shot to the roof of Nicky Greene's rigging.
Shanley added another free before the break as his side led by 2-5 to 1-6 at the change-around.
St. Fintan's star Shanley started the second like he finished the first, with a point, but Kildare upped the tempo and had their best spell. From three behind the hosts added five scores in a row, including a Delahunty goal to move 2-10 to 2-6 ahead.
A booming Shanley point from play halted the momentum as Wexford began to turn the tide. Indeed, Kildare managed just one point in the final 18 minutes.
Shanley chipped away at the deficit with three frees but the last of those came in the final minute and time just ran out on the Slaneysiders' revival.
Kildare: Declan Campbell; Brian Byrne, Darren Maguire, Mark Hyland; Eoin Cummins, Shea Ryan, Jamie Flynn; Glen Doran, Paschal Connell; Eoghan Boyle, Barry Kelly, Rory Feely (1-1); Cian Scanlon (0-1), Kevin O'Callaghan (0-1), Conor Delahunty (1-3). Subs. - Luke Flynn (0-1) for Doran, inj. (12), Ben McCormack (0-3, 1 free) for O'Callaghan (31), Paul Mescal for Hyland, black card (31), Conor Hartley (0-1) for Boyle (38), Kevin Flynn for Scanlon (55).
Wexford: Nicky Greene; Robbie Vallejo, Jim Rossiter, Johnny Connors; Daire Barden (0-1), Naomhan Rossiter, Simon Donohoe; Niall Hughes, Glen Malone; Bryan Power, Donal Shanley (0-8, 7 frees), Tom Byrne; Seán Ryan (1-1), Eoin Roche, Matthew Joyce (1-0). Subs. - Seán Barden for Malone (41), Tim Bowler for Byrne (43), Pierce Doyle for Joycce (55), Aaron Murphy for Power (59), also Ben Turner, James Stafford, Jamie Carty, Aaron Kehoe, Dillon Redmond, Jody Donohoe.
Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois).