Louth await after score-fest
Footballers display supreme accuracy to win derby
The Wexford mentors will travel to Drogheda on Sunday week for what is effectively the promotion decider from Division 4 of the Allianz Football League fully aware of two things.
Wexford 4-23 Wicklow 3-14
First of all, their forwards are capable of causing untold damage when they are on form, a fact underlined clearly in Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday when they bettered the tally amassed against London by three points with a staggering 4-23 tally.
Secondly, and on a negative note, the ease with which the back line was unlocked in the third quarter in particular suggests that a lot of remedial work is necessary before the clash with Louth who are locked in second spot with the Slaneysiders on eight points.
This was a real roller-coaster of a game, a lively 'blink and you'll miss something' affair. After 38 scores were chalked up in the hurling curtain-raiser, it seemed unlikely to expect a similar feast of goals and points in this Leinster derby.
However, by game's end a staggering 44 scores were amassed, with Wexford's tally the joint fourth highest they have ever recorded in this competition, matching the 6-17 posted against Kilkenny in 1978. Furthermore, it was the first time ever that 23 points were picked off, two better than the previous record which was recorded twice, in 1990 versus Kilkenny and in 2012 against Offaly.
With the action dominated by scores of the record-breaking variety, it was fitting that late substitute Ciarán Lyng should mark his 100th Senior appearance for the county with a fisted point from his first touch, followed by his 16th goal to cap a competent all-round team display.
Some of the point-taking in the first-half into the Clonard end was of the highest calibre, with a rampant Ben Brosnan racking up five from play while Donal Shanley added half a dozen from frees. And with John Tubritt high on confidence at present and adding 1-2, Wexford were full value for an incredible interval lead of 1-17 to 1-5.
However, Wicklow deserve plenty of credit for battling their way back into an eventful game during the third quarter, reducing the deficit to just three points (1-20 to 3-11) in the 51st minute.
Thankfully, a brace of Ben Brosnan goals, the second from the penalty spot, steadied the ship, and Wexford were able to relax somewhat during the last ten minutes with the victory safely secured.
The home side shot on sight from the off, and their pace and inter-changing proved too much for Wicklow to cope with. That most essential ingredient - accuracy - was happily part of the mix too as a 0-7 to 0-2 lead had been established before the hard-working Michael O'Regan - the only attacker not to score - had the first of eleven wides in the ninth minute.
Earlier, Ben Brosnan had underlined he was in the mood for carnage with the first two points before John Tubritt, Brian Malone, Brosnan again, Adrian Flynn and Donal Shanley (free) all raised white flags.
The excellent Paul Cunningham, a constant threat at full-forward, had responded for Wicklow along with Marc Lennon, and they were thrown an early lifeline when they pounced for the first of the game's seven goals in the 13th minute.
Mark Kenny was involved twice in the move, exchanging passes with Darren Hayden before popping the ball inside to Marc Lennon who spilled possession as Robbie Vallejo challenged, but he had the presence of mind to guide it soccer-style to the corner of Anthony Masterson's net (0-7 to 1-2).
This marked the start of a brief purple patch for Wicklow as points from Anthony McLoughlin and Mark Kenny brought them level, while Masterson got down low in between to smother a threatening shot from Lennon which admittedly lacked power.
It was a brief and costly lapse for Wexford but, once they got the ball beyond midfield again, they always seemed capable of picking off scores. Indeed, they 'won' the second quarter by an impressive 1-10 to 0-1 as Wicklow remained firmly on the back foot.
Donal Shanley (free) restored a lead they would never lose before Kieran Butler's point was followed by a brilliant effort from the left corner by Adrian Flynn. Brosnan made it 0-11 to 1-4 before Wicklow conceded a giveaway goal, with defender Chris Murphy appearing to pick up an injury as he attempted to gather a short kick-out.
The breaking ball was quickly fed by Kieran Butler to John Tubritt, and the Fethard attacker made no mistake to leave Wexford very much in control. Shanley pointed two frees from just inside the 45-metre line, with Michael O'Regan and Ben Brosnan both kicking their second wides while Tubritt was also off target.
Wicklow's best scoring attempt in that spell - a Paul Cunningham effort for a point - came back off the post, although John McGrath did finally stop the rot from a free, their first time to register in 16 minutes.
Wexford drove on again though in the lead-up to half-time, with three unanswered points from John Tubritt, Ben Brosnan and Donal Shanley (free) leaving them twelve clear, while Stephen Kelly also hacked the ball clear from the Wicklow square after Michael O'Regan caught a high delivery and tried to add a goal.
The visitors adopted a 'nothing to lose' attitude on the re-start, and it paid off up to a point. While they went for broke and threw themselves into attack mode, that also left them vulnerable at the back and Wexford profited.
However, the third quarter was mainly about Wicklow despite the loss of Mark Kenny to a black card as they hit four of the first five points through Marc Lennon, substitute Rory Finn, Darren Hayden and Dean Healy, with Donal Shanley offering the sole response from a free.
And the Wexford rearguard was breached again after a good move down the left in the 43rd minute, with substitutes Gary Allen and Kevin Murphy combining before Paul Cunningham crashed home a fine goal (1-18 to 2-9).
If Wexford weren't overly concerned at that stage, it was a different story by the 51st minute when the scoreboard read 1-20 to 3-11. Points from John Tubritt and Donal Shanley came on either side of similar efforts at the other end from John McGrath (two, one free).
And that third Wicklow goal was another well-worked effort as McGrath, Cunningham and Patrick O'Connor all laid hands on the ball before Gary Allen bore down on Masterson and made no mistake with a low shot.
Another Shanley free steadied the ship before a touch of good fortune perhaps led to the second Wexford goal in the 55th minute. Kieran Butler appeared to be trying to fist the ball over the bar from the right, but when it dropped short Ben Brosnan was on hand to beat netminder Mick Carey and direct it to the net.
And four minutes later Brosnan administered the final blow to Wicklow, tucking away a penalty to bring his personal tally to 2-5 after P.J. Banville was fouled after playing a one-two with John Tubritt.
Indeed, it was a double blow for Wicklow as Paul McLoughlin was black-carded and they couldn't introduce a replacement as all six substitutes had been deployed by that stage.
Substitutes Ciarán Lyng and Banville, the newest inhabitants of the 'hundred club', added points before Kieran Butler and Donal Shanley combined to lay a goal on a plate for Lyng, who duly obliged (4-23 to 3-11).
Paddy Byrne and Rory Finn (two, one free) did pull back consolation points for Wicklow, with the latter's potshot from another free seconds from the end parried by Joey Wadding. A block on Lyng and a subsequent fine save by Mick Carey on Colm Kehoe's follow-up had denied Wexford a fifth goal beforehand, but with a tally like that to admire at the finish, it made little difference.
Wexford: Anthony Masterson; Robbie Vallejo, Naomhan Rossiter, Joey Wadding; Brian Malone (capt., 0-1), Eoghan Nolan, Simon Donohoe; Colm Kehoe, Daithí Waters; Kieran Butler (0-1), John Tubritt (1-3), Ben Brosnan (2-5, 1-0 pen.); Adrian Flynn (0-2), Michael O'Regan, Donal Shanley (0-9, 8 frees). Subs. - P.J. Banville (0-1) for Flynn (49), Jim Rossiter for Vallejo (54), Ciarán Lyng (1-1) for O'Regan (60), Tiarnan Rossiter for Brosnan (62), Syl Byrne for Waters (64), Rob Tierney for N. Rossiter (65).
Wicklow: Mick Carey; Aaron Murphy, Ross O'Brien, Eoin Murtagh; Darren Hayden (0-1), Paul McLoughlin, Chris Murphy; Dean Healy (0-1), Anthony McLoughlin (0-1); Patrick O'Connor, Stephen Kelly, Mark Kenny (0-1); John McGrath (0-3, 2 frees), Paul Cunningham (1-1), Marc Lennon (1-2). Subs. - Kevin Murphy for C. Murphy (29), Rory Finn (0-3, 1 free) for O'Brien (29), Danny Woods for A. McLoughlin (HT), Gary Allen (1-0) for Kenny, black card (38), John Crowe for Murtagh (43), Paddy Byrne (0-1) for Lennon (54).
Referee: Niall Ward (Westmeath).