Mayo goals the key
Wexford denied for a second year
Wexford's hopes of going one better than last year and qualifying for the All-Ireland Junior football championship final disappeared in the space of six second-half minutes before a very small crowd in O'Connor Park, Tullamore, on Saturday.
Mayo 2-10 Wexford 0-10
That's the length of time it took for Mayo to pounce for two goals which proved the difference between the sides in the end, ensuring they will meet again with holders Kerry in a repeat of the 2015 decider.
Half-time substitutes Conor Keane and Seán Gaughan struck to bring a distinctly average year for Wexford inter-county football teams to a close, with the first goal coming after the Slaneysiders had enjoyed their best spell.
Trailing by 0-7 to 0-4 at the break after a half littered with handling and passing errors from both sides, Wexford really upped the ante on the re-start.
Indeed, they kicked four points without reply to regain a lead they had squandered in the ninth minute, but Mayo's blistering response knocked them for six and they never posed the same threat thereafter.
James Stafford had picked out Niall Harney to reduce the gap to two less than three minutes into the new half, and Conor Sinnott then converted the first of his three frees after Tom Byrne was fouled on a solo run (0-7 to 0-6).
Sinnott, Stafford and Glen Malone followed up with wides but the strong momentum continued to build as Sinnott was pushed and picked himself up to stroke over the leveller.
Paul Curtis won the break from that kick-out and lofted over his second point, leaving Wexford ahead by 0-8 to 0-7 after a very strong opening ten minutes after the break.
Alas, the advantage was shortlived as the classy Darren Coen, the best-known of the Mayo players and also the most dangerous, had a large part to play in their two crucial goals.
The first saw him link up with Brian Reape who in turn found Conor Keane, and the substitute shook off the tackle of Páraic O'Keeffe before drilling a powerful shot past Tom Hughes (1-7 to 0-8).
Coen followed up quickly with a point before he effectively decided the outcome in the 50th minute. Accepting a pass from goalscorer Keane, he took on and beat two defenders with a blistering run to the left of the posts before palming across for Seán Gaughan to tuck the ball into the net.
Brian Reape added a point as Mayo surged 2-9 to 0-8 clear, and the Wexford scores that followed from Tom Byrne and Conor Sinnott (free) were mere consolations.
It was fitting that Coen should crown his player of the match form with the last fisted point for Mayo, while netminder Mattie Flanagan denied Jamie Carty a consolation goal in the last play after he got his fist on a hopeful lob into the square from substitute Jack Murphy.
Five of the team which started in the Leinster final win over Louth didn't feature this time, with goalkeeper Philip Murphy having lost his status with the Seniors, Robbie Vallejo and Niall Hughes in the USA, and Johnny Connors and Jake Firman introduced off the bench on this occasion.
Robbie Barron had recovered from injury to replace Vallejo in defence, with Seán Barden preferred to Adamstown clubman Connors. It was rather odd to see Conor Swaine continuing as reserve netminder in the absence of Murphy, with Tom Hughes getting the nod after his late arrival to the panel, while James Stafford and Jamie Carty started after impressive Leinster final cameos off the bench.
The tactics were familiar as Ian Carty drifted out from the throw-in to leave Conor Sinnott and Seán Ryan in a two-man full-forward line, but Mayo number three Niall Freeman stayed back to sweep while Eoin O'Donoghue and Eddie Doran carried out the man-marking duties.
Ryan was short with an early effort for a point before James Stafford got Wexford off the mark from a Jamie Carty handpass in the fifth minute after a nervy start from both teams.
Conor Sinnott kicked the first of Wexford's 13 wides (Mayo had eight) from a free in the left corner before Niall Harney was off the mark from a more central position.
Darren Coen didn't need any room to curl over a sweet equaliser in the ninth minute, and when he added a pointed free it gave Mayo a lead they didn't surrender until that Wexford surge early in the second period.
Another Coen free after Robbie Barron picked the ball off the ground was followed by a very good solo point from Paul Curtis after a Glen Malone handpass encouraged him to run into the open spaces.
However, Mayo hit back through Kevin Gibbons before a one-two between Curtis (now at right half-back after a switch with Robbie Barron) and Conor Sinnott nearly led to a goal, only for goalkeeper Mattie Flanagan to make a key interception.
Barron set up Eoin Roche for a point shortly before the midfielder departed with a recurring injury, and Wexford lost their way somewhat over the next ten minutes as they conceded three scores without reply.
Brian Reape made it 0-5 to 0-3 after swapping passes with Michael Forde before team captain Andrew Farrell widened the gap after a swift turn and strike. Darren Coen stretched the margin to four in added time after Wexford had lost full-forward Seán Ryan in bizarre circumstances.
Mayo's Barry Duffy didn't seem to notice the attacker when he attempted to play a line ball from the right corner back to his goalkeeper.
The number one thundered off his line and Ryan came out the worst of the 50-50 challenge, with a long delay ensuing before he left the field.
Niall Harney's first successful free with the last kick after two misses left Wexford trailing by 0-7 to 0-4 at half-time, and they produced their best on the re-start when those four scores without reply restored their lead.
Their confidence evaporated rapidly once the first goal went in though, and the second completely closed the door on their bid to reach the final for the first time since 2007 when they lost to Cork after beating Saturday's opponents by 2-14 to 1-12 in Tullamore.
Wexford: Tom Hughes (Kilanerin); Páraic O'Keeffe (St. Anne's, capt.), Jason Barron (St. James'), Seán Barden (Adamstown); Robbie Barron (St. James'), Shane Doyle (Ballyhogue), Paul Curtis (Clongeen, 0-2); Jamie Carty (St. Martin's), Eoin Roche (Sarsfields, 0-1); Niall Harney (Bannow-Ballymitty, 0-2, 1 free), Glen Malone (Shelmaliers), James Stafford (Glynn-Barntown, 0-1); Ian Carty (Taghmon-Camross), Seán Ryan (Gusserane), Conor Sinnott (St. Fintan's, 0-3 frees). Subs. - Tom Byrne (Kilmore, 0-1) for Roche, inj. (22), Adam Parle (St. James') for Ryan, inj. (30+1), Jake Firman (St. Martin's) for Doyle (49), Jack Murphy (St. Anne's) for Parle (57), Jack O'Connor (Gusserane) for I. Carty (60), Johnny Connors (Adamstown) for R. Barron (60), also Conor Swaine (Horeswood), Edward O'Byrne (St. Martin's), Graham Carty (St. Mary's, Maudlintown).
Mayo: Mattie Flanagan; Eoin O'Donoghue, Niall Freeman, Eddie Doran; Barry Duffy, James Kelly, Jason Forkan; Peter Collins, Michael Togher; Brian Reape (0-2), Michael Forde, Kevin Gibbons (0-1); Darren Coen (0-6, 3 frees), Andrew Farrell (capt., 0-1), Ronan Mallee. Subs. - Seán Gaughan (1-0) for Forkan (HT), Conor Keane (1-0) for Collins (HT), Ronan Doherty for Mallee (48), Cormac Reape for B. Reape, inj. (60+1).
Referee: Barry Tiernan (Dublin).