Minors master Westmeath
Home side recovered well from two-goal concession
The Wexford Minor footballers showed a lot of heart and no little ability in Innovate Wexford Park on Saturday when they recovered from the concession of two goals in just over a minute early in the second-half to hit back and overcome Westmeath with three points to spare.
Wexford 2-14 Westmeath 2-11
A direct route into the quarter-finals on May 16 is their prize for this merited victory which featured a memorable display of accuracy from corner-forward Mark Rossiter. His contribution of 1-9 was marked by a combination of excellent scores from play and placed balls and was the abiding memory from Wexford's second successive first round victory at this level.
Six of the nineteen players used had played during last year's campaign, while the five dual players on view - midfielders Ciarán Kirwan and Ian Carty, centre-forward Mikey Dwyer and substitutes Seán Barden and Seamus Casey - will now turn their attention back to hurling ahead of Saturday's clash with Kilkenny at the same venue.
Wexford had first use of the strong breeze blowing towards the Clonard end and immediately put it to good use, with big Nick Doyle proving an effective targetman with a safe pair of hands at full-forward.
He needed just 15 seconds to get his team off the mark from an Ian Carty delivery, and he had the better of his duel with Garrett Carr whose father, Tommy, is a former Dublin Senior captain.
Another son of a famous footballer was selected alongside Carr at corner-back but was forced to cry off, namely Billy Flynn whose dad, Bernard, was a dangerous Meath attacker in his heyday.
Martin O'Connor was immediately deployed as an extra Wexford defender and Mark Rossiter gave the first glimpse of his eye for a score when he latched on to a Mikey Lawlor pass in the third minute.
The Gusserane and Good Counsel attacker turned to free-taking with equal success when Nick Doyle was impeded after a fine catch, and he then floated a '45 between the posts as Wexford crowned a strong first ten minutes.
Westmeath's attacks were fleeting and resulted in two wides before they finally got off the mark through free-taker and captain Cathal Daly in the twelfth minute, with Cathal Mannion quickly doubling their tally (0-4 to 0-2).
The Wexford response was impressive though as Ian Carty angled over a point before Fionn Cooney latched on to the resultant kick-out and fed Mikey Dwyer for his sole score. Another Mikey Lawlor delivery to Mark Rossiter met with similar results as the home side surged 0-7 to 0-2 clear, but the last twelve minutes weren't quite so productive.
Just one wide had been kicked up to that point, from Fionn Cooney, but that had grown to five by the break after misses from Dwyer, Carty, Rossiter ('45) and team captain Shane Doyle.
On the plus side, Cathal Mannion's two points for Westmeath, the first from a free, met with quick replies as Rossiter landed a free from 43 metres after a foul on Carty before his high kick from play was deemed to have gone over the bar although it looked to have tailed wide at the last second.
Westmeath netminder Joe Hyland darted off his line to intercept a Fionn Cooney handpass to Mikey Dwyer in Wexford's only half-chance for a goal in the 28th minute, but the home side still must have been content with their lot at the break.
Seán Barden was introduced at right half-back with James Stafford pushed up to the attack on the re-start, and the midlanders opened just like Wexford had in the first-half as Billy Berry pointed after a mere 14 seconds.
A foul on Mikey Dwyer led to another Mark Rossiter pointed free which drew a response from full-forward Joe Halligan, but Wexford were rocked by a double blow in the 37th and 38th minutes.
A long free from Cathal Daly seemed to hit a defender and then make contact with the goalpost before Aaron Roarke was on hand to palm it over the line for the first Westmeath major (0-10 to 1-6).
And Wexford hadn't recovered before Eoin Cummins was picking the ball out of his net again as a long delivery found Cathal Mannion inside the defensive cover and he handpassed across to fellow corner-forward Billy Berry who palmed the ball to the net.
This was a serious test of Wexford's mettle now, and their response was admirable. Seamus Casey - a starter last year - came on in the attack for Fionn Cooney before Mark Rossiter punished a Westmeath defender for touching the ball on the ground with his eighth point.
A harsh call against Seán Barden led to a pointed free for Cathal Daly at the other end, but Wexford surged ahead once more with just over 14 minutes left. Nick Doyle used his height to win a throw ball on the 'D' and feed Mikey Dwyer who handpassed to Seamus Casey to the left of goal. And while Casey's shot was parried, Mark Rossiter was on hand to strike the rebound and given the form he was in, he was never going to miss (1-11 to 2-7).
Niall Gavin brought Westmeath level to set up a tense final quarter, with a burst of 1-2 in less than two minutes of crucial importance in netting Wexford this merited victory.
Centre-back and captain Shane Doyle scored a spectacular goal in last year's loss to Laois at the same venue, and he repeated the dose in the 49th minute when he ventured forward and collecting a Mikey Dwyer handpass before drilling the ball home.
When Nick Doyle and Mark Rossiter (free) widened the gap to 2-13 to 2-8, Wexford had the winning post in sight, but there was still some distance to go. Seán Barden lost possession and conceded a free which Cathal Mannion pointed before Rossiter showed his human side by kicking Wexford's sole second-half wide.
A Cathal Daly free reduced arrears to three (2-13 to 2-10), and it was a nail-biting time for the home support when the same player pumped a high ball goalwards which was palmed over the bar by Joe Halligan when it bounced dangerously around the square.
Substitute Joe Gardiner then made a potential game-saving interception on his own goal-line from another Daly delivery, but the insurance score arrived nearly two and a half minutes into added time when another replacement, Matt Doyle, worked hard to get the ball to Ian Carty who displayed class and composure in equal measure as he split the posts at the town end.
Wexford: Eoin Cummins (Our Lady's Island/St. Fintan's); Stephen Lyne (Glynn-Barntown), Ronan Devereux (Crossabeg-Ballymurn), Mark O'Neill (Gusserane); James Stafford (Glynn-Barntown), Shane Doyle (Ballyhogue, capt., 1-0), Mikey Lawlor (St. John's Volunteers); Ciarán Kirwan (Sarsfields), Ian Carty (Taghmon-Camross, 0-2); Tim Bowler (Duffry Rovers), Mikey Dwyer (Fethard, 0-1), Fionn Cooney (Glynn-Barntown); Martin O'Connor (HWH-Bunclody), Nick Doyle (Starlights, 0-2), Mark Rossiter (Gusserane, 1-9, 0-5 frees, 0-1 '45). Subs. - Seán Barden (Adamstown) for Bowler (HT), Seamus Casey (Oylegate-Glenbrien) for Cooney (39), Joe Gardiner (Castletown) for O'Connor (49), Matt Doyle (Glynn-Barntown) for N. Doyle (60).
Westmeath: Joe Hyland; Ben Traynor, Garrett Carr, Darragh Healy; Maitiú Scally, Emmet Nally, Plunkett Maxwell; Finbar Coyne, Sam Duncan; Niall Gavin (0-1), Aaron Roarke (1-0), Cathal Daly (capt., 0-3 frees); Cathal Mannion (0-4, 2 frees), Joe Halligan (0-2), Billy Berry (1-1). Subs. - Seán O'Neill for Traynor (HT), Ronan O'Toole for Roarke (49), Siya Nxumalo for Healy (52), Paddy Sleator for Gavin (57), Jack Coyle for Scally, inj. (57).
Referee: Garreth Whelan (Wicklow).