Juniors bridge eight-year gap in style
Wexford bridged an incredible gap of eight years since their last win in the Leinster Junior football championship with a pillar to post victory over a very weak Wicklow side in Bellefield on Wednesday.
Wexford 3-18 Wicklow 0-6
Remarkably the Slaneysiders hadn't cleared the first hurdle in this competition since contesting the All-Ireland final of 2007 which they lost to Cork in Dungarvan, but they now have a home semi-final with Longford to look forward to on June 10 after brushing aside their neighbours with ease.
There was an impressive hunger displayed by a generally youthful team, with no fewer than 14 players from the 21 used boasting some form of Senior experience, the majority of them in the recent National League campaign. Manager David Power is using this team as a springboard for development, and players on the fringes of his top team responded with a smooth, eye-catching display.
Early points from Conor Sinnott (free) and the hard-working Syl Byrne set the tone, although Wicklow were level by the eleventh minute courtesy of Paddy Byrne's brace, one from play.
Sinnott restored the home side's lead from another free before Niall Hughes kicked two points in quick succession, and Wicklow's reply from a Paul Cronin dead ball was followed by the opening Wexford goal.
It arrived in the 21st minute when Sinnott was involved in a move on the right which also featured Naomhan Rossiter who was involved in a one-two with Graham Carty before the St. Mary's (Maudlintown) man crashed a stinging shot across Andy Murphy into the far corner of the net (1-5 to 0-3).
Ciarán Redmond widened the gap before Eamonn Woulfe and Paul Cronin hit back with Wicklow points, but there was no stopping Wexford after late scores from Jamie Carty (free), Conor Sinnott (two frees and a '45) extended their interval lead to 1-10 to 0-5.
Wicklow lost centre-back Ross O'Brien to a black card on the stroke of half-time and, although the same fate befell Páraic O'Keeffe on the re-start, the Wexford mentors had the luxury of introducing Kieran Butler who will more than likely lose his Junior status against Westmeath on June 14.
Paddy Byrne's point from the resultant free was Wicklow's last score, with Wexford really opening up and adding an impressive 2-8 without reply before the finish. Jamie Carty's second converted free was followed by the first of two goals for his St. Martin's clubmate Ciarán Redmond in the 38th minute after Conor Sinnott's initial shot from a Kevin Rowe handpass was saved (2-11 to 0-6).
Sinnott added a point before Redmond struck again less than two minutes later from a Jamie Carty pass to emphatically seal the deal. Kevin Rowe grabbed his sole point and the Wexford team wasn't weakened in any way as substitutes were gradually introduced.
Conor Sinnott (play and free) hit the target again before replacements Niall Harney (two) and Lee Devereux closed the scoring, leaving Wexford with their biggest winning margin ever at this level since playing their first Junior football game in 1908.
Wexford: Anthony Masterson (capt.); Robbie Vallejo, Jim Rossiter, Joey Wadding; Naomhan Rossiter, Glen Malone, Páraic O'Keeffe; Syl Byrne (0-1), Jamie Carty (0-2 frees); Graham Carty (1-0), Emmet Kent, Niall Hughes (0-2); Ciarán Redmond (2-1), Kevin Rowe (0-1), Conor Sinnott (0-8, 5 frees, 1 '45). Subs. - Kieran Butler for O'Keeffe, black card (32), Niall Harney (0-2) for Hughes (43), Declan Murphy for Rowe (49), Lee Devereux (0-1) for Redmond (49), Noel Roche for Sinnott (54), Peter Travers for Vallejo (54).
Wicklow: Andy Murphy; Brendan Kennedy, Páuric Higgins, Martin O'Brien; Jamie Snell, Ross O'Brien, John Crowe; Daniel Woods (capt.), David Boothman; Seán McGraynor, Ciarán Tyrrell, Conor French; Paddy Byrne (0-3, 2 frees), Eamonn Woulfe (0-1), Paul Cronin (0-2 frees). Subs. - Thomas Donoghue for M. O'Brien, inj. (4), Chris O'Brien for R. O'Brien, black card (HT), Conor Davis for McGraynor (37).
Referee: David Hickey (Carlow).