Slow start was costly in opener
Wexford got off to a slow start and could never recover in their opening fixture in the Peter McNulty Under-21 football tournament against Laois in the Heywood College grounds, Ballinakill, on Monday of last week.
Laois 3-13 Wexford 0-8
The competition brings a little structure in the build-up to the Leinster championship, with the first round clash against Longford now just six weeks away. This was the first of three games in twelve days, with last Saturday's clash with Down followed by a trip to Tipperary this weekend.
While the competitive fixtures are just what David Power craves for his side heading into the championship, the Wexford manager will hope to see a drastic improvement in performances as the games go on.
It was a tricky fixture on a midweek evening for the Slaneysiders. The logistics of the clash meant that Laois were already in the middle of a comprehensive warm-up when their opponents arrived, and their superior preparation was evident as they netted twice in the opening six minutes.
Full-forward Eoin Lowry scored both; the first a clinical finish from Seán Moore's pass, the second a penalty after James Hilliard was dragged back when about to shoot. Wexford continued to struggle as Laois pressed on to lead by 2-6 to 0-1 after 21 minutes.
The hosts' dominance stemmed from the superb midfield duo of Brian Daly and Cathal Dunne but extended through their six forwards who looked a step ahead of a slightly lethargic Wexford rearguard.
Bryan Power, who impressed in a high-energy display, pointed to add to Matthew Joyce's earlier effort, but Danny Hickey put Wexford deep in the mire with a clinically finished, soccer-style major. The visitors missed a couple of half-chances for goals but Laois deserved their 3-6 to 0-2 interval advantage.
Management must have been looking for a response early in the second-half and got it with the first four points of the period. Paudie Barden (two frees), Seán 'Mini' Ryan and impact substitute Noel Roche registered as their side pulled within three goals.
After a scoreless third quarter Laois finished strongly, despite a raft of changes. Nigel Murphy was the star of the last quarter for the home side but fellow substitute Dan Luttrell also scored to show the strength-in-depth in the victors' squad.
Wexford did manage another brace of points, with Barden and Roche on target once again, but they were comfortably second best. With at least three more matches to be played in the tournament after this clash, there's plenty of time for the Slaneysiders to find their feet ahead of their meeting with Longford on February 24.
Wexford: Nicky Greene (St. Martin's); Seán Barden (Adamstown), Daire Barden (Fethard), Jim Rossiter (St. Fintan's); Brian O'Connor (Réalt na Mara), Shane Doyle (Ballyhogue), James Stafford (Glynn-Barntown); Glen Malone (Shelmaliers), Tom Byrne (Kilmore); Matthew Joyce (Glynn-Barntown, 0-1), Bryan Power (Fethard, 0-1), Darren Carty (Taghmon-Camross); Pierce Doyle (Taghmon-Camross), Paudie Barden (Adamstown, 0-3 frees), Seán Ryan (Gusserane, 0-1). Subs. - Tim Bowler (Duffry Rovers) for Carty (20), Dillon Redmond (Starlights) for D. Barden (24), Ben Turner (Crossabeg-Ballymurn) for Greene (31), Ciarán Kirwan (Sarsfields) for O'Connor (31), Adrian Redmond (Gusserane) for Stafford (31), Noel Roche (Ballyhogue, 0-2) for Byrne (31), Jody Donohoe (Shelmaliers) for P. Doyle (31).
Laois: Aaron Cooney; Darragh Connolly, Conor Hogan, Liam Knowles; Aaron Carroll (0-1), Robbie Dowling, Cillian Callaly; Brian Daly, Cathal Dunne (0-1); James Hilliard (0-1), Aaron Dowling, Danny Hickey (1-0); Dylan Doyle, Eoin Lowry (2-3, 1-0 pen.), Seán Moore (0-3, 1 free). Subs. - Adam Campion for Carroll (40), Nigel Murphy (0-3) for Hilliard (41), Eoin Buggie for Hickey (42), Colm Murphy for Doyle (48), Dan Luttrell (0-1) for A. Dowling (51), Eoin McCann for Lowry (53), Hatch Finlay for Dunne (54), Conor Behan for Callaly (54), Cormac Murphy for Moore (54).
Referee: John Hickey (Carlow).