Super second-half revival
Wexford 2-14 Wicklow 3-7
There was a very welcome antidote to the behind the scenes disruption in Innovate Wexford Park on Saturday when the Wexford Minor footballers bounced back from their humiliation at the hands of Offaly to record a richly-deserved come-from-behind win over Wicklow in this Electric Ireland Leinster championship qualifier.
This victory was achieved in spite of what is going on away from the playing fields, and it underlined the potential among this group of players as well as their battling qualities.
It certainly wasn't looking good for them at half-time when they trailed by 3-4 to 0-8 having played with the wind, but their display on the re-start was exemplary as they dominated to such an extent that Wicklow were restricted to three points, two from play.
The visitors found it hard to get the ball beyond midfield for most of the second-half as David Gouldson made good use of three of his four marks.
And while the Wexford forwards had to be patient in their efforts to break down a packed Wicklow rearguard, they retained possession cleverly before pouncing for the match-winning scores.
Wicklow relied for the most part on getting long balls into inside forwards Jordan Deans and Oisín McGraynor, a tactic that was very successful in the first-half.
However, they didn't deviate after the interval, with number 15 Mark Reid continuing to mark Wexford's best forward, Jamie Myler, while centre-back Tadhg O'Toole had a free role.
The deliveries that had yielded so much in the first-half weren't nearly as frequent though after the change of ends, while a shaky Wexford full-back line also settled down as the action wore on.
McGraynor was brought out to centre-forward in a swap with Gearóid Murphy near the end, but the damage was done by that stage and the visitors were heading for an early exit while Wexford have a quarter-final clash away to Carlow on May 21 to prepare for - a game that will be the curtain-raiser to the Senior meeting of the same counties.
Jamie Myler signalled his radar was in good working order after a mere 13 seconds when he finished off David Gouldson's delivery for the opening point.
The dual player went on to pick off five in total from play and was one of the chief reasons why the Slaneysiders recovered from that interval deficit.
The first two of twelve Wexford wides (Wicklow had seven) followed from team captain Mick Molloy and Myler before Wicklow rattled the net for the first time in the third minute.
Full-forward Jordan Deans used his strength to claim a Fintan O'Shea centre despite the attention of two defenders before ramming the ball home from close range.
It was a huge boost for the visitors, but they were thankful that James Tyrrell was in the right place at the right time to make a vital intervention in the seventh minue.
A point attempt from Eoin Porter - who had played 75 minutes with Wexford F.C. in their defeat to U.C.D. on Friday night - came back into play off the crossbar and fell kindly for Mick Molloy.
However, netminder Conor Browne - a late replacement for the injured William Rogers - advanced smartly to smother the shot which spun loose before corner-back Tyrrell hooked it to safety.
Seán Gregory and Jamie Myler swapped points before Porter and Brian Deeny combined to set up Jimmy Sutton who narrowed the gap to one in the eleventh minute.
Gearóid Murphy punished a foul on the lively Gregory when he converted the free, but Wexford responded with three on the bounce from the Good Counsel trio of Myler, Sutton and Sam Wall, the latter after a fine run by another schoolmate, Gavin Sheehan.
Any suggestion that Wexford were building momentum with the wind was crushed though in the 22nd minute when Wicklow rocked them with a well-worked second goal.
Oisín McGraynor popped a handpass to Seán Gregory on the left, and the Newtown attacker bore down on the posts before directing a low shot to the corner of the net past Darragh Brooks - one of four changes in the starting 15 from the team which lost to Offaly.
McGraynor filled the role of provider again as Gearóid Murphy added a point to leave Wicklow 2-3 to 0-6 clear, and even better was to follow in the 26th minute.
This time McGraynor posed problems cutting in from the right and, although his handpass was inches too long for Adam Dixon to make a decent connection, targetman Jordan Deans was next in line and promptly hammered home his second goal to leave Wicklow clear by double scores (3-3 to 0-6).
Jamie Myler (free) and Mick Molloy may have settled Wexford somewhat with points, but Dixon had the last say of the half after a Gearóid Murphy free came back off the upright to leave his side ahead by 3-4 to 0-8 at the interval.
Wexford had won the toss and opted to play against the wind first, but the reason behind that decision became clear on the re-start. They were a lot more comfortable carrying the ball into the elements and had the necessary composure to wait for the best time to deliver a telling pass or make a break through the cover.
The forwards had shown in the first-half that they presented a serious threat, and so it proved when the action resumed even though an early Sam Wall point was followed by frustration for Mick Molloy when Conor Browne denied him with a fine smothering save.
The key score that saw fortunes gradually fluctuate arrived in the 35th minute when Molloy split the defence in two with a glorious pass to Brian Deeny.
The big midfielder handpassed inside to corner-forward Jamie Thomas who slotted the ball home from close range to make it a one-point game (3-4 to 1-9).
Jordan Deans did manage a swift reply with a point from a tight angle, but the service to him was never the same thereafter.
Still, it took Wexford a while to see their territorial dominance reflected on the scoreboard. Jamie Myler and Gearóid Murphy exchanged points, but Wicklow went for twelve barren minutes before the latter added their last consolation score from a free.
In between, Wexford pounced for a match-winning 1-4 without reply, although they couldn't afford to relax at any stage until the last blast of Barry Tiernan's whistle.
Eoin Porter picked out Myler to narrow the gap to 3-6 to 1-11 at the midway stage in the half, but two goal chances were squandered in the immediate aftermath as Sam Wall blasted into the side-netting before Dylan Lyne screwed his kick high and wide.
Myler earned and converted the free that produced the equaliser in the 49th minute, with Mick Molloy adding the lead point after David Gouldson claimed a mark from the kick-out (1-13 to 3-6).
The decisive second goal may have been of the slightly lucky variety as the ball broke perfectly back into the path of Brian Deeny after his initial kick was blocked by a defender in very close proximity.
However, his momentum put him in the clear and one of the four St. Peter's College players on view made no mistake with a powerful shot to leave Wicklow in serious bother (2-13 to 3-6).
The scoring ended with an exchange of pointed frees between Jamie Myler and Gearóid Murphy, with Wexford squandering the opportunity for a third goal late on when Jimmy Sutton fired low to the left and wide after Mick Molloy robbed a back and initially fed substitute Ed Dunbar.
The game must have been an interesting experience for Wexford mentor Chris Murphy, a teacher in St. Peter's College and native of Ballinacor who played at Senior level with his native Wicklow in the not too distant past.
Wexford: Darragh Brooks (Castletown); Adam Hogan (HWH-Bunclody), Ben Maddock (St. Martin's), Pádhraig Loughlin (Davidstown-Courtnacuddy); Gavin Sheehan (Gusserane), Eoin Porter (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown), Peadair Cowman (HWH-Bunclody); David Gouldson (Sarsfields), Brian Deeny (Volunteers, 1-0); Sam Wall (Gusserane, 0-2), Dylan Lyne (Glynn-Barntown), Jimmy Sutton (Fethard, 0-2); Jamie Myler (St. James', 0-8, 3 frees), Mick Molloy (Naomh Eanna, capt., 0-2), Jamie Thomas (St. Mary's, Maudlintown, 1-0). Subs. - Diarmuid Kehoe (Geraldine O'Hanrahans) for Cowman (40), Ed Dunbar (HWH-Bunclody) for Lyne (48), Seán Nolan (Horeswood) for Thomas (60), also Jack Quinn (St. Patrick's), David Roche (Glynn-Barntown), Enda Minogue (Ballyhogue), Cormac Rowe (Glynn-Barntown), Killian Pierce (Castletown), Cathal Doyle (HWH-Bunclody).
Wicklow: Conor Browne; James Tyrrell, Conall O Gallchóir, Cian Lee; Seán Branagan, Tadhg O'Toole, Fintan O'Shea (capt.); Liam Miley, Pádraig O'Toole; Adam Dixon (0-1), Gearóid Murphy (0-4, 2 frees), Seán Gregory (1-1); Oisín McGraynor, Jordan Deans (2-1), Mark Reid. Subs. - Kieran Sheehy for Miley (48), James Hedderman for Dixon (51).
Referee: Barry Tiernan (Dublin).