Three goals give Wexford first victory in Under-21 football
Wexford impressed with a hard-fought victory over Down in their second outing in the Peter McNulty Under-21 football tournament at Bohernabreena, Dublin, on Saturday.
Wexford 3-7 Down 1-11
The Slaneysiders were cumbersome five days earlier in falling to hosts Laois but looked much slicker from the start against a well-drilled, tricky Ulster opponent.
Boss David Power made nine changes from the side which fell to defeat in the opening game, with Senior hopefuls Naomhan Rossiter, Robbie Vallejo and Simon Donohoe added to bolster the defence.
The result was, apart from a twelve-minute spell in the middle of the opening half when Down scored 1-6 on the trot, a much tighter defensive showing.
On top of that Wexford improved significantly in midfield with Niall Hughes and Jamie Carty winning more than their fair share of primary possession, particularly as the game wore on.
Another impressive aspect of the Wexford performance was their adventure and attacking intent. It wasn't unusual to see Mourne men funnel 14 men inside their own '65 when defending.
However, it was Wexford who were rewarded by consistently leaving four or five in the Down half. Against Laois they conceded two goals in the first six minutes, but roles were reversed in this game as Matthew Joyce and Seán Ryan netted to put the Slaneysiders 2-1 to nil ahead.
Joyce's major, poked home at the second attempt, came from good work from Ryan on the right and after an initial shot by Bryan Power was blocked into his path.
Darragh Pepper, who with the Gusserane attacker caused plenty of problems for the Down defence, scored a point before Niall Hughes and Paudie Barden combined to find 'Mini' Ryan who side-footed soccer-style past Johnny Deeny. Unfortunately, Barden later sustained a broken collar bone and is expected to be out for six weeks.
A sloppy Wexford lost the initiative for that twelve-minute spell straddling the first two quarters. Five of the six Down forwards registered while Cory Quinn powered home a classy finish to Ben Turner's net to leave the northerners 1-6 to 2-1 ahead.
However, Wexford regained their composure and claimed the final three points of the half, with Power scoring a corker from the left, Barden nailing a long-range effort and Ian Carty converting a free to see the Slaneysiders 2-4 to 1-6 ahead at the interval.
Tempers began to boil over on the benches early in the second-half as the inadequacies of referee Micheál O Flatharta began to frustrate both sidelines. Down looked set to edge clear when four points in ten second-half minutes left them 1-10 to 2-4 ahead.
Yet Wexford, who again managed to give everyone that travelled game-time, responded with a Pepper point in the 47th minute and followed it with a superbly-taken Jamie Carty major, after great work by Simon Donohoe, two minutes later.
Down responded to level through Conor Doyle in the 53rd minute but Wexford had the final say with points from Ryan and Tim Bowler to give them a chance to make the last four proper with victory over Tipperary on Saturday.
Wexford: Ben Turner; Jim Rossiter, Naomhan Rossiter (St. Mary's, Rosslare), Robbie Vallejo (Geraldine O'Hanrahans); Glen Malone, Simon Donohoe (Shelmaliers, capt.), Johnny Connors (Adamstown); Niall Hughes (Kilanerin), Jamie Carty (St. Martin's, 1-0); Bryan Power (0-1), Ian Carty (Taghmon-Camross, 0-1 free), Matthew Joyce (1-0); Seán Ryan (1-1, 0-1 free), Paudie Barden (0-1), Darragh Pepper (Starlights, 0-2, 1 free). Subs. - Tim Bowler (0-1) for Joyce (31), Daire Barden for Connors (31), Ciarán Kirwan for P. Barden, inj. (31), Noel Roche for I. Carty (31), Seán Barden for Vallejo (42), Nicky Greene for Turner (47), Dillon Redmond for Donohoe (50), Adrian Redmond for J. Rossiter (51), Connors for Kirwan, inj. (55).
Down: Johnny Deeny; Seán Gallagher, Connor Fitzpatrick, Jonathan Connolly; Cormac McCartan, Gareth McDowell, Johnny Bell; Aaron Magee (capt.), C.J. Barr; Cory Quinn (1-2), Donagh McAleenan (0-1), Daniel McCarthy (0-1); Conor Doyle (0-2), Ryan Treanor (0-4, 2 frees), Ryan Magee (0-1). Subs. - Ross Cunningham for R. Magee (55), Ciarán Harney for Quinn (56).
Referee: Micheál O Flatharta (Galway).