Proud boss 'sick in the stomach'
David Power pointed to Westmeath's 60th-minute goal as the real turning point as it set up the home side for a late scoring blitz in the Leinster Senior football championship quarter-final in Mullingar on Sunday.
Wexford were leading by 0-14 to 0-12 with just ten minutes remaining and it was easy to feel comfortable as the Model county side looked to have taken control of the game, leaving the home supporters silenced, and a group of Westmeath players that seemed to be struggling.
Not only that, but Wexford were playing with increased confidence until disaster struck.
Having broken up a Westmeath attack, Wexford were playing the ball out of defence out under the stand when a John Tubritt pass fell into the hands of a home attacker, and he set the move in train which ultimately resulted in the goal that changed the whole course of the game.
'With ten minutes to goand two points up, the goal was really the game-changer,' manager Power said. 'We had the ball, had possession coming out of defence, and then that final pass went astray resulting in the goal. Wexford's mindset changed on that score.
'The confidence drained from the young players, they were unable to recover. Any score you get like that at a crucial stage is going to inspire a team. Not only that, it lifted the home support which had been sitting in silence as we dictated the game, having gone two points ahead after trailing by three points early in the second-half.'
Power, while clearly shattered after the game, was still high in praise of his young charges.
'When you look back and see where we have come from you would have to be proud of the players. I'm proud of that bunch of players to see the progress they have made but I'm still sick in the stomach with the end result. We did not deserve to be beaten by nine points. That's a flattering final scoreline
'But what this game showed us is how vital a game-changing goal can be. We had taken control of the game, leading by two points, and playing excellent football. Had we got another point to go three clear I've no doubt we would have won the game.
'We definitely could have close out the game,' Power added.
Power took solace from the performance of Wexford, particularly the young players.
'Naomhan Rossiter was magnificent at full-back. John Heslin only managed a point from play, and that was very late on. Naomhan is just 19-years-old and to play like that is so encouraging. Simon Donohoe was excellent at centre-back. Syl Byrne had a fine game in midfield. Brian Malone, Adrian Flynn, Ciarán Lyng and Kevin O'Grady were all outstanding.
'It was a magnificent effort from this young side. We had an excellent spell while Westmeath had their spell after that goal. Their goal came from a defensive error, they did not even create it. After that they got serious energy and momentum with the large crowd behind them.
'We would be a bit disappointed with the way the game closed out but their experience was crucial. They also finished stronger, so perhaps that initial championship game against Louth stood to them.'
On the qualifier game with Down on Saturday week in Wexford Park, Power stressed there will not be a problem in lifting the side.
'We have been through so much in the league I don't see a problem. This is a positive group of players. I will not have any problems in lifting the players. They will themselves contribute to this as when they reflect on this game they will see it as a lost opportunity.
'The players will have massive motivation to build on this. They will feel they have a score to settle and Down could be on the receiving end. But having said that I know Down will bring real physicality to the game, but having said that, they are one of the few northern teams that try to play positive football.
'This is another stepping stone. Yes we can win for I have no doubts but this group of players, backed up by the development squad who are in the Leinster junior final, will bring Wexford football back up to the top.
'I'm sick in the stomach with what happened here today, but still mighty proud of that group of players. They will be devastated with the way this game bottomed out. They gave it all. They did not deserve this result. The goal was the game changer but we just have to take it on the chin, and get back training this week. We feel we have much to work on with this team, a bright future, so we will embrace the Down challenge and hopefully give home supporters much to cheer about.'