A day to forget for Wexford as big calls go against us
From a Senior football point of view it was a day to forget at Netwatch Dr Cullen Park, as Carlow out thought and out played a disappointing Wexford team.
I don't normally criticise referees (for obvious reasons) but Longford man Fergal Kelly had a poor game and some of his decisions impacted significantly on the Wexford performance.
A clothes-line style tackle on Brian Malone in the opening minutes was wrongly punished with a yellow card when a red was the right decision.
The Daithi Waters black card was a harsh decision which meant that Wexford lost one of their main leaders with less than 20 minutes gone in the game.
A number of Carlow players persistently fouled but weren't sanctioned, even leading the Carlow mentors to wisely substitute corner back Chris Crowley at the end of the first half before he was sent off.
Colm Kehoe was stretchered off and Eoghan Nolan was sent off on two yellow cards, which meant that Wexford lost three midfielders in the course of the game and were down to 14 men with 24 minutes left.
Subsequently it was in midfield that the main problems occurred. Brendan Murphy is a mountain of a man and Wexford had no answer to him on Sunday.
His strength and use of the ball were excellent and he controlled the whole game for Carlow. He was their go to man, and every time they went to him he delivered. He was ably assisted by the aggressive Sean Murphy who played on the edge at times but was very effective. Corner-forward Paul Broderick was in imperious form and scored 10 points in total. His performance reminded me of the way Matty Forde used to win games for Wexford not too long ago.
While I did have a moan earlier about the referee he didn't lose the game on Wexford and Carlow deserved their victory. They had a game plan and stuck to it and Wexford could not come up with a plan to counteract it. A dour first half showed the good and the bad of Gaelic football with some excellent scores on the counter attack by Carlow. They also looked very dangerous when they ran at the Wexford defence and created a number of goal scoring opportunities. They defended with fourteen men inside the 45m line, a horrible system to watch as Wexford were reduced to going across the field or taking on a man and being fouled. The best way of summing up the type of first half we were "treated" to is that out of Wexford's eight first half points six were from frees, while Carlow only had two from placed balls.
The second half started with some promise as Wexford pushed forward more but Carlow decided to isolate Brendan Murphy in mid field and kick every ball to him. There wasn't another player within a radius of 30 metres every time except his marker and with Murphy's strength and experienced he won every ball and created an attack, which Carlow invariably scored from. It was puzzling that Wexford did nothing to negate this threat for most of the second half. To be fair to Wexford although they played the last 25 minutes with 14 men they kept battling and trying to take the lead.
Goals from Naomhan Rossiter and PJ Banville, who could also have had a penalty, kept Wexford right in the game, but Carlow defended heroically and counter attacked with devastating results.
In the end the best team won and the celebrations at the end showed what it meant to win a first championship match since 2011. Their reward is a game against the Dubs and coming back from Carlow on Sunday I could only think they are very welcome to that reward.
A big positive from Sunday was the victory of the minor team over their Carlow counterparts. In an excellent game they showed character at the end when Carlow had the momentum and looked like snatching a victory. Jamie Meyler looked really impressive again is one of the many talented players that Wexford will need to come through in the next few years.