Deadly Lyng leads rout
HAVING RETURNED from a world tour, it was business as usual for Diarmuid'Gizzy' Lyng as he finished with a personal tally of 0-15 in Wexford's comfortable dismissal of Westmeath in their All-Ireland preliminary round Senior hurling qualifier at Wexford Park on Saturday last.
A little over twelve months ago Lyng was working in a New York bar as he watched Wexford exit the championship, but since his return a few short months ago he has fitted back into Liam Dunne's new-look team. It was as if he was never away and it was Westmeath who were on the receiving end of his unerring accuracy as he punished every indiscretion in their defence with a deadly display.
Wexford came into this game knowing they faced a serious challenge. Very little separated the sides during the opening 20 minutes but it was Wexford who bombed on from then on as they totally controlled the game, handing out a real hurling lesson to the midlanders who for some strange reason departed from the scene.
Liam Dunne was quite pleased with the performance. 'The game was over just after half-time with the two goals, but it was not an evening for fashionable hurling. My theory was to get the ball in quickly, use it fast, and it paid off.
'We prepared really well since the Offaly match. We changed the team around tonight and gave others a chance. There will also be changes for the Carlow game. We built on a promising start unlike the Offaly game. But we took the Offaly defeat on the chin, got back to business and prepared well. We knew what Westmeath had achieved, a victory over Antrim and a huge performance against Galway. They have fine hurlers but we can only beat what's put in front of us.
'Gizzy Lyng was in sparkling form, finishing with 15 points. But that's something we'll be looking at before Carlow as the remainder came up with only seven points. We now have Carlow and we'll treat them with the utmost respect. It was still pleasing to get this win foras it prolongs summer hurling. Still, you can't fault a 16-point victory on an evening like that which was difficult for hurling.'
The sides started off in determined fashion, with Westmeath keen to lay down an early marker. Wexford led by 0-3 to 0-2 after ten minutes, with two Lyng points (one free) along with P.J. Nolan's opening effort, with Niall O'Brien's two pointed frees keeping the visitors in touch. By the 20th minute Wexford had edged into a 0-7 to 0-4 lead, with the gulf beginning to show as Lyng continued to punish the visitors' defence. Wexford led by 0-13 to 0-6 approaching the interval, and they got the crucial opening goal one minute into additional time.
P.J. Nolan lofted in a high, speculative ball which was pulled down from over the crossbar by 'keeper Shane McGovern, leaving the inrushing Rory Jacob with the simple task of finding the net and giving Wexford a 1-13 to 0-6 interval lead.
Predictably, Wexford were first back into their stride on the resumption. Inside the opening minute Diarmuid O'Keeffe finished a Jacob pass to the net. Straight from the puck-out Garrett Sinnott pointed, while two minutes later Sinnott fired to the net after the 'keeper had blocked out a Jacob effort, leaving no way back for the midlanders who now trailed by 3-14 to 0-6.
Wexford were now clearly the dominant force as they continued to play the ball with pace and purpose. The manner in which they picked out the attackers with quick ball was hugely impressive as their dominance became more pronounced all over the pitch.
Eoin Moore, Matthew O'Hanlon and Keith Rossiter completely snuffed out the visitors' full-forward line, with O'Hanlon a particularly commanding presence on the edge of the square, as his physique backed up by excellent stickwork saw him enjoy one of his best games for some time.
With the half-back line of Darren Stamp, Ciarán Kenny and Richie Kehoe laying the foundations, it was no surprise that the attack saw quality ball, as along with David Redmond hurling an amount of ball in midfield, there was no shortage of supply.
However, with Lyng striking 0-15, Dunne will be urging his attacking colleagues to show more penetration in front of goal, as despite the quality of ball received, the remaining players could only tag on a further seven points to go with the goals. It's this lack of point-taking that will lead to much concentration during this week's training.
One still had to be impressed with the championship debut of Diarmuid O'Keeffe who took his goal chance excellently while he also showed a huge workrate.
P.J. Nolan had an impressive opening 35 minutes, showing an improved appetite for work. Lyng was the star of the show, Garrett Sinnott had his best game for some time, while Harry Kehoe, Paul Morris and Rory Jacob had their moments but the conditions were not suitable to their style of hurling.
After Wexford had extended into a 3-17 to 0-7 lead after 45 minutes they eased back somewhat, allowing the visitors to come more into the game. However, Westmeath's lack of ideas in attack saw to it that they were never going to threaten the home side's lead, particularly as the defence was not in the mood for the concession of scores.
As the half wore on, Westmeath did manage two goals, a 52nd-minute free from Brendan Murtagh, and a further outfield effort from substitute Cormac Boyle two minutes later as the light deteriorated, but it only helped to give a better complexion to the end result as the home side's control remained intact.