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Monday 26 August 2019

Eight goals conceded in crushing defeat

Bord Gáis Energy U-20 hurling championship: Tipperary 8-16 Wexford 1-15

Wexford attacker Conall Clancy is faced down by Tipperary trio Jerome Cahill, Conor Bowe and Bryan O'Mara
Wexford attacker Conall Clancy is faced down by Tipperary trio Jerome Cahill, Conor Bowe and Bryan O'Mara

Alan Aherne

Losing an All-Ireland semi-final is never easy, but it was particularly galling in Nowlan Park, Kilkenny, on Sunday as a polished Tipperary side embarrassed and humiliated weak Wexford en route to recording a 22-point winning margin in this Bord Gáis Energy Under-20 hurling championship mis-match.

It was a crushing defeat for an outclassed team afforded a second chance to progress after their narrow loss to Kilkenny in the Leinster decider, but in reality they never had a hope against vastly-superior rivals.

Tipperary had snatched a classic Munster final from under Cork's noses thanks to a last-gasp Jake Morris goal, and the sides will meet again now in search of the ultimate prize for the second year running.

While the age grade has dropped from Under-21 to Under-20 since last year, everything else about this total mis-match had an element of deja vu about it.

Wexford also shipped a 22-point mauling at the same stage in 2018 after coming up agonisingly short in the provincial final against Galway. Nowlan Park was the venue on that occasion too, and the only difference was that it was Cork rather than Tipperary providing the opposition.

Twelve months ago, the Rebels had beaten their Premier rivals in the Munster decider, only to have the tables turned in the All-Ireland, so it remains to be seen if they will be able to make amends.

Certainly, the two weekend results confirmed that the general standard in Leinster wasn't nearly good enough this year, with the gulf in quality evident from an early stage.

Tipperary's power and athleticism ripped Wexford to shreds, and they were a formidable sight when they ran directly at their under-siege rivals before a very small crowd of 4,543.

The victors made hay from the wide open spaces they created between their own half- and full-forward lines, racing into a 4-6 to 1-7 interval lead and doing untold damage in the process.

And even after Wexford captain Charlie McGuckin dropped back into a defensive role, more often than not Tipp were able to bypass that extra body because their forwards all had the measure of their opponents in the one-on-one battles.

With a markedly better touch, and vastly superior catching ability, the only issue in doubt from an early stage was the likely winning margin, and they certainly showed no mercy in that regard.

Wexford's pioneers of the Under-21 grade, in 1964, shipped an 8-9 to 3-1 defeat to Tipperary in that year's All-Ireland final at the same Nowlan Park venue.

Only once have Wexford conceded more than eight - when Cork beat them by 9-9 to 5-9 in the 1966 final replay - and Sunday marked the highest tally of goals given away at this level since the Rebels won the 1971 decider by 7-8 to 1-11.

Eyebrows were raised among the disappointingly small crowd from Slaneyside when injured Shelmaliers duo Seán Keane-Carroll and Ross Banville were both selected to start, with Cian Fitzhenry replacing Diarmuid Doyle in the only change from the Leinster final team.

And Wexford received a swift warning of the attacking threat Tipperary posed as, after Conall Clancy dropped an early effort short, a quick transfer downfield saw Billy Seymour's shot fizzing over the bar from an Andrew Ormond pass after just 38 seconds.

Wides followed from Banville (free) and Eoin Murphy before the former equalised with the first of his eight successful placed balls.

Jake Morris restored Tipperary's advantage from a free before Cian Fitzhenry lost his stick but managed to kick the ball to Seán O'Connor who split the posts.

The Rathnure lad added his second under a minute later, but the first of those eight goals undid anything of an early positive nature in the seventh minute.

Senior panel member Jerome Cahill, wearing number nine but playing at centre-forward, raced away from Mike Kelly before popping a handpass to Andrew Ormond, and the attacker gave James Lawlor no chance with a blistering finish (1-2 to 0-3).

Wexford stayed in touch for a brief period, with a couple of Banville frees adding to their tally, but Ormond and Morris (two, one free) responded for a Tipp side boasting a forward line oozing with confidence, teamwork and class.

Their second goal came directly from an Eoin Murphy wide, with Aaron Browne's puck-out caught by Billy Seymour who turned swiftly and set off for goal, outpacing Murphy and his cousin, Niall, before crashing the ball home to make it 2-5 to 0-5.

Although Niall Murphy did respond with a point, any Wexford followers not already fearing the worst at that stage knew that it was curtains when Tipperary rattled the net once more in the 17th minute.

It came from a long Paddy Cadell free, with Seymour catching cleanly once more before picking out Jake Morris who fired the sliothar low and across James Lawlor's body into the far corner.

The fourth goal summed up the type of miserable afternoon Wexford were enduring. Morris knocked a free over the bar, but the play was called back as referee Cathal McAllister was allowing corner-back Eoin O'Leary to get some treatment for an injury.

When the Cork official gave the go-ahead for the action to resume, no doubt Wexford were expecting Morris to repeat the dose and take his point.

Instead, he clipped a short pass to his left, with Andrew Ormond gathering the ball at speed and hitting it with such power that a goal was guaranteed from the moment it left his stick (4-5 to 0-6).

Morris added a neat point under pressure, and the one bright retort from Wexford in a half to forget arrived in somewhat odd circumstances.

Referee McAllister had his hand raised to signify advantage for a foul on Niall Murphy, but the Ferns defender still managed to loft a high ball towards the edge of the square.

Seán Keane-Carroll touched it to the net, but the umpire on the green flag was very slow to react as he may have thought the whistle had sounded to bring the play back.

Wexford were more than happy to take the goal, and another Ross Banville free saw the gap narrowed to 4-6 to 1-7 by half-time.

Having said that, some of the misses near the end of the half summed up the general difficulties, with Conor Scallan striking the post while under no pressure, Cian Fitzhenry dropping an effort short, and Conall Clancy posting the seventh wide from an overall haul of eleven.

Chris Turner replaced Keane-Carroll at half-time and formed a two-man full-forward line with Seán O'Connor, but James Lawlor was picking the ball out of his net again after a mere 90 seconds.

Billy Seymour arrowed in a cross from the right that was controlled by Jerome Cahill, before he knocked it into the net with a deft touch (5-6 to 1-7).

Cahill and Morris piled on the agony with points, before a brace in reply from Banville frees came on either side of substitute Seán Hayes adding to the Tipperary haul.

Johnny Ryan blocked Eoin Murphy and embellished his good work with the next score, before a solo effort from Conall Clancy left Wexford trailing by 5-10 to 1-10.

After Conor Bowe and Banville (free) swapped points, Cahill was up to his goal-getting exploits once again in the 43rd minute.

Supreme ball-winner Seymour won another of his team's puck-outs and put the pass on a plate for the Kilruane lad, and he picked his spot in the far corner to make it 6-11 to 1-11.

Six quickly became seven, as substitute Seán Hayes controlled a Paddy Cadell clearance and soloed through before adding a composed finish.

Two Wexford points from substitutes Diarmuid Doyle and Chris Turner were merely of academic interest, and Tipperary hit back with three from Darragh Woods (two, one free) and Joe Fogarty before the last of Ross Banville's eight scores (7-14 to 1-14).

The winners' eighth goal arrived from a Craig Morgan clearance, with the unplayable Seymour grabbing it yet again and touching home the rebound after his initial attempt came back off the post.

Diarmuid Doyle's second point sandwiched late efforts from Bryan O'Mara and Conor Bowe, while Cian Fitzhenry (free) and Niall Murphy had goal attempts saved near the end.

Those three semi-final defeats in just seven days brought the inter-county campaign to a disappointing end, with the nature of this loss, in particular, proving that the hard work required to get Wexford back to the top is only starting.

Wexford: James Lawlor; Eoin O'Leary, Eoin Molloy, Cathal O'Connor; Niall Murphy (0-1), Mike Kelly, Conor Scallan; Jack Reck, Eoin Murphy; Cian Fitzhenry, Conall Clancy (0-1), Charlie McGuckin (capt.); Seán Keane-Carroll (1-0), Seán O'Connor (0-2), Ross Banville (0-8 frees). Subs. - Chris Turner (0-1) for Keane-Carroll (HT), Diarmuid Doyle (0-2) for S. O'Connor (41), Ben Maddock for E. Murphy (51), Ger Dempsey for Reck (53), James Byrne for Banville (58), also Kevin Cosgrave, Mick Cleere, Oran Carty, Ben Ronan.

Tipperary: Aaron Browne; Craig Morgan (capt.), Eoghan Connolly, Conor McCarthy; Paddy Cadell, Niall Heffernan, Bryan O'Mara (0-1); Ciarán Connolly, Johnny Ryan (0-1); Conor Bowe (0-2), Jerome Cahill (2-1), Gearóid O'Connor; Andrew Ormond (2-1), Jake Morris (1-5, 0-2 frees), Billy Seymour (2-1). Subs. - Seán Hayes (1-1) for O'Connor (30), Kian O'Kelly for Ormond (40), Joe Fogarty (0-1) for Morris (45), Darragh Woods (0-2, 1 free) for Cahill (49), Michael Purcell for McCarthy (52).

Referee: Cathal McAllister (Cork).

Gorey Guardian

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