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Wexford still in search of first victory
The Peter McNulty Under-21 football tournament is ideal for finalising a team before the championship, and a few wins along the way wouldn't do any harm for confidence either.
Clare 3-15 Wexford 0-15
In that latter context, Wexford's third straight loss - to Clare in the Halo Tiles and Bathrooms Ferns Centre of Excellence on Saturday - will have provided more questions than answers for the mentors, particularly as it was the heaviest yet after relatively close calls against Kildare and Limerick respectively.
The pattern for the game was set from the throw-in when livewire Clare midfielder Cian O'Dea won the ball and soloed all the way to the 20-metre line before a foul presented Conor Finucane with an easy chance to open their account.
Still, Wexford managed to hang on to their rivals' coat-tails for a long stretch without ever looking like eventual winners. And it was only in the last quarter that the Munster side pulled away, outscoring the home team by 2-2 to 0-1 in the last twelve minutes.
Clare moved into a 1-4 to 0-2 lead early in the second quarter when a handpass across the square by full-forward Alan Sweeney was guided to the net by a swing of Conor Finucane's left boot.
However, Wexford improved in the lead-up to half-time and managed to narrow the deficit to 1-7 to 0-8. Mikie Dwyer underlined his finishing ability with his second and third points with that sweet left peg, while midfielder Niall Hughes also split the posts and free-taker Mark Rossiter knocked over a brace too.
The second period was full of lively, open football, with a mere eleven frees awarded. Every time Wexford picked off a point, the more mobile Clare outfit managed to respond, so it was 1-13 to 0-14 by the 48th minute despite scores from Rossiter, Dwyer, Rossiter (free), Hughes, Dwyer and Rossiter (free) in that order.
The clinching Clare goal arrived after a move featuring substitute Jonah Culligan twice on the right flank which was finished by flying midfielder Cian O'Dea.
Although substitute Aaron Murphy moved forward from corner-back to pull back a point, Wexford didn't score again in the last ten minutes.
The sluggish finish should be a cause for concern as Clare looked fitter and sharper despite the arrival of several pairs of fresh legs for the locals.
Wing-back Ryan Griffin embellished an impressive victory for the visitors when he accepted an Alan Sweeney pass at full speed and drove the ball to the net in the 59th minute.
The outcome pushes Wexford into the shield semi-final where they will play Tipperary in Dr. Morris Park, Thurles, this Wednesday at 7.45 p.m. Kildare and our championship opponents, Carlow, will clash on the other side of the draw.
Wexford: Nicky Greene (St. Martin's); Dillon Redmond (Starlights), Naomhan Rossiter (St. Mary's, Rosslare), Ronan Devereux (Crossabeg-Ballymurn); Daire Bolger (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown), Daire Barden (Fethard), Martin O'Connor (HWH-Bunclody); Paddy Devereux (Crossabeg-Ballymurn), Niall Hughes (Kilanerin, 0-2); Ross Bealin (Castletown), Ian Carty (Taghmon-Camross), James Stafford (Glynn-Barntown, capt.); Darragh Pepper (Starlights), Mikie Dwyer (Fethard, 0-5), Mark Rossiter (Gusserane, 0-7, 6 frees). Subs. - Aaron Murphy (Shelmaliers, 0-1) for Bealin (HT), Tim Bowler (Duffry Rovers) for Pepper (HT), Bob Whitty (Cloughbawn) for Bolger (36), Joe Sutton (Fethard) for Redmond (45), Glen Malone (Shelmaliers) for P. Devereux (51), Stephen O'Gorman (Taghmon-Camross) for Barden (54), Joe Gardiner (Castletown) for Hughes (58), Stephen Lyne (Glynn-Barntown) for O'Connor (59).
Clare: Killian Roche; Tom Hannon, Darren Nagle (capt.), Colm Pyne; Ryan Griffin (1-0), Rory McMahon, Conall O hAiniféin (0-1); Cian O'Dea (1-0), Darragh Bohannon (0-3); Aidan Davidson, Cathal Downes (0-2), David Egan (0-1); Conor Finucane (1-6, 0-5 frees), Alan Sweeney, Eimhin Courtney (0-2). Subs. used: Cillian Brennan, Jonah Culligan, Liam Tierney, Liam Madigan, Peter Collins, Davy Foran.
Referee: Brian Deering (Carlow).