Brosnan bags vital first win
Ace free-taker delivers late knockout blow to Limerick
The Wexford Senior footballers earned themselves a lifeline in the battle for survival in Division 3 of the Allianz National League when they chalked up their first win from four outings at the expense of Limerick in Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday.
Wexford 1-16 Limerick 2-12
Many believe that kicking a dead ball off the ground is a lost art, but Ben Brosnan offered evidence to the contrary when he was equal to the pressure as he converted a free from 40 metres in the last minute of normal time to secure a one-point lead.
It was frantic stuff for the remainder of play but Senior debutant Jamie Carty had two vital interventions, having made a big impact in the unusual role of midfield given that most of his under-age football with the county was played in the full-forward line. First the St. Martin's lad caught the resultant kick-out to relieve some of the pressure, and then he got a vital touch on an Iain Corbett delivery as the pressure mounted.
There was one very late scare when Simon Donohoe lost possession moving out of defence, but the Limerick players were crowded out and Michael Collins' final whistle was sweet music to Wexford ears.
This victory was a long time coming and should do wonders for confidence ahead of the trip to face Sligo on Sunday, but the team is still very much a work in progress as the good was mixed with the bad in this performance.
Ben Brosnan suggested he was going to have a top day from frees when he punished an off the ball tug on the returning captain Ciarán Lyng in the third minute, but both teams were then disrupted as respective defenders Seán O'Dea and James Breen were forced off owing to injury. David Larkin came on at right half-back for the home side with Brian Malone reverting to the edge of the square.
An aimless Paddy Byrne kick yielded the first of Wexford's ten wides (five per half) compared to four from Limerick, while the winners earned 25 of the 43 frees awarded in a game which saw both sides finish with 14 players.
Dermot Flood was also off target before Brosnan was fouled and converted the free to double the lead in the ninth minute. The Bannow-Ballymitty man has had to step up and become a leader of this team in the absence of so many established faces of old, and he wasn't found wanting on this occasion as he repeatedly showed for the ball and used it wisely.
Limerick midfielder Gearóid Hegarty was one of the game's dominant figures with his high catching making him stand out. One such fetch and release to Darragh Tracey nearly produced a goal in the tenth minute, but Anthony Masterson was on hand to make a fine reflex save.
And although substitute Killian Ryan then got the visitors off the mark with a point, Wexford's spirits were raised when wing-forward Kevin O'Grady shook off Pádraig Browne and used his speed to get on to his favoured left foot and fire home a fine goal for a 1-2 to 0-1 lead in the twelfth minute.
Paddy Byrne followed up with a fisted point after a one-two with Brosnan who kicked the third wide shortly after Limerick's Cavan import, Killian Phair, had sent a free over the bar. Tiarnan Rossiter and Dermot Flood combined to make room for Kevin O'Grady to widen the gap to 1-4 to 0-2, but Wexford then inexplicably fell apart.
Incredibly they conceded 2-3 without reply between the 21st and 27th minutes to fall in arrears by 2-5 to 1-4, with Limerick captain Seánie Buckley starting the comeback when he pointed from a very tight angle.
Another kick-out caught by Gearóid Hegarty led to a point for his midfield partner, Thomas Lee, before Ben Brosnan had a rare miss from a free taken off the ground. The levelling goal in the 24th minute came out of nothing as Darragh Tracey hooked a point attempt into the air, but it was retrieved on the endline by Buckley. He popped a handpass to Tracey who had continued his run, and his low finish at the town end was followed by a second Limerick goal just over one minute later.
This time there was a touch of quality about it as Peter Nash did all of the hard work himself, cutting in from the left and sending a beauty to the net, although the tackling from the home side left a lot to be desired.
When Killian Phair added a pointed free the score stood at 2-5 to 1-4 and Wexford had heaped pressure on themselves when they had appeared to be coasting earlier.
And although the rot was stopped with points from Kieran Butler, Kevin O'Grady and Colm Kehoe after an initial wide from O'Grady, they still trailed by 2-7 to 1-7 at the break as Robert Browne (free) and Iain Corbett shot late points for Limerick who lost full-forward Cian Sheehan to a black card for a foul on Simon Donohoe in added time.
Niall Hughes came in for David Larkin at the interval, resuming at left half-forward while Tiarnan Rossiter dropped back to the right flank of defence. Jamie Carty had replaced Paddy Byrne in the 28th minute and set up that point for O'Grady, and Wexford opened well with two more pointed frees from Brosnan after an overcarrying offence by Peter Nash was followed by a foul on Colm Kehoe (2-7 to 1-9).
Cillian Fahy and Ciarán Lyng swapped points and this pattern continued as Killian Phair's effort was cancelled out by a fisted point from Brosnan after good work once more by Jamie Carty. Another foul on Colm Kehoe gave Brosnan the chance to bring Wexford level which he took midway through the half (1-12 to 2-9), but Killian Phair restored Limerick's lead from a free before they were reduced to 14 when Seánie Buckley collected a second yellow for a challenge on Michael Furlong.
That numerical advantage lasted only six minutes though as Furlong became the third Wexford player to be dismissed on a straight red card in four games for a late lunge at Gearóid Hegarty on the sideline. None of the three dismissals could be questioned and it is one area that manager David Power needs to sort out fast.
Wexford were growing in frustration at that point as Niall Hughes, Simon Donohoe and Ciarán Lyng had all kicked wides while Jamie Lee stretched the Limerick lead to 2-11 to 1-12. Brosnan turned provider as Brian Malone pulled back a point in the 64th minute, only for John Riordan to restore the gap to two.
Kieran Butler burst forward once again from centre-back to make it 2-12 to 1-14, and that man Brosnan crowned a fine display with the last two crucial points. On both occasions he won the free himself, and his overall contribution to this most welcome of wins was invaluable.
Wexford are not out of the woods yet, far from it, but at least this performance will help with the self-belief as a long journey to the west awaits on Sunday.
Wexford: Anthony Masterson; Rob Tierney, James Breen, Michael Furlong; Brian Malone (0-1), Kieran Butler (0-2), Simon Donohoe; Colm Kehoe (0-1), Paddy Byrne (0-1); Kevin O'Grady (1-2), Graeme Cullen, Tiarnan Rossiter; Dermot Flood, Ciarán Lyng (capt., 0-1), Ben Brosnan (0-8, 7 frees). Subs. - David Larkin for Breen, inj. (6), Jamie Carty for Byrne (28), Niall Hughes for Larkin (HT), Kevin Rowe for Flood (40), James Holmes for Cullen (51), Flood for O'Grady, inj. (70 + 2).
Limerick: Brian Scanlon; Seán O'Dea, Johnny McCarthy, Robert Browne (0-1 free); Iain Corbett (0-1), Pádraig Browne, Cillian Fahy (0-1); Thomas Lee (0-1), Gearóid Hegarty; Darragh Tracey (1-0), Killian Phair (0-4, 3 frees), Seánie Buckley (capt., 0-1); Danny Neville, Cian Sheehan, Peter Nash (1-0). Subs. - Killian Ryan (0-1) for O'Dea, inj. (4), John Riordan (0-1) for Sheehan, black card (HT), Jamie Lee (0-1) for Neville (53), Garrett Noonan for Ryan, inj. (64), Micheál Brosnan for Lee (66).
Referee: Michael Collins (Cork).