Defeat for Wexford as Galvin's charges beaten by Westmeath in opener
GAA Bord na Mona O’Byrne Cup: Westmeath 1-11 Wexford 0-11
It was the type of game one expected from two experimental sides as it turned into a real struggle at times before Westmeath eventually came out on top with three points to spare over Wexford in this Bord na Mona O'Byrne Cup Senior football opening round game at St. Patrick's Park, Enniscorthy, on Saturday afternoon last.
Both sides struggled to lift this game above the ordinary and it was Joe Halligan's twelfth minute goal that eventually separated the sides at the finish and it came from the only piece of direct football during that opening spell, when he won possession from a long Conor McCormack finishing with an explosive shot to the net.
Those in the sparse crowd were keeping a watchful eye for Paul Galvin but the Wexford boss took his place in the stand, handing over the reigns to under-20 manager Brendan Kehoe, who had charge of an experimental Wexford side comprised of under-20 and extended Senior squad players.
Both sets of players came with expectations of impressing their respective managers.
While it was the visitors who enjoyed the total possession through the opening fifteen minutes, one was impressed with the manner in which the Wexford defence dealt with the challenge, as the returning Jim Rossiter impressed at full-back.
The St. Fintan's clubman having worked his way back to full fitness following a cruciate knee injury showed glimpses of his old form and should he stay injury free will be a huge addition to the side for the national league campaign.
While Rossiter was a tower of strength, Robbie Barron and Tiernan Rossiter also impressed with their experience doing much to hold off the midlanders attack.
Equally Glen Malone played his way into the game at midfield, with his ability to carry the ball into the heart of the opposing defence setting up many promising attacks, while both Tom Byrne and Sean Ryan picked off superb points from play with one also equally impressed with the excellent freetaking and general all-round play of wing-forward Colum Feeney.
While Westmeath were asking questions of the home defence from the start, it was Wexford who managed to take the lead through a fine long-range individual point from Glen Malone.
Within one minute Westmeath were back level through a Calum McCormack point, while three minutes later Tom Byrne with a huge left-footed kick from all of fifty meters restored his side's lead.
After a Callum McCormack point had the sides level once again, then came the game's opening goal from Halligan giving the visitors a considerable boost when playing into the stiff breeze.
Now finding themselves three points adrift, Wexford turned in their best passage of play through the second quarter.
After a Kieran Martin pointed had extended the visitors lead to 1-3 to 0-2, Wexford managed to raise their game with Feeney kicking over three excellent pointed frees from dificult angles, to go along with huge efforts from both Byrne and Ryan.
Wexford had managed to turn the game around and went in with a two-point interval lead, 0-9 to 1-4, which was no more than they deserved.
Westmeath opened the second half impressively with three early points through Callum McCormack, two, and Conor McCormack to edge into a single point lead and it looked as if Wexford were in for a difficult half.
While they managed to restrict the opposition to four further points for the remaining twenty-eight minutes, the attack lacked the drive and power to capitalise on some fine outfield possession.
Wexford's lack of scoring power saw them having to wait until the sixtieth minute for their opening second-half score, that being a point from substitute Shane Pettitt.
But it was Westmeath who finished the game with points from subs Lorcan Dolan and Stephen Connolly to secure the victory, but Wexford had their chances of further scores with Tom Byrne working his way through from acute angles only to have his final attempts for goal blocked away to safety, when a goal was required to give them a realistic chance of victory.
Wexford: Pa Doyle; Liam O'Connor, James Rossiter, Alan Lynch; Niall Murphy, Robbie Barron, Tiernan Rossiter; Niall Hughes, Glen Malone (0-2); Colum Feeney (0-4 frees), Conor Devitt, Tom Byrne (0-2); Darragh Pepper, Sean Forde, Sean Ryan (0-2). Subs: Conor Carty for Forde (24); Darragh Lyons for N Hughes (31), Robbie Brooks for Pepper (40), Shane Pettitt (0-1) for Feeney (51); Dillon Redmond for Ryan (64); Feeney for Devitt (64); Ross Cody for O'Connor (67); Killian Pierce for Lynch (67); Cormac Cooney for Lyons (69); Diarmuid Kehoe for Murphy (69); Anto Larkin for Doyle (70).
Westmeath: Jason Daly; Jack Smith, Boidu Sayeh, Conor Coughlan; Anthony McGivney, Noel Mulligan, David Lynch; Alan Stone, Nigel Harte; K Martin (0-3), Conor McCormack (0-3, 0-1 free), Noel O'Reilly; T J Cox, Callum McCormack (0-2, 0-1 free), Joe Halligan (1-0). Subs: Lorcan Dolan (0-2) for Cox (52); Conor Dillon for O'Reilly (54); Sam McCartan for Conor McCormack (59); Denis Corroon for Stone (59); Stephen Connolly (0-1) for Halligan (66); Philip Doherty for Callum McCormack (70).
Referee: Seamus Mulhare (Laois).