Goals arrive too late
GAA Electric Ireland Leinster U17FC: Laois 0-11 Wexford 2-3
A Wexford team completely devoid of attacking ambition for three-quarters of the game launched a late comeback to leave Laois hanging on for dear life at the end in this sub-standard Electric Ireland Leinster Minor football championship Group 2 clash in Innovate Wexford Park on Wednesday.
The wasteful visitors built solidly on their 0-7 to 0-2 interval lead by adding the opening three points on the re-start, but they only struck one more score from the 38th minute onwards.
A wides tally of 16 ensured that the Wexford challenge wasn't killed off, even though the home side - who hadn't scored from play in a 1-17 to 0-7 first round loss to Kildare - seemed totally lacking in ideas when they got to the opposing 45-metre line.
They were thrown a lifeline in the 51st minute when substitute Jack O'Leary finished a Ciarán Kavanagh handpass to the net after a Niall Connolly free from the right posed problems, and Lee Jordan added a fine point from Connolly's feed to narrow the gap to 0-10 to 1-3.
Eamonn Delaney's third converted free with just under three minutes of normal time left eased some pressure on Laois, but they conceded a second goal at the death when Wexford's Robert Murphy floated in a '45 and Jack Finucane drove high to the net.
Indeed, the unthinkable - a Laois loss - seemed possible when Lee Jordan lobbed in another late free, but Cathal Bennett gathered the ball and set a length-of-the-field move in motion.
It ended with Seamus Farrelly popping the ball to fellow substitute Josh O'Brien who rounded goalkeeper Anthony Larkin but was hauled back before he could tap it into an empty net.
O'Brien hooked the penalty that followed low and to the left for the 16th Laois wide, but they had done enough earlier to ensure that those misses didn't cost them outright victory.
They did have an early scare when Wexford's Harry Kehoe hit the crossbar, but they controlled the first-half once free-taker Eamonn Delaney opened the scoring in the ninth minute.
They had surged 7-1 clear by the 22nd minute, with the last point the pick of the bunch as midfielder Ben Conroy fired over a beauty from the 45-metre line.
They almost added a goal when Darragh Galvin took a mark from the kick-out and fed Conroy who in turn found Rioghan Murphy, but his low shot was saved by Anthony Larkin and Conroy first-timed the rebound wide.
Seán O'Neill, Oisín Byrne (two frees), Murphy and Delaney (another free) had been on target earlier, but Laois didn't help their cause with six wides between the 26th minute and half-time to bring their total to ten before the break.
They could have killed off Wexford completely in that spell with a shade of composure, but instead there was still a glimmer of hope for the hosts who hit the last point before half-time when Emmet Cullen availed of a pass from his midfield and club colleague, Mark Kehoe, in the 25th minute.
Another Gusserane player, Jamie Sheehan, had hit the opening point in the eleventh minute, Wexford's first from play in the championship, although it was notable that no attacker registered an opening half score.
Just five forwards were deployed, with Lee Nolan functioning as a sweeper, and the lack of direct running when the Laois third of the field came into view was a big disappointment.
The movement was slow, and more often than not across the field, allowing the visitors ample time to re-group and cut off all routes to their goal.
It looked like a comfortable win was on the cards for the midlanders when Rioghan Murphy and a brace from play by Oisín Byrne stretched their lead to 0-10 to 0-2 midway through the third quarter.
Thirteen scoreless minutes followed before Wexford grabbed that first goal, and they only made an impact after lively substitutes Conor Kehoe and Niall Connolly started to take on their opponents at pace.
Laois didn't look comfortable dealing with high balls into their square either, and they were on the back foot after that Jack O'Leary goal.
Wexford had left themselves with too much to do though, but they will be hoping for an improvement when they make the long trip to Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Wednesday (7 p.m.) for the third of four group games against Longford.
The losers did master Laois in one area, claiming ten marks to five with captain Ciarán Kavanagh (four), Emmet Cullen (three), James O'Leary, Mark Kehoe and Jamie Sheehan all proficient in the air.
Wexford: Anthony Larkin (Starlights); James O'Leary (Our Lady's Island), Robert Murphy (Kilanerin), Ollie Gahan (St. Patrick's); Harry Kehoe (Volunteers), Jamie Sheehan (Gusserane, 0-1), Ciarán Kavanagh (HWH-Bunclody, capt.); Emmet Cullen (Gusserane, 0-1), Mark Kehoe (Gusserane); Adam Mullins (Our Lady's Island), Ciarán Regan (HWH-Bunclody), Lee Jordan (Starlights, 0-1); Jack Doran (Naomh Eanna), Emmett Nolan (St. Mary's, Maudlintown), Lee Nolan (St. Mary's, Maudlintown). Subs. - Jack O'Leary (St. Fintan's, 1-0) for Mullins (HT), Conor Kehoe (Sarsfields) for Doran (38), Jack Finucane (Sarsfields, 1-0) for Gahan (47), Niall Connolly (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown) for H. Kehoe (47), Paudie Casey (Oylegate-Glenbrien) for L. Nolan (60), also Byron Sweeney (St. Mary's, Maudlintown), Jason Devereux (Our Lady's Island), Jack Donohue (Bannow-Ballymitty), Seán Murphy (Volunteers).
Laois: Tom Wright; Seán Greene, Michael Bennett, Cathal Bennett; Niall Carey, Eamonn Delaney (0-3 frees), Seth Burns Mooney; Josh Lacey, Ben Conroy (0-1); Darragh Galvin, Seán O'Neill (0-1), Enda McWey; Oisín Byrne (0-4, 2 frees), Rioghan Murphy (0-2), Damon Larkin. Subs. - Seamus Farrelly for Galvin (38), Josh O'Brien for Byrne (48), Cathal Doyle for Lacey (51), Conor Goode for McWey (54), Seán Michael Corcoran for Murphy (58), Brian Fingleton for Conroy, inj. (60+2).
Referee: John Hickey (Carlow).