Hurlers plough to solid win on Leeside
GAA, Allianz Hurling League Division 1A Round 2: Wexford 1-18 Cork 0-17
Wexford put in a stellar performance on a badly cut-up Páirc Uí Chaoimh pitch on Sunday on their way to victory over hosts Cork in Division 1A of the Allianz Hurling League.
Davy Fitzgerald's tactics have been the hot topic of debate around the county after his side succumbed to Limerick last weekend, but he got plenty out of his side in this contest.
With Rory O'Connor and Lee Chin not quite ready to start, Wexford made just the two changes from the team which started in Innovate Wexford Park seven days earlier.
Darren Byrne became the first Blackwater clubman to start in league or championship for Wexford in over half a century in place of the injured Conor Firman. Further forward, Aidan Nolan was also out, and his place was taken by the experienced Paul Morris.
Much of the talk has been based around Fitzgerald's use of sweepers, and Kevin Foley again sat between the two defensive lines and was hugely influential for the visitors. Contrast that with the spare Cork defender created by Wexford's seventh back.
Conor McDonald spent a lot of the game alone inside, with clubmate Cathal Dunbar essentially playing a 'between the lines' type role. At different times Cork had Seán O'Donoghue or Conor O'Sullivan spare.
The hosts' free man loitered around the place but wasn't hugely effective. Dunbar, in particular, provided the test that Cork failed. Drifting around the space between the half-back line and Damien Cahalane, he was an elusive nightmare that they never completely got to terms with.
Fitzgerald must be delighted with the defensive showing. Apart from the one occasion that Patrick Horgan swivelled inside and thundered a shot off the crossbar, his inexperienced full-back line did a superb job to limit the chances.
It was their opponents who were creaking in the opening stages. With less than 40 seconds on the clock, Conor McDonald got isolated one-on-one, caught Pádraig Foley's long ball, broke through on goal but didn't connect well with his shot, and Anthony Nash was able to make the save.
Shaun Murphy did open the scoring from just over midfield but that point was immediately countered by Bill Cooper. With the breeze blowing from the city end and aiding Cork, Tim O'Mahony pointed from his own '65 to make it 0-2 to 0-1.
Any day you can keep Patrick Horgan to five pointed frees is a good one. He got the first of his salvo in the fifth minute. Jack O'Connor replied from a free after David Dunne was fouled, but Horgan quickly increased the lead to two again.
Foley started a move that saw Liam Og McGovern pick out clubmate Diarmuid O'Keeffe for Wexford's third point. Horgan countered again after he was fouled by Damien Reck.
McGovern picked out Dunbar in the soft spot in the Cork defence to narrow the deficit to 0-5 to 0-4. At this stage Cork seemed to be able to just keep Wexford at arm's length, and O'Mahony doubled the lead again in the 19th minute.
That pattern continued after McDonald tapped over his only point of the day from a free after he was fouled inside. Cormac Murphy responded this time, moving Cork 0-7 to 0-5 ahead with 13 minutes of the half remaining.
After five different men scored Wexford's opening five points, Dunbar became the first to nab a second when he got away on the right of goal.
When Pádraig Foley flighted over from Dunbar's pass moments later, the visitors were level for the first time in 20 minutes.
The score seemed to wake a quiet Aidan Walsh up, as he popped over two in a row, but the rest of the Cork attack went cold and shot five wides before Walsh would trouble the scoreboard operator in first-half added-time.
Meanwhile, Wexford found a way to get ahead. Kevin Foley pumped the sliothar into the goalmouth. Nash didn't do a great job of taking control of the situation, David Dunne sensed an opportunity, and he nipped in and helped force the ball into the net (1-7 to 0-9).
McDonald missed from in front of the posts and Jack O'Connor pulled a 45-metre free wide as the game moved towards the interval. Those misses allowed Walsh to just clear Mark Fanning's crossbar in additional time to leave the game deadlocked at the change of ends.
The best hurling in the contest was probably played in the 20 minutes after half-time. Wexford were able to introduce Rory O'Connor at the interval and he provided an immediate spark, scoring from another Dunbar assist.
The St. Martin's clubman turned provider for O'Keeffe's second point in the 38th minute. Cork almost wiped out the deficit and took the lead back, only for Horgan's shot to crash off Fanning's bar, although Walsh did flash over the rebound to make it 1-9 to 0-11.
Jack O'Connor made no mistake from a 60-metre free to increase the lead again, but Shaun Murphy did miss the target from the right wing three minutes later. Cooper nipped one back, only for O'Connor to reply after Dunbar was fouled.
The tempo was increased further when Horgan and Daniel Kearney pointed in quick succession to level the game for the fourth and final time in the 48th minute (0-14 to 1-11).
Jack O'Connor registered his fourth free after brother Rory was fouled on the right touchline. The Wexford substitute scored himself seconds after from just inside the Cork half.
Conor Lehane halved the deficit but Pádraig Foley replied with a booming long-range free. After sharing eight points evenly in the previous eleven minutes, both sides began to miss.
The longer a scoreless streak goes on, the more important it is to be the team which breaks it. Cork fired four wides, while Wexford wafted three and dropped two balls into Nash's arms before the dry spell was ended.
It came from a Jack O'Connor free after the hosts' Tim O'Mahony had been penalised for barging into Rory O'Connor. The crowd weren't too pleased but the Slaneysiders probably felt they were due a decision by that stage.
In the next phase of play Dunbar fed Jack O'Connor and he sent Wexford into a two-score lead for the first time (1-16 to 0-15). Shane Kingston cut one off the lead, only for Simon Donohoe to step up and nail a booming score.
Dunbar fittingly capped a man of the match level performance with his third point in added-time. Cork had a couple of late frees but Wexford survived, allowing just a Horgan point, to win by four.
Davy Fitzgerald's side have this weekend off from competitive action. They return to the field on February 17 with a home tie against Tipperary in Innovate Wexford Park.
Limerick are the only team on a full four points after the first two rounds, while Kilkenny lead the four sides on two points with a +6 scoring difference, followed by Tipperary, Wexford and Clare. Cork bring up the rear without a point.
Wexford: Mark Fanning; Darren Byrne, Simon Donohoe (0-1), Damien Reck; Jack O'Connor (0-6, 5 frees), Matthew O'Hanlon (capt.), Pádraig Foley (0-2, 1 free); Diarmuid O'Keeffe (0-2), Shaun Murphy (0-1); David Dunne (1-0), Paul Morris, Kevin Foley; Cathal Dunbar (0-3), Conor McDonald (0-1 free), Liam Og McGovern. Subs. - Rory O'Connor (0-2) for Dunne (36), Lee Chin for McGovern (46), Ian Byrne for Morris (63), Harry Kehoe for McDonald (70).
Cork: Anthony Nash; Seán O'Donoghue, Damien Cahalane, Conor O'Sullivan; Christopher Joyce, Tim O'Mahony (0-2), Mark Coleman; Bill Cooper (capt., 0-2), Cormac Murphy (0-1); Conor Cahalane, Michael O'Halloran, Daniel Kearney (0-1); Conor Lehane (0-1), Aidan Walsh (0-4), Patrick Horgan (0-5 frees). Subs. - Luke Meade for C. Cahalane (25), Shane Kingston (0-1) for O'Halloran (44), Declan Dalton for Lehane (63), Ger Millerick for O'Sullivan (68).
Referee: Johnny Murphy (Limerick).