Tuesday 17 September 2019

Hurlers powered home in second-half

Fanning's perfect penalty goal not given as Wexford advance by eight points

Conor McDonald about to selly a beautiful dummy to his namesake, Chris, the Offaly full-back whose father, Ciarán, is a native of Crossabeg-Ballymurn and Offaly selector. The move ended in a second-half Wexford point
Conor McDonald about to selly a beautiful dummy to his namesake, Chris, the Offaly full-back whose father, Ciarán, is a native of Crossabeg-Ballymurn and Offaly selector. The move ended in a second-half Wexford point
The impressive David Dunne gets to the ball before Offaly substitute Ben Conneely

Alan Aherne

The Wexford Senior hurlers were denied a perfectly valid goal but ensured that the blinding incompetence of the match officials wouldn't ruin their summer as a powerful second-half performance drove them on to a commanding eight-point victory over Offaly in this All-Ireland Senior hurling championship round one qualifier watched by 3,100 people in Innovate Wexford Park on Saturday.

All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Round One qualifier Wexford 1-21 Offaly 1-13

Referee Johnny Ryan and his two umpires at the Clonard end somehow didn't see a 23rd-minute Mark Fanning penalty coming back into play off one of the staunchions, with the home supporters making their feelings known with a chorus of boos at half-time.

Offaly led by 0-9 to 0-7 at that stage despite shooting nine wides while aided by the wind, but they were heading rapidly for the exit doors once Wexford hit the front with the game's first goal in the 37th minute.

The half-time switch of wing-back Diarmuid O'Keeffe and midfielder Jack O'Connor paid rich dividends, with the former revelling in the space afforded to him as he repeatedly drove forward.

And, after Liam Og McGovern reduced the deficit to one after just ten seconds from a Lee Chin handpass, that game-turning goal arrived. It arose from an O'Connor delivery which landed around the square and wasn't dealt with by the defence, with Paul Morris on hand with the finish after being involved in a scramble which also included Conor McDonald.

From that point on Wexford were in full control, with the defence doing excellently and only conceding 0-3 before a further 1-1 was shipped in added time with the game clearly won.

Lee Chin was extremely influential in that second-half while Conor McDonald looked very sharp close to goal, while the ovation for David Dunne when he was substituted near the end was well earned as he caused havoc with his speed and direct running after moving to right half-forward.

Given the numerous injury problems and the long lay-off since that flat display against Dublin, manager Liam Dunne and his backroom team deserve praise for the quality of this win and the manner in which it was achieved.

The reality of the situation was reflected in the make-up of the bench, with seven of Wednesday's Intermediate team among the eleven substitutes although one of that group, Jack Kelly, didn't tog out owing to injury. Indeed, reserve goalkeeper Conor O'Leary was the only replacement kept on the bench who isn't eligible for duty with the second string.

He lost his place to the more experienced Mark Fanning, one of four personnel changes from the defeat to Dublin as James Breen and Lee Chin returned from injuries while Eanna Martin got the nod to start. The three outfield players to miss out were the injured Liam Ryan plus Harry Kehoe and Andrew Kenny, with the latter two introduced as second-half substitutes.

It did take Wexford some time to settle as they faced into the elements, and a stronger team might have punished them to a greater extent but in truth Offaly were very limited.

Matthew O'Hanlon was deployed to keep tabs on Shane Dooley and this meant he started at left corner-back, with James Breen positioned on the edge of the square for his championship debut and coming through with flying colours.

Conor McDonald had managed to give the home side a quick lead after Podge Doran's shot was blocked, but that was followed by a run of four scores without reply from the midlanders who had the benefit of three games since Wexford were last in action.

That superior sharpness was evident early on as Shane Dooley (three frees) and Shane Kinsella picked off points between the third and tenth minutes. Both sides also shot two wides in that spell, with Wexford's coming from midfield partners Jack O'Connor and Eoin Conroy, and there was a let-off for the home side in the eleventh minute when Joe Bergin missed a goal chance after Paddy Murphy caught a Wexford puck-out and returned it with interest.

That was the first of five wides in a row from the visitors which came as a relief to the home side who were struggling to win their own puck-outs at that stage.

They needed a point to settle them, and it arrived in the 16th minute when Conor McDonald earned and converted a free. Remarkably, it was the first awarded to Wexford on an afternoon when the wides count read 14 for the locals and eleven for their rivals by the end of proceedings.

Seán Ryan restored that three-point Offaly lead when the puck-out after McDonald's point broke into his path, and they showed promise as Joe Bergin and Shane Dooley increased the margin to five by the 18th minute shortly after their moves to full- and centre-forward respectively.

However, the response from Wexford was strong as they picked off four points without reply to ensure that the game didn't run away from them. David Dunne got the ball rolling after Lee Chin caught Mark Fanning's puck-out and started a move that also involved Liam Og McGovern and Paul Morris.

Podge Doran fired over with a possible goal on the cards after Conor McDonald did well to get a pass to him under heavy pressure, while the latter then won and finished off another free (0-7 to 0-5).

What followed next highlighted the fact that some of the officials charged with control of the game simply weren't up to the job. Diarmuid O'Keeffe joined the attack and his powerful run ended with a foul while corner-back Paddy Rigney collected a yellow card.

Mark Fanning made the long trek upfield to take the penalty, and it passed the left shoulder of netminder James Dempsey before striking the staunchion and coming back out into play. Neither the umpiring duo nor referee Ryan had seen it though, the latest in a series of cock-ups this summer which are a blight on our games and a sad reflection on the generally poor standards of officiating.

Wexford carried on regardless, with McDonald making it a one-point game after a foul on Paul Morris in the 26th minute. A '65 needlessly conceded by goalkeeper James Dempsey was missed by Eoin Moore for the third and last Wexford wide of the half before Offaly's dissatisfaction with their general display was reflected in a double substitution in the full-forward line.

Indeed, they had introduced three of their Under-21 Leinster final team from tomorrow (Wednesday) by half-time, but they were sadly lacking in leaders among their more experienced group.

They did extend their lead to 0-8 to 0-6 all the same after Jack O'Connor batted a David King free into Shane Kinsella's path. Conor McDonald cancelled that out from a free after a foul on Lee Chin, with Shane Dooley making it 0-9 to 0-7 at half-time from a late placed ball not long after striking the post from a '65.

Wexford resumed with Jack O'Connor at right half-back, Diarmuid O'Keeffe at midfield, David Dunne at right half-forward, Liam Og McGovern on the left, and Podge Doran inside him in the corner.

The shape of the team was much-improved, and everybody responded all over the field to give the loyal supporters plenty to shout about after that miserable Saturday evening showdown in a rain-sodden Croke Park in May.

While over-eagerness and poor decision-making did result in eleven wides after the break, Wexford were always shaping as likely winners from near the end of the third quarter.

David Dunne and Lee Chin were off target after that Paul Morris goal before Chin made it 1-9 to 0-9 from an 85-metre free when Diarmuid O'Keeffe grabbed a puck-out and was fouled. An overcarrying call against Jack O'Connor led to another Shane Dooley point for Offaly, with Chin hitting another wide before Dooley tried his luck with a low drive from a close-in free which was knocked out for a '65 which he mis-hit.

A Matthew O'Hanlon clearance found Liam Og McGovern who was held, with McDonald making it 1-10 to 0-10 from the free. O'Keeffe then picked off his first point after Offaly's Joe Bergin caught his own puck-out but lost the ball.

A piercing run by David Dunne lifted the crowd and also led to another pointed free for McDonald, with McGovern fouled after a pass from O'Keeffe.

The only downside to Chin's display was his finishing, with his third wide of the half followed by a Shane Dooley pointed free as Offaly closed the gap to 1-12 to 0-11.

Wexford were well in control at this stage though, with a Podge Doran point sandwiched in between wides from McDonald and McGovern. A foul on Dunne was punished by McDonald at the end of the third quarter, with Chin missing a free from long range before Dooley did likewise from a much easier chance at the other end.

Podge Doran was starting to blossom at this point and added his third score from a Pádraig Foley clearance (1-15 to 0-11). Yet another foul on David Dunne, after a trademark lung-bursting solo, led to the next McDonald point before the latter turned brilliantly near the left sideline and picked off a peach of a score.

Wides followed from substitute Harry Kehoe and Jack O'Connor, with Diarmuid O'Keeffe booked in between, before the St. Anne's man passed crossfield to Podge Doran who made it 1-18 to 0-11 in the 63rd minute.

Offaly simply couldn't cope with David Dunne's runs, and David King was finally booked for a foul on the number 15 but McDonald missed the free.

The visitors eventually managed a second-half score from play in the 67th minute when Paudge Guinan obliged with a point, having arrived on the scene for Shane Dooley whose substitution reflected a bad day at the office for Eamonn Kelly's team.

McDonald made it 1-19 to 0-12 after playing a short line ball to Eanna Martin, getting the return pass and selling a clever dummy. Mark Fanning made a good save to deny Oisín Kelly a consolation goal, before Offaly were reduced to 14 men when David King collected a second yellow card after linesman John O'Brien spotted him striking Jack O'Connor after the ball had left their area.

The four extra minutes featured four scores after Liam Og McGovern cut in from the left but saw his effort on goal saved by James Dempsey.

Diarmuid O'Keeffe added a point before Podge Doran struck a wide, with Paddy Murphy and Lee Chin swapping points prior to Oisín Kelly managing a consolation goal with a bat from close range after breaking through from the right.

Wexford: Mark Fanning; Matthew O'Hanlon (capt.), James Breen, Eoin Moore; Diarmuid O'Keeffe (0-2), Pádraig Foley, Eanna Martin; Jack O'Connor, Eoin Conroy; Liam Og McGovern (0-1), Lee Chin (0-2, 1 free), Podge Doran (0-4); Paul Morris (1-0), Conor McDonald (0-11, 8 frees), David Dunne (0-1). Subs. - Harry Kehoe for Conroy (55), Andrew Kenny for Foley (66), Cathal Dunbar for Dunne (68).

Offaly: James Dempsey; Niall Wynne, Chris McDonald, Paddy Rigney; Seán Gardiner, David King, Dermot Mooney; Paddy Murphy (0-1), Seán Ryan (0-1); James Mulrooney (capt.), Joe Bergin (0-1), Shane Kinsella (0-2); Kevin Connolly, Seán Cleary, Shane Dooley (0-7, 6 frees). Subs. - Ben Conneely for Mooney (26), Emmett Nolan for Cleary (30), Oisín Kelly (1-0) for Connolly (30), David O'Toole for McDonald (53), Paudge Guinan (0-1) for Dooley (59).

Referee: Johnny Ryan (Tipperary).

Wexford People