Monday 18 February 2019

Jack's the lad with late winner

GAA : Electric Ireland Leinster Minor Football Championship - Wexford 1-11 Carlow 1-10

Wexford wing-forward Niall Connolly taking on David Dunphy of Carlow
Wexford wing-forward Niall Connolly taking on David Dunphy of Carlow

Jack O'Leary kicked the winning point in added time at Innovate Wexford Park on Tuesday as the county Minor footballers edged a tight contest with Carlow to earn a place in the provincial shield semi-final.

Qualification for the actual last four was out of reach for both beforehand, but a draw would have been sufficient for the visitors to advance to this new addendum to the real thing as they had already shared the spoils with Laois.

Wexford, on the other hand, needed a win after three straight losses to Kildare, Laois and Longford respectively had left them at the foot of the table.

For long stretches it looked like good fortune would favour Carlow, as the sides were level on seven occasions in all, and the gap was never higher than one point from the 40th minute onwards.

However, the Wexford lads deserve credit for coming up with the last two scores in a frantic finish, and substitute Conor Kehoe played a crucial part in both.

His blinding pace was the last thing a tiring defence wanted to deal with on a warm evening, and he surged on to a Ciarán Regan lay-off to restore the deadlock (1-10 each) in the 59th minute.

Influential Carlow substitute Conor Duffy kicked a wide before one of their forwards over-carried as a result of good defending from Wexford, and the winner arrived just over 30 seconds later.

Conor Kehoe turned provider this time, planting an accurate long foot pass on the chest of full-forward Jack O'Leary who turned on to his favoured right side and split the posts at the town end.

There was still three and a half minutes of pressure to absorb, but the home side stood tall as full-back Jamie Sheehan won a vital free in a 50-50 tussle with Duffy.

The same Carlow player touched the ball on the ground as they pushed forward again, and they couldn't get a shot away before the finish after more than five added minutes despite retrieving and retaining possession.

The teams were well matched, and this made up somewhat for the fact that the standard was quite low, as the game was littered with unforced errors.

Carlow looked sharper early on as Jacob O'Brien (free) and Luke Connolly kicked the first two points, but wing-forward Lee Nolan opened Wexford's account after getting on the ball in plenty of space in the eleventh minute.

Five of the locals' nine first-half wides (both teams had eleven in total) arrived prior to Ciarán Regan claiming a mark and setting up top scorer Lee Jordan for the leveller early in the second quarter.

And full-back Jamie Sheehan showed good example to his forwards in the 22nd minute, surging upfield and putting Wexford ahead for the first time after a one-two with the hard-working Regan (0-3 to 0-2).

Even better followed less than 60 seconds later when Jack O'Leary was involved twice in a flowing move, exchanging passes with midfielder Emmet Cullen before giving the ball to Jordan who calmly side-footed it to the net from close range.

Richie Whelan replied with Carlow's first point in 19 minutes, but Jordan followed up a missed placed ball off the ground by splitting the posts from his next free via the hands.

The Starlights lad then made it 1-5 to 0-3 after an Emmett Nolan pass, but Carlow reduced the gap to four before the interval thanks to midfielder Jacob O'Brien.

An early converted O'Brien free on the re-start turned it into a one-goal game, and two wides apiece followed before Carlow were handed a lifeline in the form of a penalty.

A Colin Byrne point attempt came back off the post into the path of David Dunphy whose shot was foot-blocked by Oliver Gahan. Centre-back Adam Nolan came up to take the spot kick and dispatched it into the right corner of the net (1-5 each).

It was a dogfight from then until the end, with the sides level on another five occasions and neither able to establish any daylight after kicking a point.

Free-takers Richie Whelan and Lee Jordan swapped scores before the influential Emmet Cullen set up Jack O'Leary for his first point in the 44th minute (1-7 to 1-6).

The physical strength of Carlow substitute Conor Duffy started to pose big problems as he kicked a brace before Niall Connolly levelled from a Ciarán Regan pass with just over nine minutes of normal time left (1-8 each).

Wexford had a golden chance in the 53rd minute when a foot-block kept out Jack O'Leary's shot, but Jordan's penalty flew over the bar to give Carlow renewed hope.

The initiative swung back towards the visitors when substitutes Steven Metcalfe and Jack McCullagh restored their lead, but those late scores from Conor Kehoe and O'Leary saw Wexford home.

Wexford: Anthony Larkin (Starlights); James O'Leary (Our Lady's Island), Jamie Sheehan (Gusserane, 0-1), Oliver Gahan (St. Patrick's); Harry Kehoe (Volunteers), Ciarán Kavanagh (HWH-Bunclody, capt.), Paudie Casey (Oylegate-Glenbrien); Emmet Cullen (Gusserane), Mark Kehoe (Gusserane); Niall Connolly (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown, 0-1), Ciarán Regan (HWH-Bunclody), Lee Nolan (St. Mary's, Maudlintown, 0-1); Lee Jordan (Starlights, 1-5, 0-2 frees, 0-1 pen.), Jack O'Leary (St. Fintan's, 0-2), Emmett Nolan (St. Mary's, Maudlintown). Subs. - Conor Hughes (Kilanerin) for M. Kehoe (41), Conor Kehoe (Sarsfields, 0-1) for L. Nolan (51), Adam Mullins (Our Lady's Island) for H. Kehoe (60), also Byron Sweeney (St. Mary's, Maudlintown), Jason Devereux (Our Lady's Island), Jack Donohue (Bannow-Ballymitty), Seán Murphy (Volunteers), Joe O'Sullivan (Horeswood), Robert Murphy (Kilanerin).

Carlow: Kuba Budzisz; Jonah Dunne, Craig Bowden, Cormac Connolly; Mark Behan, Adam Nolan (1-0 pen.), Richie Whelan (0-2, 1 free); Finbarr Kavanagh, Jacob O'Brien (0-3, 2 frees); Ben Crotty, Luke Connolly (0-1), Patrick McDonnell; Patrick Regan, Colin Byrne, David Dunphy. Subs. - Jack McCullagh (0-1) for Crotty (26), Conor Duffy (0-2) for O'Brien (36), Seán Moran for Bowden (41), Steven Metcalfe (0-1) for Whelan (54).

Referee: James King (Dublin).

Wexford People

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