Nolan cleared to tackle Tipp
Countdown to All-Ireland SHC Semi-final, Croke Park, July 28
The availability of Aidan Nolan will increase the options for Davy Fitzgerald and his fellow mentors as they set their sights firmly on tackling the Tipperary challenge in the county's first All-Ireland Senior hurling championship semi-final appearance since 2007 in Croke Park on Sunday week, July 28 (3.30 p.m.).
The versatile HWH-Bunclody player attended a meeting of the Central Hearings Committee on Thursday to appeal against the two-game ban imposed after he was shown a straight red card by referee Fergal Horgan after the round-robin clash with Kilkenny in Innovate Wexford Park last month.
Nolan's suspension was originally extended from one game to two on the basis that it was a repeat infraction, as he was also disciplined after the Fenway Classic in Boston late last year.
However, the C.H.C. decided that the offence proven against him in that game against Limerick should not count for the purpose of determining whether a subsequent infraction is a repeat.
Wexford had been adamant that this was the case all along, given that the game in the Super 11s tournament wasn't played under normal hurling rules, with a number of modifications instead.
The C.H.C. felt that a one-match suspension was applicable, and Nolan is therefore free to play as that ban was already served in the Leinster final victory over Kilkenny.
The Wexford squad got away from it all by visiting the manager's native county of Clare for an intensive training weekend, and the last four opponents that everyone expected were duly confirmed in Croke Park on Sunday.
Tipperary came through against surprise packets Laois by 2-25 to 1-18, but there was nothing in their performance to suggest that the Leinster champions will have anything major to fear on Sunday week.
Then again, it was probably the best possible way for the Premier county to see off the side which had shocked Dublin by two points seven days earlier, as manager Liam Sheedy will have a lot of areas to highlight where improvements will be needed.
Marquee forwards such as John O'Dwyer, John McGrath and Seamus Callanan were all relatively quiet by their own standards, with the former failing to score although the latter did maintain his marvellous record of getting a goal in every championship outing this season.
Laois were in no way fazed by the mammoth task facing them, with centre-forward Mark Kavanagh making the most of a string of chances Tipperary presented as a result of conceding sloppy frees.
It was 0-4 to 0-3 in favour of the underdogs in the twelfth minute when Jason Forde drilled a penalty to the Hill 16 end net after being fouled, and goal number two followed swiftly.
Just four minutes later a brilliant long-range pass from Noel McGrath located Callanan in plenty of space, and he didn't need a second invitation as he fired the ball across Enda Rowland to make it 2-4 to 0-5.
The gap widened to eight points on one occasion as Forde's accuracy from placed balls was supplemented by contributions from Ger Browne (two), Alan Flynn and Callanan.
However, Laois were given a major boost in the 34th minute when a poor first touch by a defender left Ross King in the clear, and the corner-forward goaled to narrow the gap to 2-10 to 1-9.
Mark Kavanagh (free) and Noel McGrath swapped points before the interval, with Forde firing over the first point of the new half before Laois suffered a big blow when Aaron Dunphy received a straight red card for striking Pádraic Maher.
They never gave in despite being a man down, and Tipperary weren't altogether convincing even though they still did enough to end up with a ten-point winning margin.
Forde finished with an impressive 1-12 to his name, including nine points from frees, one from a '65, two from play, plus that penalty goal.
Their scoring returns were completed by Seamus Callanan (1-2), Noel McGrath (0-3), Ger Browne and Ronan Maher (0-2 each), Alan Flynn, Pádraic Maher, John McGrath and Barry Heffernan (0-1 each).
Earlier in the day, Kilkenny bounced back from their defeat in the Leinster decider with a commanding second-half display to beat Cork by 2-27 to 3-18.
It means that four teams are left standing, the respective provincial finalists, and the Cats will now take on holders and current favourites Limerick in Croke Park on Saturday, July 27, at 6 p.m.
Meanwhile, the Wexford Minor hurlers will have to wait until next weekend before learning whether they will meet Galway or Clare in their All-Ireland semi-final on Sunday week at 1.30 p.m.
Galway beat Kilkenny by 3-16 to 2-16 on Sunday and, given that our neighbours had accounted for the Banner boys by 2-14 to 0-13 eight days earlier, the westerners will be fancied to end Clare's interest in the competition when they meet next Saturday. Clare would need to win by more than five points to edge out Galway for a qualifying spot on scoring difference.