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Thursday 13 December 2018

Nothing gained from stroll

Wexford 6-36 Wicklow1-12

Wexford midfielder Aaron Maddock tries to shake off the close attention of Wicklow’s Ronan Keddy
Wexford midfielder Aaron Maddock tries to shake off the close attention of Wicklow’s Ronan Keddy
Debutant Jake Firman is pursued by Christy Moorehouse Jnr.
Jack O’Connor delivers the ball despite the blocking attempt by Christy Moorehouse Jnr.
Wexford mentor Seoirse Bulfin passing a message to Conor O’Leary

Dean Goodison

Well, this was fun. Not so much for Wicklow, who had to split themselves in half and beat Louth at the same time in the Kehoe Cup, but Wexford got a nice Bord na Móna Walsh Cup run around on a crisp afternoon in Ashford on Sunday.

It's probably a good thing that it was fun because there's really nothing major to be gleaned from this for Davy Fitzgerald and his management team. The opposition was just too weak, it was simply too easy.

No disrespect to Wicklow, but their split side was never going to keep up with an experimental, yet talented, Wexford outfit. In terms of tempo, the visitors hit their stride in the early stages, scoring eight points in less than ten minutes.

The intensity of performance soon eased, as a rate of scoring that would have seen Wexford register more than 56 times in 70 minutes was unlikely to whet the appetite of anyone on the field.

Nobody is going to be banished after this, and guys who got a chance have obviously impressed in training. Mistakes happen and those that made them rebounded quickly and had moments that showed they have huge upside, proving that they belonged in this clash.

Maybe that's the real beauty of a game against the Leinster 'minnows' as, even if you have tricky moments, redemption is just around the corner. A full-back line is on a hiding to nothing against a side like Wicklow, as you're just not expected to lose a battle, which is unrealistic.

What was nice to see was that both newbies back there, Darren Byrne and Eoin Molloy, had occasions where they won primary possession themselves and set a move in motion that ended in a score.

The composure with which Gary Molloy swatted his three first-half points was hugely impressive. None of them was an easy score, all three were from distance. The ability to score from half-back is an important weapon to possess in the game these days, and the Naomh Eanna man did himself the world of good with this display of shooting.

Connal Flood and Liam Rochford looked comfortable in their new surroundings while the only disappointment for Jake Firman was the fact that he was denied a hat-trick by a premature, advantage-killing whistle from referee David Hughes.

However, it wasn't Wexford who got the game's first goal. The visitors were 0-2 to nil in front when a long ball forward was misjudged in the Slaneysiders' full-back line. Andy O'Brien didn't need a second invitation, as he darted away and rattled the net.

The points kept coming at the other end. Firman put Wexford ahead by 0-4 to 1-0 in the sixth minute and Jack Guiney scored two quick points after his side built from the back to ease the Leinster finalists 0-8 to 1-1 ahead after ten minutes.

Diarmuid O'Keeffe's reward for two fine points in succession was a cut that forced him off the field. Wicklow hit back with points from Warren Kavanagh and Garry Byrne to again pull the plucky hosts within four.

Wexford were coasting, up by 0-14 to 1-4 after Pádraig Foley marked his inter-county return with the first of two points in the 25th minute. They emphasised their superiority soon after as Molloy, Guiney and Connal Flood scored in a 75-second spell.

Goal chances had been rare in the opening stages but Wexford spurned a couple in quick succession as Firman hit the side-netting and Guiney rattled the bar. Liam Rochford was denied too in the 31st minute but he followed up and pulled past Robert Fitzgerald.

Firman latched on to Guiney's pass in first-half added-time and fired home his side's second major in five minutes. Fittingly, Gary Molloy ended the period with his third point as Wexford went in at the break leading by 2-21 to 1-6.

'Just keep it tight' must have been the message for Wicklow at the break - easier said than done. Wexford scored 1-6 unanswered within eight minutes of the re-start as a 40-minor haul looked a real possibility.

Firman got his second goal in that spell, cutting in from the left, while Conor McDonald brought his tally to six before he was rested for the last 26 minutes. Jack O'Connor brought up the 30-point mark with 16 minutes remaining as Wexford led by 28.

O'Connor netted a bullet with nine minutes remaining before fellow substitutes Cathal Dunbar (point) and Aidan Nolan got their names on the scoresheet. The HWH-Bunclody clubman's goal only came at the third attempt after replacement 'keeper Cian Staunton made classy stops from O'Connor and Guiney.

There was still time for another of Davy's substitutes to have his say. This time it was the lightning-quick Damien Reck who latched onto Guiney's pass and flashed to the net to complete the rout in added time.

The 39-point win means that Wexford have, as expected, topped the round-robin table. That gives Fitzgerald's side their first real test of the season, a semi-final outing with a Dublin team which has beaten Meath and Antrim in their two games to date. Wexford were drawn away and the game is scheduled for this coming Sunday in Parnell Park at 2 p.m.

Wexford: Conor O'Leary (Oulart-The Ballagh; Shaun Murphy (Oulart-The Ballagh), Darren Byrne (Blackwater), Eoin Molloy (Naomh Eanna); Gary Molloy (Naomh Eanna, 0-3), Pádraig Foley (Crossabeg-Ballymurn, 0-2), Eanna Martin (Carrickshock, Kilkenny); Aaron Maddock (St. Martin's), Diarmuid O'Keeffe (St. Anne's, capt., 0-3); Michael O'Regan (Glynn-Barntown), Jack Guiney (Rathnure, 0-11, 7 frees), Connal Flood (Cloughbawn, 0-2); Liam Rochford (St. Anne's, 1-4), Conor McDonald (Naomh Eanna, 0-6, 2 frees), Jake Firman (St. Martin's, 2-3). Subs. - Lee Chin (Faythe Harriers) for O'Keeffe, temp. (18-25), Jack O'Connor (St. Martin's, 1-1) for O'Keeffe (44), Cathal Dunbar (Ballygarrett, 0-1) for McDonald (44), Damien Reck (Oylegate-Glenbrien, 1-0) for Foley (56), Aidan Nolan (HWH-Bunclody, 1-0) for Flood (57).

Wicklow: Robert Fitzgerald; Emmet Byrne, Michael Verney, Martin O'Brien; Garry Byrne (0-1), Warren Kavanagh (capt., 0-1), Enda Donohoe; Ronan Keddy (0-1), Christy Moorehouse Jnr.; Seánie Germaine (0-1), Anto Byrne (0-1), Jamie Byrne; Pádraig Doyle, Andy O'Brien (1-6, 0-5 frees), Garry Hughes (0-1). Subs. - Eoin Keddy for Hughes (56), Jonathan Tallon for Donohoe (57), Cian Staunton for Fitzgerald (61), James O'Brien for Doyle (63).

Referee: David Hughes (Carlow).

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