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Saturday 20 October 2018

Wexford bid is back on track

GAA Eirgrid Leinster U-20 Football Championship: Wexford 3-13 Longford 2-9

Centre-back Ronan Devereux on the move away from Longford’s Iarla O’Sullivan
Centre-back Ronan Devereux on the move away from Longford’s Iarla O’Sullivan

Alan Aherne

Wexford got their Eirgrid Leinster Under-20 football championship qualification bid back on track in the Innovate Wexford Park sunshine yesterday (Monday) with a seven-point victory over Longford in a free-flowing encounter.

The Slaneysiders will probably still need to defeat hot favourites Dublin at the same venue on June 16 in order to reach the knockout stages, and even then a slip-up by Westmeath against Longford could be required too.

Still, at least they have left themselves with a fighting chance, and the return of Barry O'Connor after his long-term thumb injury was one of the most pleasing aspects of the game.

Introduced for the second-half at full-forward, the St. Martin's lad scored 1-1 and looked sharp enough despite his lengthy spell on the sidelines, with his 47th-minute goal making all the difference.

It arrived after fellow substitute Dylan Furlong slapped the ball out of a Longford defender's hands to create an overlap in a dangerous position.

O'Connor handpassed to Furlong whose shot was saved by Conor Gallagher, but he was following up and stabbed the breaking ball to the corner of the net.

That goal extended the Wexford lead to 3-8 to 1-7, but they couldn't relax as Joe Kelly rammed home his second major for Longford at the end of the third quarter.

Ivan Meegan was called upon to make a crucial save to keep out a Cillian Lee drive, and the Ferns netminder later kicked a superb point from a 50-metre placed ball as Wexford refused to panic.

Kyle Firman also brought his personal tally to an impressive four points from play before the game ended, with Longford reduced to 14 at the death after the mercurial Joe Kelly lashed out at Mark O'Neill after the full-back blocked his low free.

The opening half hinged on two moments of quality passing that saw the home side transform a 1-2 to 0-3 deficit into a 2-3 to 1-2 lead in the 13th and 18th minutes.

Backroom advisor Kevin Doyle was surely impressed with both the vision, and the weight, of the deliveries that created two well-crafted goals.

For the first, a brilliant pass by Mikie Dwyer over the top and into space found Robbie Brooks who rounded the netminder before tucking the ball into the net.

And then it was the turn of Jamie Myler to give a similar-type pass to Gavin Sheehan who was hauled down by Shane Farrell, with goalkeeper Ivan Meegan rewarded for his long trek when he drilled his low left-footed penalty to the corner of the net.

Overlapping wing-back Martin O'Connor had gone close with a couple of goal chances earlier for the home side, but Longford raised the first green flag in the fourth minute from a Joe Kelly piledriver to take a 1-1 to 0-2 lead.

Wexford were never headed again after that brace of goals, although the midlanders hit the last three points before the break to narrow the deficit to 2-4 to 1-5.

Barry O'Connor, Seán Nolan (free) and Kyle Firman widened the gap to five on the re-start, but Longford replied through Iarla O'Sullivan (free) and substitute Cian McElligott before Jamie Myler made it 2-8 to 1-7 from a long Darragh Lyons delivery.

O'Connor's goal ensured Wexford maintained their advantage to the finish despite that quick reply by Longford's Joe Kelly, out-pointing their rivals 5-2 from that stage onwards thanks to the accuracy of Ivan Meegan (two frees), Kyle Firman (two) and Cathal Devereux.

Wexford: Ivan Meegan (Ferns St. Aidan's, 1-2, 1-0 pen., 0-2 frees); Quinn Saunders (Our Lady's Island), Mark O'Neill (Gusserane), Frank Roche (Castletown); Gavin Sheehan (Gusserane), Ronan Devereux (Crossabeg-Ballymurn), Martin O'Connor (HWH-Bunclody); Darragh Lyons (St. James', capt.), Peter Barry (St. Martin's); Kyle Firman (St. Martin's, 0-4), Mikie Dwyer (Fethard, 0-1), Robbie Brooks (Castletown, 1-0); Cathal Devereux (Our Lady's Island, 0-1), Jamie Myler (Horeswood, 0-2), Seán Nolan (Horeswood, 0-2 frees). Subs. - Richie Waters (Fethard) for Barry, inj. (21), Barry O'Connor (St. Martin's, 1-1) for Dwyer (HT), Dylan Furlong (Sarsfields) for Brooks (HT), Sam Wall (Gusserane) for Nolan (50), John Dunne (HWH-Bunclody) for Lyons (56), Luke Sinnott (Taghmon-Camross) for C. Devereux (58).

Longford: Conor Gallagher; Kian Gilmore, Ciarán McKeon (0-1), Mark McCormack; Cillian Lee (capt.), Peter Lynn, Shane Farrell; Enda Farrell, Daire Duggan; Rúairí Harkin, Joe Kelly (2-1), Iarla O'Sullivan (0-1 free); Rory Hawkins (0-1), Tomás McGann (0-2, 1 free), Alan McKeon (0-2, 1 free, 1 '45). Subs. - Cian McElligott (0-1) for Farrell, inj. (35), Ross Claffey for Harkin (43), Seán Noonan for Duggan (60).

Referee: John Hickey (Carlow).

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