Wexford end O'Byrne cup campaign with clearcut win
Wexford ended their Bord na Mána O'Byrne Cup campaign with an uneventful, yet confidence-boosting, Group A victory over I.T. Carlow in Bunclody on Sunday.
Wexford 3-20 I.T. Carlow 1-12
After giving Dublin all they could handle the previous weekend, the Slaneysiders came into the game on the back of a weak showing in tricky conditions against D.C.U. on Wednesday.
Given the weather that the county has endured in the last month, Wexford boss David Power couldn't have hoped for a better surface for his team than the one in Bunclody, and his charges took full advantage with their best scoring salvo of this young season.
Okay, the opposition weren't up to much, but there were plenty of positives to take from a performance where a smattering of the youthful pretenders got to show their wares.
If there was a big negative in a game that you win by 14 points, for Wexford it was the damage inflicted by the lively corner-forward pairing of Chris Healy and Barry McHugh.
The duo scored all of their side's total of 1-12 between them and even though five of those came from dead balls, both won the majority of those frees themselves.
Maybe the most difficult line to gel without playing together is the full-back trio, so the fact that the students created only one real goal opportunity, which they took, indicates that they did well to keep the danger in front of them through the 70 minutes.
Between Under-21 and Senior, Glen Malone seems to have played all over the park in the last few weeks, but he excelled alongside brother Brian and roving wing-back Kieran Butler in arguably Wexford's strongest line.
The hosts lost Syl Byrne to a leg injury but Colm Kehoe had a fine afternoon from centrefield. Adrian Flynn looks to be enjoying the creator's role at centre-forward, as he set the tone early with two quick-fire assists and was involved in most of his side's best work.
Around the Gusserane man only Ben Brosnan could boast much experience at inter-county level, but that didn't stop the starting front six from combining for 1-14 from play between them, with Tiarnan Rossiter leading the way with five points.
It was Flynn playing provider for the opener that Kehoe flighted over after a driving burst through the centre. Kevin Rowe opened his account from the right corner before Brosnan fed Rossiter for Wexford's third point.
A foul on Brian Malone allowed lively debutant Donal Shanley to make it 0-4 to nil after eight minutes, and Brosnan registered his second assist when off-loading to Kevin O'Grady less than 60 seconds later.
Barry McHugh responded for the visitors with two of the next three points - the second of which came from a 43-metre free off the deck. Chris Healy also opened his account as I.T. Carlow put a run of three consecutive points together.
Rossiter halted the spree with a 15th minute point but Healy responded with his second from close range. Shanley made it 0-7 to 0-4 after Malone was fouled again but Carlow ended the opening quarter with their fifth point, and McHugh's third.
Shane Doyle and Flynn worked space for Kevin O'Grady to notch his second point, Kieran Butler followed it with a lovely long-range effort, and Wexford led by double scores (0-10 to 0-5) when O'Grady converted from the right after Shanley was tugged back.
Brosnan flashed over on the half-hour mark as Wexford continued to score with regularity but McHugh did respond with his fourth.
Butler and Brosnan combined for the former to raise his second white flag to leave the home side 0-12 to 0-6 ahead at the interval.
Flynn and Brosnan were involved when Tiarnan Rossiter added his third point four minutes into the second-half.
Another followed for the Rosslare man shortly after McHugh picked up his fourth free, and fifth point, for the students.
Brosnan was the benefactor of Colm Kehoe's fine work when he made it 0-15 to 0-7 in the 45th minute, but Carlow hit back with a brace from McHugh to leave just six between the sides, despite Wexford's general dominance.
Between those scores, Wexford went close to the opening goal with their best chance up to that point. Flynn's superb kick-pass found clubmate Seán Ryan breaking at goal, and his shot was saved by Robert Sansom, only for Rowe to follow up and send the Carlow stopper sprawling for an even more impressive stop.
Shanley pointed twice after he was fouled, in the 17th and 19th minutes. Those dead balls sandwiched a Chris Healy free from close range as Wexford led by 0-17 to 0-10 with 16 minutes remaining.
Healy's fourth point momentarily cut the deficit to six but Rossiter registered from Butler's pass before Shanley got his fifth to make it 0-19 to 0-11.
With legs tiring as the game wore on, gaps began to appear in both defences. Four of the last six scores were goals and the first of those fell to Wexford in the 65th minute when Kevin Rowe got away on the left and lobbed over substitute 'keeper Killian Roche to the net.
Carlow responded with a McHugh point and a goal when Healy found the net after Steven Lawlor's initial effort was brilliantly saved by Philip Murphy between the sticks for Wexford.
The best move of the match, which saw Naomhan Rossiter, Flynn and Ryan all combine to release Paul Curtis to net from close range, made it 2-19 to 1-12 with two minutes of normal time remaining.
There was still time for a little more goalmouth action as Seán 'Mini' Ryan got a side-foot shot away from close range to score off the inside of Sansom's left-foot post. Rowe put the finishing touches on victory seconds later with his second point.
The win left Wexford third in the group table behind Dublin and D.C.U., meaning their next competitive fixture will be the first round of Division 4 of the Allianz League at home to Leitrim on January 31.
Wexford: Philip Murphy; Rob Tierney, Jim Rossiter, Shane Doyle; Brian Malone (capt.), Glen Malone, Kieran Butler (0-2); Syl Byrne, Colm Kehoe (0-1); Kevin O'Grady (0-3, 1 free), Adrian Flynn, Tiarnan Rossiter (0-5); Kevin Rowe (1-2), Donal Shanley (0-5, 4 frees), Ben Brosnan (0-2). Subs. - Pierce O'Connor for Byrne, inj. (24), Seán Ryan (1-0) for O'Grady (33), Paul Curtis (1-0) for B. Malone (48), Páraic O'Keeffe for Doyle (52), Naomhan Rossiter for G. Malone (55), Johnny Connors for Shanley, temp. (69-70+2), also Anthony Masterson, Robbie Vallejo, Simon Donohoe, Jamie Carty, Niall Hughes.
I.T. Carlow: Robert Sansom (Louth); James Mitchell (Leitrim), Daniel Dunne (Laois), James Hendy (Offaly); Declan Smith (Meath), Thomas O'Connell (Kildare), Eoin Buggie (Laois); Will Young (Laois), Seán McGraynor (Wicklow); Daniel O'Sullivan (Kildare), Conor O'Toole (Carlow), David Aston (Laois); Chris Healy (Kildare, 1-4, 0-1 free), Mark Sherry (Kildare), Barry McHugh (Galway, 0-8, 4 frees). Subs. - Ciarán Branagan (Meath) for O'Connell (36), Gavin Smith (Carlow) for Dunne, inj. (38), James Ferry (Donegal) for Young (52), Steven Lawlor (Kildare) for O'Toole (58), Killian Roche (Clare) for Sansom (58), Adam Murphy Carlow) for Aston (58).
Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois).