Wexford lose grip on crown
Meath 1-17 Wexford 0-10
A run of 1-5 to close out the game ended Wexford's fine spell of success in the Leinster Junior football championship in Páirc Tailteann, Navan, on Wednesday.
When the excellent Paddy Devereux kicked two superb points to cut the hosts' lead to two in the 48th minute (0-12 to 0-10), Seamus McEnaney's side looked to have all the momentum in their favour.
However, as is often the case, when that run of four Wexford points in a row was ended by Paddy Kennelly's point, the floodgates opened and the visitors' fragile belief quickly slipped away in a barrage of Royal scores.
Obviously, given the scoreline, Meath deserved their win. However, Wexford - provincial champions for the past two seasons - certainly contributed to an attractive, fast game of football that would have sent the home crowd away satisfied with the fiver they had spent.
There were preventative tactics, there always is, but both sides looked to circumvent that with quick use of the ball. The fact that Meath were slightly better at it is evidenced in the fact that they are going on to meet Louth in the final on June 25.
The hosts took just 13 seconds to open the scoring through Kevin Ross. That score came from a quick, long ball into the full-forward line. Wexford proved route one was a preference of theirs too when sweeper James Stafford picked out Seán 'Mini' Ryan for the equaliser.
Scene set, the first-half pinged back and forth. Jake Firman nailed a free-kick after St. Anne's bruiser Seán Kelly was fouled, but that was countered at the other end by Daire Rowe's first dead-ball conversion.
An excellent, roving performance by Peter Devine was one of the features of this Wexford display. His two crossfield passes directly assisted scores from Kelly and Ryan as the Slaneysiders took their only lead in the 14th minute (0-4 to 0-3).
With James Stafford struggling with injury, Meath had a purple patch, scoring four consecutive points. Rowe, Conor Moriarty, James Conlon and Declan Smyth all registered in a spell that left Wexford with plenty to do approaching the interval.
To their credit, the visitors doubled-down and cut the gap to one at the break (0-7 to 0-6). Great persistence by Mark Rossiter in winning back possession allowed Tom Byrne to split the posts, and his score was followed by a Ryan point after a fantastic pass crossfield by captain Tiarnan Rossiter.
While both sides matched intensity during the first-half, Wexford re-emerged from the dressing-room half a step behind their opponents and they paid a heavy price. In the first eleven minutes after the re-start the hosts scored five times without reply to move double scores ahead.
At that point it was already looking like a tough ask for Wexford and in hindsight they spent all their energy in the next few minutes fighting their way back into the match. That run started with Rossiter picking off a score after great harrying on Luke Moran by Lee Devereux won an over-carrying free.
John Roche popped over a nice point after a superb handpassing move down the right. Then, from the resulting kick-off, Paddy Devereux caught the ball, soloed 20 metres past flailing defenders and sent over a fantastic score.
It was the kind of point that really gets a crowd going, if you have any support, of course. Devereux flighted over another score in the 48th minute after clever work in the build-up by 'Mayor of Maudlintown' Christy Lane and Ferns attacker Ryan Nolan.
From there it all went wrong for the double Leinster champions. Paddy Kennelly kicked his third point and others soon followed from Stephen Coogan (two) and Jason Scully as Meath increased their two-point advantage to six.
When the hosts won a penalty in the 60th minute, goalkeeper Richard Farrell was sin-binned and Kevin Ross calmly side-footed Meath into the Junior provincial final in Croke Park opposite a Louth side which defeated Wicklow on the same night by 2-11 to 0-10.
Wexford: Richard Farrell (Castletown); Páraic O'Keeffe (St. Anne's), Christy Lane (St. Mary's, Maudlintown), Dillon Redmond (Starlights); Daire Bolger (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown), Peter Devine (Castletown), Tiarnan Rossiter (St. Mary's, Rosslare, capt.); Paddy Devereux (Crossabeg-Ballymurn, 0-2), Tom Byrne (Kilmore, 0-1); Jake Firman (St. Martin's, 0-1 free), Mark Rossiter (Gusserane, 0-1 free), Ryan Nolan (Ferns St. Aidan's); James Stafford (Glynn-Barntown), Seán Kelly (St. Anne's, 0-1), Seán Ryan (Gusserane, 0-3). Subs. - Lee Devereux (St. Mary's, Rosslare) for Stafford, inj. (23), John Roche (Gusserane, 0-1) for O'Keeffe (31), Jason Swords (St. Mary's, Maudlintown) for Bolger (41), Mark Doyle (St. Mary's, Maudlintown) for Redmond (57), Nicky Greene (St. Martin's) for Farrell, black card (60), also Alan Tobin (Starlights), Seán Gaul (St. Anne's), Mikie Dwyer (Fethard).
Meath: Johnny Lynch; Adam Lynch, Luke Moran, Michael Flood; David Toner (0-1), Joe Sweeney, Declan Smyth (0-1); Adam Flanagan, Conor Farrell; Conor Moriarty (0-1), Ben Brennan (0-1), Paddy Kennelly (0-3); James Conlon (0-1), Daire Rowe (capt., 0-5, 4 frees), Kevin Ross (1-1, 1-0 pen.). Subs. - Kevin Traynor for Smyth (31), Jason Scully (0-1) for Moriarty (38), Stephen Coogan (0-2) for Conlon (47), Cathal McConnell for Brennan (66).
Referee: David Hickey (Carlow).