Wexford suffer devastating defeat against neighbours
Kilkenny League 1 Wexford League 0
Substitute Henry O'Neill sent Wexford to defeat in the Oscar Traynor Trophy in Evergreen FC on Saturday afternoon last as neighbours Kilkenny booked their spot in the knockout stages.
The Slaneysiders needed just a point to reach the second round, with their hosts looking for the victory, and it was all going to plan until O'Neill cracked home the winner twenty minutes from time.
Ironically, it came from a quick counter-attack, right after Wexford's best ten minutes of the game.
Indeed, James Peare had the ball in the net just seconds before the Kilkenny winner but it was ruled out for offside.
The deadlock breaker came as a result of superb work down the left from former Wexford Youths and Waterford player Dean Broaders.
It was the only time in the 90 minutes that the travelling side allowed him to creep into space and they paid a heavy price.
There was an element of fortune to the goal. Peter Higgins, another former Ferrycarrig Park favourite, forced the ball out to the wing, the excellent Conor Casserly couldn't get his feet sorted out in time and it reached Broaders on the flank.
The experienced winger took his time, fed the ball across to the edge of the area where O'Neill was waiting unmarked and the Kilkenny substitute lashed his shot high to the top corner of Jason McGuire's net, giving the 'keeper no chance.
Undoubtedly against the run of play, Wexford had looked comfortable until the goal, controlling the game.
They had half-chances but did lack the cutting edge of previous season and struggled to break down the hosts back four.
With the weather the way it was coming into the game, it was pleasantly surprising that the rain stopped before kick-off and the first half was largely played without sprinkles from above.
However, the wind was particularly strong in the first 45 minutes, aiding the hosts and speeding up an already fast astro surface.
Without some of the star names of previous seasons, Wexford were a big, physical and compact unit. Manager William Peare seemed to have built them for the wet and wild days like this and it would be hard to argue against that approach, given that they were the better side against last year's beaten finalists.
In difficult conditions, chances are often at a premium. When they fall you need to take them, even if you are still a little cold and trying to settle into the game.
That's exactly what happened to Wexford in the second minute.
Ivan Meegan forced the ball over the top, into the wind and John Peare was in on goal.
He went for the lofted finish with Owen Wall advancing at pace but his shot cannoned off the Kilkenny 'stoppers face and rebounded to safety.
Wexford never did manage to create another one-on-one with Wall. After the chance the hosts maybe shaded the first 30 minutes but didn't trouble Jason McGuire either, Declan Rice headed over a Declan McQuillan corner at the back post and his side had a couple of half hearted penalty appeals turned down but the game remained goalless.
As the half wore on Wexford created the odd half chance, Stephen Moloney volleyed one such opening over from a Peare near post corner. Then, just before the break, they maybe should have taken the lead.
Peare worked the ball out left to Meegan, the Ferns man took his time, crossed to the back post where Wexford Bohs attacker Dermot Flood controlled well but spliced his shot harmlessly across goal from eight yards out.
With the stalemate continuing into the second half, Broaders' daisy-cutter at least got McGuire scrambling low to save. Yet it was Wexford on the front foot as the game moved past the hour mark.
Ryan Nolan had a shot blocked close to goal after a nice one-two with John Peare, James Peare missed the target and Meegan forced Wall to stop from distance.
As the pressure and long-range efforts got more accurate, James Peare, Flood and John Peare all saw shots dealt with by Wall.
He didn't do as well with Meegan's strike in the 69th minute but John Peare did seem to be offside when the shot was dispatched and his converted rebound was struck off. Moments later O'Neill fired Kilkenny ahead.
Wexford never did get that momentum back. Three changes followed and, if anything, aided that demise.
Kilkenny should have wrapped up their knockout place when Emmet Nugent got away on the left in the 82nd minute but he fired wide with his left boot from close range.
With the rain now falling, Wall was quickly off his line to beat Sean Pailing to the ball in the 84th minute and he denied the substitute striker again two minutes from the end of normal time after a strong Eddie Black tackle in midfield.
Set-pieces looked like Wexford's best chance to fired themselves into the second round but the closest they came was when Gary Delaney's header was blocked at the back post and Kilkenny scrambled it behind for a corner that came to nothing.
In the end there was no way past Wall and Wexford will be out of contention for a knockout spot unless Wicklow can surprise AUL in their rearranged tie.
KILKENNY: Owen Wall; Tommy Earls, David Rice, Owen McCormack, Eddie Nugent; Peter Higgins, Andy Kavanagh; Declan McQuillan, Dean Broaders, Ben Hickey; Emmet Nugent. Subs. - Henry O'Neill for Eddie Nugent, inj (63), Dylan Dunphy Wallace for Hickey (78), also, Ger Hayes, Robbie Quan.
WEXFORD: Jason McGuire; Conor Casserly, Craig McCabe, Stephen Moloney, Dylan Redmond; Gavin O'Brien, Ryan Nolan; Dermot Flood, Ivan Meegan, John Peare; James Peare. Subs. - Gary Delaney for Casserly (75), Sean Pailing for Meegan (75), Eddie Black for Nolan (75), also, Mark Woods, Rioghan Crosbie, Sean Allen, James Billy Byrne.
REFEREE: Lee Kill (Kilkenny).