Clare make extra man count against Wexford

Clare 3-16 Wexford 0-18

14-man Wexford were well-beaten by Division 2 table toppers Clare in this afternoon's Allianz Hurling League encounter in Ennis.

Defender Matthew O’Hanlon was dismissed early in the second half, and by that stage the visitors had leaked goals to John Conlon, Sean Collins and Conor McGrath.

The Banner men had moved 0-6 to 0-0 ahead inside 17 minutes with McGrath on target three times.

Trailing 2-8 to 0-9 at the break Wexford rallied mainly through the free-taking of Jack Guiney, but Clare coasted to their fourth league victory.

Davy Fitzgerald's men have now guaranteed top spot for themselves in the second tier and qualification for the Division 1B final.

They are three points clear of their nearest challengers in the table, Offaly, ahead of next weekend's final round of divisional matches.

Wexford now look set for a relegation play-off with fellow strugglers Laois, whom they face in their final league game at Wexford Park next Sunday.

At a sunkissed Cusack Park, the hosts exposed some lacklustre defending from Wexford as McGrath, John Conlon and Nick O'Connell hit the opening points.

Clare's half-back line, led excellently by Brendan Bugler, was the most effective line on show and Wexford struggled to build anything in attack until Diarmuid O'Keeffe landed their first point in the 19th minute.

Just a minute later, Conlon broke into space and squeezed a shot past goalkeeper Niall Breen for the first of the Clare goals.

Wexford responded well with wing forward Jack Guiney, who has shown himself to be a quality free-taker, notching four points in-a-row to close the gap to 1-6 to 0-5.

McGrath answered back from play, taking a neat delivery from Jonathan Clancy, and McGrath turned provider soon after to tee up Collins' 28th-minute goal.

The Model men though had been improving with each passing minute, particularly around midfield where Eoin Quigley and PJ Nolan both put in decent shifts.

Guiney landed three late points - one from play along with a '65' and a free - to whittle Clare's lead down to five points, but Fitzgerald's side certainly proved too strong in the second half.

They tightened up on their discipline and got off to a business-like start with McGrath gathered a low ball played into him, slipping away from his marker and firing a low shot past Breen for goal number three.

Although Guiney replied with a free, there was no way back for Wexford particularly after young defender O'Hanlon was sent-off for a second bookable offence.

McGrath and Nicky O'Connell claimed some terrific points for the home side, while Guiney's haul of 0-9 just about kept Wexford in the contest at 3-12 to 0-12 down.

Guiney again and substitute Diarmuid Lyng reduced the arrears to seven points. But substitute Liam Markham got his name on the scoresheet for Clare and the result was never in any doubt.

The sides went point for point in the closing stages as Guiney and substitutes Richie Kehoe and Jim Berry added to Wexford's total, and Conlon, Markham and goal scorer Collins replied for Clare.

It was a tame finish to a game that never really took off in terms of intensity and physicality and Fitzgerald will be mindful that far greater tests lie ahead. Guiney, who put on a first class display of free-taking, sent a penalty over the bar for the final score in injury-time.

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