By Daragh Small
Wexford 2-21 Westmeath 0-16
Conor McDonald was among the goals as Wexford reached the last eight in the All-Ireland SHC with a win against Westmeath at Cusack Park in Mullingar.
The hosts came into this game on the back of a disappointing loss to Carlow in the Joe McDonagh Cup, and their six-day turnaround was always going to work against them in the blistering heat.
A fresher Wexford scored a goal in either half with David Dunne first to find the net and McDonald’s strike sealing the win after Wexford were 1-12 to 0-8 ahead at half time.
The Wexford U-21s were involved in a mammoth extra-time defeat to Galway midweek and Rory O’Connor was rested after his heroics there.
Westmeath made the fast start and two points from Allan Devine inspired the hosts. But they were quickly cancelled out by Conor McDonald and Lee Chin (free).
Wexford led for the first time in the seventh minute when Paul Morris pointed, but Derek McNicholas’ huge effort drew the sides level again.
The visitors seemed to be in control of the game but they had their chances and failed to convert, most notably when Paddy Carroll saved brilliantly from David Dunne in the 18th minute.
Chin missed the subsequent 65 from a central position too, but that was followed by a fourth wide from Westmeath, when Eoin Price misfired. But Aidan Nolan’s third point was a fifth in a row for Wexford, and they held a 0-10 to 0-4 lead in the 25th minute.
Kevin Foley and Matthew O’Hanlon both missed goal chance approaching half-time as Wexford looked to pull clear.
But when Nolan broke through the heart of the Westmeath defence in the 27th minute he found Dunne in space and his goal gave Wexford a healthy eight-point lead.
Devine, Aonghus Clarke and Cormac Boyle scored unanswered points for Westmeath but Jack O’Connor landed the final point of the half.
It meant Wexford were 1-12 to 0-8 ahead at the break and Chin extended that lead with a free on the resumption but McDonald’s goal killed the game in the 46th minute.
Westmeath had scored three points in a row but all of that work was undone when McDonald latched onto a pass from Liam Óg McGovern and finished to the net.
Devine went on to score eight points in defeat but Wexford impressed and their bench did further damage late on.
Scorers for Wexford: L Chin 0-7 (0-6f, 0-1 65), D Dunne 1-1, C McDonald 1-1, A Nolan 0-4, H Kehoe 0-2, P Morris 0-1, J O’Connor 0-1, D O’Keeffe 0-1, S Murphy 0-1, L Ryan 0-1, S Tomkins 0-1.
Scorers for Westmeath: A Devine 0-8 (0-6f), A Clarke 0-2, E Price 0-2, D McNicholas 0-1, C Boyle 0-1, C Doyle 0-1, J Boyle 0-1.
Wexford: M Fanning; D Reck (E Martin 69), L Ryan, S Donohoe; P Foley, M O’Hanlon, D O’Keeffe (W Devereux 54); K Foley, S Murphy; L Chin (S Tomkins 63), A Nolan, J O’Connor (H Kehoe 63); P Morris (L Óg McGovern 43), D Dunne, C McDonald.
Westmeath: P Carroll; C Shaw (A Craig 69), T Doyle, J Gilligan; S Clavin, P Greville, D McNicholas (J Boyle 44); E Price, A Clarke; R Greville, C Doyle (D Clinton 58), C Boyle (L Varley 54); N O’Brien, N Mitchell, A Devine.
Referee: Diarmuid Kirwan (Cork).