Wexford 3-25 Laois 1-17
By Jackie Cahill at O’Moore Park, Portlaoise.
Davy Fitzgerald’s Wexford had 14 points to spare against Laois in this afternoon’s Leinster senior hurling championship quarter-final at O’Moore Park.
Fitzgerald, suspended from touchline duty, was seated in the stands but this was a routine afternoon for his side against a Laois outfit that finished the game with 13 men.
Wexford’s win sets up a June 10 Leinster semi-final against holders Kilkenny at Innovate Wexford Park – a clash that’s expected to draw a 25,000 sellout attendance.
Laois lost Charles Dwyer to second bookable offence in the 57th minute, before Willie Dunphy was dismissed on a straight red four minutes from time following an aerial clash with Eoin Moore.
The end result was in little doubt by then and Jack Guiney made a huge impact after coming off the Wexford bench at half-time.
Guiney had a big part to play in the first two Wexford scores of the second half, assisted Aidan Nolan’s 43rd minute goal, had one of his own chalked off, and then found the net 18 minutes from time.
It was also an afternoon when Liam Óg McGovern came off the bench to mark his return from cruciate knee ligament damage.
All in all, a positive day for Wexford, who’ll face a big step-up in class against the Cats in less than a fortnight.
Wexford did what they had to, as Conor McDonald led the way in the scoring stakes with a nine-point haul.
Harry Kehoe hit 1-2, Paul Morris 0-5 and Nolan 1-1 as Wexford collected 3-19 from play.
Wexford were 1-11 to 0-9 clear at half-time, but it took the Slaneysiders some time to put daylight between themselves and the hosts.
Ultimately, however, a solid defensive platform paved the way for the visitors, with Shaun Murphy good in the sweeper role, while centre back Matthew O’Hanlon and corner back Simon Donohoe were excellent.
Laois, who had the breeze in the opening half, didn’t help themselves with some poor decision-making but to their credit, they were competitive.
Time and time again, however, Wexford mopped up loose ball comfortably within their own half, as the Laois forwards struggled to make headway.
Laois also had to survive a scare as early as the 24th second, when back-pedalling Lee Cleere scrambled David Redmond’s half-blocked effort off the line.
Laois then stormed into a 0-3 to 0-0 lead, Stephen Maher opening the scoring before skipper Ross King scored two points, but Wexford were level by the sixth minute.
Paul Morris and Redmond were involved in the build-up but goalkeeper Enda Rowland chose to come from his line and when the ball travelled past him, Harry Kehoe managed to net from a tight angle with a ground-stroke.
Twice more the sides were level before Wexford began to find some breathing space, scoring five of the game’s six points between the 17th and 28th minutes.
Their biggest lead of the half was six points, 1-10 to 0-7, and Chin was close to another goal in the 34th minute, flashing a powerful shot just wide after picking off King’s loose ball.
Laois cut the gap to four with a King free and John Lennon’s point from play, but O’Hanlon fed Jack O’Connor, in acres of space, and the St Martin’s man did the rest for the final score of the half.
Wexford upped the ante after half-time as goals from Nolan and Guiney kept their well in front.
Laois lost their discipline, and two players in the process, although Patrick Purcell did claim a consolation goal.
Scorers for Wexford: C McDonald 0-9 (4f, 1 65), H Kehoe 1-2, P Morris 0-5, A Nolan 1-1, J Guiney 1-0, L Chin 0-3 (1f), J O’Connor 0-2, S Murphy, D O’Keeffe & D Redmond 0-1 each.
Scorers for Laois: R King 0-7 (5f), P Purcell 1-1, A Dunphy 0-2, C Collier, C Dwyer, S Downey, J Lennon, W Dunphy, S Maher & C Taylor 0-1 each.
Wexford: O O’Leary; S Donohoe, L Ryan, J Breen; E Martin, M O’Hanlon, D O’Keeffe; A Nolan, J O’Connor; P Morris, L Chin, D Redmond; C McDonald, H Kehoe, S Murphy.
Subs for Wexford: J Guiney for Redmond (h.t.), B Carton for O’Connor (38), E Moore for Breen (43), D Dunne for Nolan (52), L Óg McGovern for Morris (65).
Laois: E Rowland; L Cleere, L Bergin, D Palmer; M Whelan, C Dwyer, C Collier; R King, P Purcell; S Downey, S Maher, J Kelly; J Lennon, N Foyle, W Dunphy.
Subs for Laois: C Taylor for Kelly (h.t), A Dunphy for Cleere (43), M Kavanagh for Lennon (49), A Corby for Downey (58).
Referee: C McAllister (Cork).