Wexford to join Kilkenny in semis after win over Antrim

Wexford 3-16 Antrim 1-11

Wexford set up a semi-final clash with defending champions Kilkenny in the Leinster Championship following this well-judged win over Antrim.

Conor McCann and Jim Berry swapped early goals at Wexford Park and Antrim, playing into the wind, were only 1-10 to 1-08 behind at half-time.

But Wexford seized control in the second half, with Stephen Banville and Harry Kehoe striking good points and Eanna Martin (49 minutes) and David Redmond (67) adding two more goals for the Model men.

Antrim travelled south hoping to build on their history recent victory over Laois, and welcomed full-back Cormac Donnelly and forwards Eddie McCloskey and Darren Hamill back into the side.

Wexford lined out with two Championship debutants in goalkeeper Niall Breen and teenage defender Matthew O'Hanlon. They also sprung a late surprise by bringing inspirational captain Darren Stamp into the starting line-up, with Paul Roche making way.

Stamp injured his ankle when a girder fell in a work-related accident last week but was rated fit enough to start against the Saffrons, giving Colm Bonnar's men a considerable pre-match boost.

Wexford started in spritely fashion with PJ Nolan pointing after just 40 seconds and Stephen Banville added a second from distance. Breen was then called into action, tipping a shot from Karl Stewart over his crossbar for Antrim's first score.

Against the run of play, Antrim corner forward Conor McCann was teed up for a seventh minute, but Jim Berry's goal from a 20-metre free helped the hosts scoot ahead on the scoreboard.

Rory Jacob increased his influence with two well-struck points and Eanna Martin became the fifth Wexford forward to score inside the opening 15 minutes.

Free-taker Neil McManus and Hamill cut the deficit back to 1-06 to 1-03 and Dinny Cahill's men then enjoyed a period of dominance. They were back on terms by the 27th minute, with McManus, midfielder Paul Shiels and Stewart finding their range.

Yet, Wexford, with the wind behind them, raised their game coming up to the break as Lar Prendergast, Banville and Berry bridged a two-point advantage for them at the turnaround.

Cahill's men seemed poised for a big second half performance with the wind behind them. But it turned out that Wexford had plenty more in the tank and they were in charge for the remainder.

McManus missed an early '65' for the Saffrons who could only muster points from Barry McFall, McManus and Stewart after the break.

In between the goals from Martin and Redmond, there were some fine scores from the impressive Banville, his half-forward colleague Harry Kehoe and the two goal scorers themselves.

The finale scoreline may have been a touch flattering for Bonnar's side, but they were fully deserving of the win which gives them a chance to dethrone the Cats on Saturday, June 11.

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