Wexford 1-18 Waterford 3-14
By Brendan O’Brien at Innovate Wexford Park
What’s seldom is wonderful.
Waterford’s footballers hadn’t known success in a championship match for seven long and fruitless years before they made the short trip up the coast for the first of Saturday’s eight round one All-Ireland qualifiers.
Well beaten by Tipperary in Munster, and with just the sustenance of a single win and a measly draw from their spring campaign in Division Four, there were few teams in the country in greater need of a pick-me-up.
No surprise then that the emotion drained out of players, management and the small pocket of supporters on hand after referee Cormac Reilly blew the whistle - having seen fit to add six minutes extra onto the back end of the 70.
That last chapter had been agony.
Waterford led by eight points when Jason Curry sent over his fifth free of the afternoon with 68 minutes already elapsed but Wexford’s desperate response almost paid off thanks in the main to a scrambled goal from centre-back Naomhan Rossiter.
Anything other than a Waterford win would have been a travesty.
Tom McGlinchey’s men were much the better of the sides for vast tracts of this sunkissed affair. Perceived as a side that defends in numbers, they played some sublime attacking football, punching through the gut of the hosts’ defence time and again.
Midfielder Tommy Prendergast was immense as a driving force. Likewise centre-forward Kieran Power until he retired injured and the entire half-back line with centre-back Shane Ryan scoring the first of their goals after 15 minutes.
Key to that score was full-forward JJ Hutchinson who was a pivotal presence throughout. Corner-forward Conor Murray did plenty of running – as a covering defender and as an attacking threat – while chipping in with three points from play.
Hutchinson’s brilliant finish high to the net after 26 minutes caused the first real breach on the scoreboard as it gave Waterford a five-point lead that had been squeezed to three at the break but Wexford were guilty of pushing for goals too often on the restart.
Waterford could rue one or two similar errors but substitute Joe Allen got all his markers right when profiting from an immense run by Tom Prendergast before finishing low past goalkeeper Conor Swaine after 40 minutes.
How Wexford could have done with Jim Rossiter, the full-back missing with a cruciate ligament injury suffered in their Leinster Championship defeat to Laois. And how they paid for their leaky defence: they are first team to exit the 2018 championship.
Wexford: C Swaine; M Furlong, E Porter, C Carty; S Doyle, N Rossiter, T Rossiter; G Malone, B Malone; E Nolan, B Brosnan, J Stafford; D Shannon, D Shanley, J Tubritt.
Subs: R Frayne for Shannon and M O’Connor for Doyle (both HT); B O’Connor for T Rossiter (49); C McCarthy for Brosnan (57); D Holmes for Stafford (63);
Waterford: S Enright; J Mullaney, S Prendergast, J McGrath; B Looby, S Ryan, A Trihy; T Prendergast, M Curry; G Crotty, K Power, D Guiry; J Curry, JJ Hutchinson, C Murray:
Subs: J Allen for Crotty (42); T O’Gorman for Power (52); C McCarthy for Murray (74; M Cummins for S Prendergast (75).
Scorers for Wexford: D Shanley (0-9, 6 frees); J Tubritt and B Brosnan (0-3); N Rossiter (1-0); E Nolan and B Malone (0-1 each).
Scorers for Waterford: J Curry (0-6, 5 frees); JJ Hutchinson (1-2); C Murray (0-3); J Allen and S Ryan (1-0 each); K Power (0-2); T Prendergast (0-1).
Referee: C Reilly (Meath).