Wexford step up a gear to see off Laois

Wexford 2-31 Laois 3-14

Extra-time was needed before Wexford guaranteed their survival for another year at least.

At 3.15, quarter of an hour before the scheduled start, the old stand in Nowlan Park was full for the Kilkenny-Dublin minor championship game; by 3.30 it was mostly empty. With the match starting five minutes late while officials waited for the pitch to clear, it could almost be said that this was the first game ever to be held up to give the crowd a chance to leave.

They missed very little.

In the first quarter of an hour, Laois rocked the favourites with three well-taken goals from wing-forward Seamus Dwyer and corner-forwards James Hooban and Phillip Russell with the others. Hooban and Russell really impressed, the diminutive Hooban setting up a succession of chances with his lively and intelligent hurling, Russell top-scoring with 1-4 from play. After that James Young did most of the scoring for Laois

By half-time, Wexford had recovered somewhat, trailed by just three, 3-5 to 0-11, the lively Dessie Mythen doing most of the damage with three well-taken points from the left wing, but overall this was a very stuttering Wexford performance. At least they had settled at the back, though they missed full-back Darragh Ryan.

In the first 25 minutes of the second half Wexford stepped it up a gear and took a three-point lead, 1-17 to 3-8 (the goal by Stephen Doyle) and in the 67th minute Laois corner-back Michael McEvoy got a straight red card for a cynical foul; however Laois fought back to parity by the end: 1-18 to 3-12.

In extra-time Wexford introduced Rory McCarthy to midfield, Paul Carley was already in at full-forward, Barry Lambert in the corner, and suddenly they clicked. Laois got the first two points, but then it was one-way 1-13 for Wexford without reply.

"If it happened in a Leinster championship match we'd nearly have to ask for the exit," said manager Seamus Murphy.

"You can't pinpoint what happened. All through the National League our defence had held up well, we conceded only three goals in the whole campaign, one of those last week against Down, yet here we found ourselves in a relegation battle. It was just a lapse in concentration in defence, maybe they had become a bit complacent with that record, thought they'd keep a clean sheet easy enough today. Before they realised what was happening Laois had three balls in the net."

A couple of pucks of a ball (they only lost to Waterford by two points, to Offaly by one) and Wexford would have been in the League quarter-final, perhaps even straight into the semi-final; instead they faced a relegation semi-final. Ridiculous situation?

"It is, I have no great remedy to suggest, but it has been farcical, needs to be looked at, improved. We were -5 in the scoring differential, Offaly were +3, they're in the quarter-final, we're in a relegation battle, more or less having to sweat out the last few days. Doesn't seem fair, words don't explain it."

For Laois manager Dinny Cahill, another day out, but not a day Laois really want. Down next week and the loser goes down.

"Yeah, it's one more game that has to be played, we'll get ready for it. I wouldn't see this as too much pressure, I said we were going to use the league to learn about players, see players, and we did that, most players got a fair crack of the whip, and that's going to stand to us for the championship. We were short a few players again today, injuries, suspensions, a pity, but we'll have a nice team come championship. We got the goals, and goals can settle a team."

Scorers: Wexford: R. Jacob 0-9 (0-4 frees); D. Mythen 1-4; M. Jacob 0-4; S. Doyle 1-1; P. Carley 0-3; E. Quigley 0-3; D. Lyng 0-3; D. Ruth 0-2 (0-1 free); B. Lambert 0-2. Laois: P. Russell 1-4; J. Young 0-6 (0-3 frees, 0-1 65); J. Hooban 1-1; S. Dwyer 1-0; J. Fitzpatrick 0-2; D. Cuddy 0-1.

WEXFORD: D. Fitzhenry; M. Travers, K. Rossiter (c), D. O'Connor; K. Kavanagh, D. Ruth, C. Kenny; D. Stamp, D. Lyng; E. Quigley, M.J. Furlong, D. Mythen; S. Doyle, R. Jacob, O. Pitt.

Subs: M. Jacob (Pitt 31); B. Lambert (Furlong 51); P. Carley (Doyle 69); R. McCarthy (Stamp 70); A. Kavanagh (O'Connor 84).

LAOIS: P. Mullaney (c); B. Campion, Pakie Cuddy, M. McEvoy; J. Phelan, J. Walsh, J. Hyland; J. Young, J. Fitzpatrick; E. Meagher, K. O'Keeffe, S. Dwyer; P. Russell, Paul Cuddy, S. Hooban.

Subs: E. Jackman (O'Keefe 47); D. Cuddy (Meagher 57); D. Doran (Mullaney inj. 47); O. Bergin (extra time, replaced McEvoy, red-carded in regular time).

Referee: J. McDonnell (Tipperary).

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