Forde drives Wexford home

Wexford 3-12 Carlow 2-10

The Kilanerin wizard conjured up outstanding feats of magic as Wexford struggled to contain Carlow's gritty challenge in the Bank of Ireland Leinster SFC quarter-final at Croke Park yesterday.

Taking over the captaincy vacated by the injured John Hudson, it was the inspirational Forde who guided Wexford home as Carlow threatened ominously to grind their opponents into the dust.

Despite a stunning three-goal start in a sensational opening quarter and enjoying a numerical advantage after Carlow wing-back Richard Sinnott was sent off for a second yellow offence on the stroke of half time, Wexford found themselves walking a tightrope entering the closing quarter.

The sides were level, but up stepped Forde to kick some glorious points which steered Wexford to safety and end Carlow's gallant bid for their place in the sun.

But it wasn't the late heroics of Forde that captured the imagination.

He was pure quality from the start of an engrossing tie. He set up Shane Cullen for the lead point with a peach of a diagonal 30-metre pass.

This score, after four minutes, galvanised Wexford into action and they tore holes in the Carlow defence with three goals from David Fogarty, PJ Banville and Forde himself in a devastating 17 minutes of action.

But Carlow too had their heroes, particularly towering midfielder Thomas Walsh, right corner-forward Simon Rea and full-forward Mark Carpenter. All three excelled as Wexford looked like white-washing their opponents.

Walsh gave a tremendous display in the centre of the park, Rea kicked 1-6 from frees, while Carpenter looked like the complete full-forward. And what a goal the brilliant Carpenter scored in the 22nd minute to throw Carlow a much-needed life-line after their traumatic early setbacks. Gathering the ball 50 metres from goal, Carpenter soloed through the heart of the Wexford defence before unleashing an unstoppable drive.

It was a goal to warm the cockles of the heart and it lifted Carlow to great heights, even though they trailed 3-5 to 1-7 at the break and had to contend with the early retirement of Sinnott.

This was a truly epic performance by Carlow, who would have been forgiven for throwing in the towel after their disastrous start.

Instead they won the admiration of all by the manner in which they clawed their way back with some good forward movements, engineered by Walsh and clinically finished by Carpenter and Rea up front.

Carlow put the cat among the pigeons seven minutes into the second half after the elusive Carpenter was taken down and Rea kicked the resultant penalty to the corner of the net to leave just a point between the sides. What a comeback by Carlow seven points adrift after Wexford's lightening start and when they drew level with a Rea point from a free in the 57th minute they had Wexford in a vice-like grip.

It was then that Forde displayed his brilliant footballing credentials which must put him up there as one of the best forwards in the modern game.

After substitute Diarmuid Kinsella edged Wexford a point in front in the 58th minute, the sublime Forde kicked two of the greatest points seen at headquarters for many a day.

His two points took Wexford out of the danger zone and ended Carlow's brave attempt to cause an upset.

Carlow failed to score in the closing 13 minutes while Wexford, with Forde now a master of all the arts, qualified for the provincial semi-final in emphatic style.

Scorers for Wexford; M Forde 1-7 (0-3 frees), PJ Banville 1-0, D Forgarty 1-0, S Cullen, P Colfer, R Barry, D Kinsella, D Breen 0-1 each.

Carlow: S Rea 1-6 (all frees), M Carpenter 1-0, P Hickey 0-2 (0-1 free), B Carberry, T Walsh 0-1 each.

WEXFORD: J Cooper, C Morris, P Wallace, N Murphy, D Breen, D Murphy, P Curtis, N Lambert, D Fogarty, R Barry, D Foran, S Cullen, PJ Banville, P Colfer, M Forde.

Subs: D Kinsella for Lambert (inj), J Darcy for Morris, J Hegarty for Foran.

CARLOW: J Brennan, C McCarthy, B Carroll, P Cashin, J Hayden, L Murphy, R Sinnott, P Walsh, T Walsh, B Carberry, R Walker, P Hickey, S Rea, M Carpenter, M Brennan.

Subs: P Kelly for Farrell, W Power for McCarthy, J Byrne for Hickey, B Kelly for Rea.

Referee J McKee (Armagh).

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