Wexford breach final frontier

A MEMORABLE DAY for Wexford football in Croke Park yesterday, when the enormous achievement for rookie manager Jason Ryan and his players in making the Leinster final after a lapse of 52 years superseded the manner in which it was accomplished.

That was largely as a result of a superior team performance against a relatively inexperienced Laois combination which manager Liam Kearns accepted didn’t play up to potential.

The plain fact of the matter is that Wexford triumphed with significantly less trouble than it had taken them to overcome Meath in dramatic fashion in the quarter-final. Once they had wiped out an early two points deficit (by the 12th minute) they never fell behind for the rest of the game. And they impressed particularly in putting down a brave attempt by Laois in trying to save the game when they came to within three points ten minutes from time.

However they were helped by the fact that Colm Parkinson had missed a great chance of a goal at that stage when he blew the ball over the bar. The game was as good as decided by the time Laois had midfield sub Paraic Clancy red-carded for an off-the-ball offence.

With Parkinson coming in at full-forward in place of Colm Kelly (St. Joseph’s) who had been injured in training, Laois started promisingly with scores from John O’Loughlin and M.J. Tierney inside six minutes. Tierney and Parkinson were deployed inside on their own but were to achieve limited success, mainly because Parkinson didn’t get the return that his strong effort deserved and Tierney seemed to be limited by injury.

However Matty Forde was not achieving much for Wexford either at the other end against the tenacious Joe Higgins, limited to a single score in the first half from a ‘45. And, while he was regularly involved in the game, his finishing left him down until the second half when he rectified matters in style.

As the game developed, Wexford began to assert themselves, boosted by a better service from their midfielders, even though Clancy improved matters when introduced after 15 minutes and John O’Loughlin saw a lot of the ball except that he didn’t make good use of it (including two possible goal chances). Likewise, Ross Munnelly was under-achieving in terms of the amount of good ball received and won through his own industry.

However, as influential as midfield might have been for periods, Wexford built their challenge around a controlling half-back line in which Adrian Morrissey played a starring role on the right flank and a more innovative attack in which P.J. Banville played a key role. Redmond Barry offered strong support and Forde gave good leadership without actually getting scores on the board.

And, they also had their goal chances, one as early as the eighth minute when Brendan Doyle opted for a point when he could have tried to find the net and another near half-time when Ciaran Lyng when keeper Michael Nolan did well to save. At the break, it was 0-8 to 0-6.

Laois had every chance of rallying but their problems up front persisted, indicated by the fact that four of the starting forwards didn’t finish. This was in stark contrast to the cumulative effort on the Wexford side which saw Redmond Barry excel in the half-forward line and Forde demonstrated his undoubted class.

Within 16 minutes of the resumption they had stretched their lead to six points but Laois were still putting in a big effort, working the ball well out of defence where Tom Kelly was prominent. Parkinson should have had a goal when he kicked over in the 52nd minute and an even better chance was lost ten minutes later when Colm Kelly was out of luck in pushing a shot just over the crossbar.

It was patently obvious that Laois needed a goal to save them and the fact of failing to get one consigned them to a defeat which seemed inevitable for a long time.

Scorers for Wexford: M Forde 0-6 (0-2 ‘45’s); PJ Banville 0-3; R Barry 0-3; A Morrissey 0-2; B Doyle, C Lyng, E Bradley and S Roche 0-1 each.

Laois: C Parkinson 0-4; C Kelly 0-3 (0-1f); M.J Tierney 0-2 (0-1f); J O’Loughlin, P McMahon, M Timmons & R Munnelly (free) 0-1 each.

WEXFORD: A Masterson; N Murphy, P Wallace, B Malone; A Morrissey, D Murphy, C Morris (capt.); T Howlin, B Doyle; R Barry, E Bradley, A Flynn; C Lyng, M Forde, P.J Banville.

Subs: D Walsh for N Murphy (44); S Roche for Flynn (56); R Stafford for Howlin (63); C Byrne for Doyle (inj., 67).

LAOIS: M Nolan; M Timmons, J Higgins, C Healy; T Kelly, D Rooney (capt.), P McMahon; K Meaney, J O’Loughlin; R Munnelly, B McCormack, B Sheehan; M.J Tierney, C Parkinson, P Lawlor.

Subs: P Clancy for Meaney (15); P O’Leary for McCormack (inj 26); B Quigley for Sheehan (second half); D Brennan for Tierney (54); C Kelly (Stradbally) for Lawlor (57).

Referee: R Hickey (Clare).

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