Following their defeat to Offaly in round five, which saw the Slaneysiders rooted to the bottom of the table without a point to their credit, their survival act has been miraculous. They followed up the victory over Cork by coming from behind yesterday, having trailed throughout, to earn a draw that was greeted like a win by the large crowd of Wexford supporters in the attendance of just over 4,000.
For Wexford manager Colm Bonnar, it was a massive point, with the Tipperary native having feared for the future of Wexford hurling if they had gone back to Division 2 just one year after coming up.
He said: “The prize if we got something from the game was to stay in Division 1. It was in our hands and I think we wanted it a bit more in the end. When push came to shove in the last six or seven minutes, the lads sensed they could get something from it.
“It would have been heart-breaking if we walked away from here after losing by a point after putting in the performances we did over the last couple of games.”
Bonnar added: “It was a big ask but we knew our backs were to the wall and had to get something out of the Cork game and the Tipp game.
“Ultimately it had to be a win against Cork to have some hope coming here and you can see the lads gave it everything and responded to whatever Tipp threw at them.”
At one point in the second half Tipperary looked set to reach the league final when they led by four points, with both Galway and Dublin trailing in their games, but they struggled to shake off the lethargy of the performance which disappointed manager Declan Ryan.
“When you start off like that, it’s very hard to get out of it and we never got out of it today but Wexford had greater motivation and battled harder than we did. It was about who wanted to win most and Wexford had more to play for,” he said.
There was more worrying injury news for Tipperary after All-Star midfielder Shane McGrath.
He was carried from the pitch inside the opening minute of the second half having picked up a leg injury at the throw-in, with Declan Ryan saying McGrath will undergo a scan to determine the severity of the injury.
Wexford’s hopes of earning a positive result looked even bleaker as Tipp were four points to the good after six minutes, the home side’s speed and movement overwhelming the Wexford defence. But gradually Wexford worked their way into the game and with Keith Rossiter and the excellent Lar Prendergast leading the way, they started to gain a foothold.
John O’Brien was in inspired form for Tipperary and two first-half points from the Toomevara man, allied to three from midfielder James Woodlock — in his first start since a broken leg in October 2009, helped his side into a 0-11 to 0-6 half-time lead.
Wexford’s revival began immediately after half time, with points from Jim Berry (2) and Rory Jacob reducing the deficit to two points.
To their credit, they stayed on Tipp’s coat-tails, responding each time when the home side went three or four points in front.
Rory Jacob’s fourth point from play with four minutes to go reduced the margin to two again and you sensed the great escape was on. They did all the pressing late on and only a great block by Padraic Maher denied Stephen Banville a goal in the final minute, although the green flag wasn’t long in coming.
Banville was denied superbly by Brendan Cummins but sub Willie Doran forced home the rebound to put Wexford in front. Pa Bourke converted an injury-time 65 to deny Wexford the win but the draw was enough to ensure they will meet tipp in the league next year.
Tipperary scorers: P Bourke 0-6 (3f, 1 65); J O’Brien 0-4; J Woodlock 0-3; N McGrath 0-2; M Heffernan, S Carey 0-1 each.
Subs: G Ryan for S McGrath 36, P Murphy for Carey 44, J O’Keeffe for Connolly 47, J O’Neill for Heffernan 62
Wexford scorers: J Berry 0-5 (3f), R Jacob 0-4, W Doran 1-0, G Sinnott, H Kehoe, PJ Nolan, S Banville, C Farrell 0-1 each.
Subs: C Farrell for Quigley 49, B Doyle for Sinnott 52, W Doran for Kehoe 68, N Kirwan for Berry 70, M Jacob for Nolan 70.