Longford dominated so much of the game and in centre-back Michael Quinn, had the game’s outstanding figure. They wasted numerous goal opportunities – Brian Kavanagh, Paul Barden and Paul Kelly all had gilt-edged opportunities – and that was to prove critical in the end.
As expected, Ciarán Lyng was ruled out with a leg injury and with David Murphy and Aindreas Doyle also absent, one wondered if Wexford would have the players to cope with these losses.
Ryan introduced five substitutes though and he felt their influence was crucial as Wexford finished so strongly in the final ten minutes.
“Of the team that got to the All-Ireland semi-final in 2008 there’s just one player who is still playing in the same position and that’s Anthony Masterson in goal,” revealed the Wexford boss.
“We have an awful lot of new faces. Coming into the game today we had five guys who would normally be starting or pushing for places so that’s a big, big blow.
“We were still able to bring on players though who made a big, big difference.”
“Colm Morris, Joe Wadding, Paddy Byrne and James Homes all made a big, big difference when they came into the game.”
Unsurprisingly, Glenn Ryan was disconsolate, still struggling to believe his men hadn’t continued what has been a brilliant season for them so far.
“That was very, very hard to take. I just feel bad for the lads,” said the Kildare native.
“It’s a gutter because we should have won it. We had the chances. They kicked some fantastic scores. But the lads can be very, very proud of themselves.”
Barden burst out of the traps with two quick points and finished the first half with three. Brian Kavanagh added two very good scores as well and with defenders, Quinn and Shane Mulligan also on the mark, Longford went in at the break leading by 0-8 to 1-4.
Kavanagh wasted a very good goal chance when dragging a shot wide and with Barry having planted a low shot to the corner of the Longford net in the ninth minute, that was to prove critical.
Longford continued to hold the upperhand for most of the second half, although Ben Brosnan and Shane Roche were more of a threat for the victors than had been the case prior to that.
Barden shot wide with only Anthony Masterson to beat, having been sent through by McCormack, while Paul Kelly blasted inches over just before that.
Having wasted so much ball, McCormack suddenly burst into life, winning and converting frees while also kicking a couple of excellent scores from play.
His 55th minute score under huge pressure from Niall Murphy, who was subsequently replaced, put four points between the sides but from the 59th minute, Wexford embarked on that match-stealing run.
It began with a Brosnan free from 44m and was quickly followed up by Roche. McCormack fisted over after skinning Joey Wadding but that 61st minute effort was Longford’s last score.
A minute later, the remarkable Quinn pulled off a brilliant block on Brosnan with the goal gaping and when Brosnan sent the resultant 45 wide, you felt that Longford might hold on.
But Brosnan converted another free before last week’s five-point hero, Adrian Flynn – who had been blotted out brilliantly by Donal McElligott until then — popped up with his first score of the game to reduce the margin to one.
Brosnan brought the sides level for the first time since the 35th minute when after winning a break he carried the ball inside the 45 before shooting over on the run.
That set the stage for Barry, who created space brilliantly before curling over a wonderful right-footed effort.
Scorers for Wexford: S Roche 0-5 (2fs), R Barry 1-2, B Brosnan 0-4 (2fs), A Flynn, PJ Banville 0-1 each.
Scorers for Longford: S McCormack 0-6 (4fs), P Barden 0-4, B Kavanagh 0-2, M Quinn, S Mulligan, P Kelly 0-1 each.
Subs for Wexford: P Byrne for Quinlivan (47), C Morris for Carty (47), J Leacy for Bradley (53), J Wadding for Murphy (58), J Holmes for Tierney (64).
Subs for Longford: P McCormack for N Mulligan (ht), P Kelly for D Barden (45), J McGivney for McElligott (63), P Foy for S Mulligan (67).
Referee: C Lane (Cork)