Wexford must step up another level

Wexford needed three goals in a devastating five-minute second-half spell to cast aside a determined Carlow at Wexford Park on Saturday.

Carlow posed lots of questions and the Barrowsiders deserve credit for the way they took the game to Wexford, putting them under considerable pressure for more than 40 minutes. But three quick goals spelt disaster and allowed Wexford the cushion they badly needed.

In the opening 40 minutes Wexford moved the ball well and while the defence tackled in numbers their dreadful finishing looked like coming back to haunt them.

Over the course of 70 minutes they struck 17 wides, compared to six for their opponents, a statistic that will not have gone unnoticed by Liam Dunne.

Add to that, Carlow were short a number of regulars and it was surprising to see Wexford struggle. They were making little impression on the Carlow defence until they hit an inspired patch between the 42nd and 47th minutes when they crashed home three goals.

Wexford had never looked comfortable until that flourish and were struggling to avoid a repeat of that league upset two seasons back as Carlow’s grit and determination was having an unsettling effect on their play. While the end result may have been no more than they deserved, a huge improvement is needed as they now go in with the big guns to decide which sides qualify for the All-Ireland series.

Marty Kavanagh’s fifth-minute pointed free settled Carlow and the same player repeated the trick three minutes later. It took Wexford 11 minutes to register their opening score, a long David Redmond point from midfield.

When a Harry Kehoe effort had the sides level 0-2 each after 13 minutes, one expected the home side to drive on.

But the favourites’ tag was not sitting easily on them, as they failed to settle in what was a nervy start.

Kavanagh, two frees, and Rory Jacob exchanged two points apiece, but it was only a superb double save from home keeper Eanna Martin that kept Wexford in it. He first denied Marty Kavanagh when he was clear in on goal and Craig Doyle from the rebound at the expense of a fruitless 65.

Carlow continued to take the game to Wexford with the sides still deadlocked at 0-5 each, before Wexford took the lead for the first time on 31 minutes. Sub Jack Guiney had two efforts blocked down but Rory Jacob, who had threatened on his move to full-forward, was alert to first-time a ground shot to the net.

Andrew Gaul responded with a Carlow point, while Kavanagh pointed a free, but Wexford finished off a dreadful opening half with points from Richie Kehoe and Garrett Sinnott, to lead 1-7 to 0-7.

But it was a half that revealed Wexford had a huge task ahead of them playing into the second-half breeze.

Both sides strove to take the initiative as the mistake count increased. Carlow needed a good start and Kavanagh pointed a free, but Wexford were gradually building. Lyng and Kavanagh exchanged points, but the game swung Wexford’s way with those three quick goals.

Needing inspiration, sub Eoin Quigley put Jack Guiney in for a goal, while four minutes later Gary Moore found the net from an acute angle. From the puck-out Rory Jacob cut through the defence to place the ball into the opposite corner for a 4-8 to 0-10 lead. Until then it had looked as if Carlow were on the verge of creating an upset.

Wexford went on the control the closing 15 minutes but their failure to convert chances was just part of their error-ridden 70 minutes that will be a source of concern to Liam Dunne.

Scorers for Wexford: R Jacob 2-3, J Guiney, G Moore 1-0 each; D Lyng 0-5, (4f), R Kehoe, D Redmond, G Sinnott, H Kehoe 0-1 each.

Scorers for Carlow: M Kavanagh 0-8 (7f); A Gaul 0-2, D English, R Coady (1f), M Brennan, A McDonald 0-1 each.

Subs for Wexford: J Guiney for Morris (28), E Quigley for Nolan (ht), G Moore for O’Keeffe (ht) S Banville for H Kehoe (65), L Óg McGovern for Redmond (67).

Subs for Carlow: R Smithers for Gaul (50), A McDonald for Doyle (57), J Kane for J Kavanagh (59); B Treacy for Foley (63).

Referee: A Stapleton (Laois).

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