Wexford hang on in blast from past

Louth 1-15 Wexford 2-13

Wexford hang on in blast from past

This was championship football as we remember it from childhood. A game that lacked only paper hats and Micheal O’Hehir on the commentary.

No sweepers here, nor massed defensive ranks, just 15 on 15 old-fashioned football where goalkeepers sent kickouts long and high rather than low and near and the excitement levels bucked and swayed from first minute to last.

It was very much a blast from the past for the Louth supporters who availed of the opportunity to watch their county play a Leinster Championship tie at Droghed’a Gaelic Grounds for the first time since 1998 and, with a ten-point defeat of Laois already tucked under their belts, the home support made for an expectant mass.

But Wexford were no strangers to the place.

Aidan O’Brien’s side had ventured up the east coast only last March and left again with victory after that Division 2 clash. That, too, had come after a decent Louth performance in Portlaoise, but it was Wexford’s last win until yesterday.

The scoreline bears testimony to the slim margins that separated this pair but what it hides is the disparity between the counties either side of the interval, with Wexford sailing smoothly in the first and baling water furiously in the second.

The fact that the wind was in their favour for the first of those periods was no coincidence. Balmy as the day seemed to be from the stand, flags flapped steadily down through the ground and it coloured the game accordingly.

If there was one reason Wexford won and Louth didn’t it had to be the midfield. Louth’s central axis had little trouble in bettering their Laois opponents but Daithí Waters and Rory Qunlivan were a different proposition.

Both are massive men and they secured and supplied ball with regularity while Paddy Keenan drifted for the most on the periphery and Brian Donnelly was called ashore with over 20 minutes still to play.

Brian White, a man with a midfielder’s frame and experience, fared better from his nominal station at centre-forward, and claimed six points on the day, but Louth’s chief threat was the man in front of him.

It was Shane Lennon who landed the first real blow of the afternoon when he collected Derek Crilly’s long ball six minutes in, turned Graeme Molloy and found the net despite the suspicion that he had taken one or two steps too many.

Unfortunately for Louth, Wexford cottoned on to the preplanned supply of diagonal balls in to the number 14 and Louth had no Plan B even though Derek Maguire was giving Lee Chin some trouble in the corner.

Their rearguard patched up, Wexford began to make inroads further forward where Ben Brosnan was orchestrating matters effectively, having dropped deep from his starting berth close to goal, but all six Wexford forwards contributed.

Louth’s goal had been cancelled out as soon as the 19th minute and Wexford were already a point ahead when Ciaran Lyng scored a goal from all of 30 metres out which will be hard to better from here to September.

By half-time their buffer had expanded to five points, but Louth were livid on the restart when referee Fergal Kelly stopped play for a foul on Andy McDonnell when the wing-forward was through and about to feed an unmarked Lennon.

That said, the point from White’s resulting free set the tone for a half that would see Wexford’s lead shrink inexorably as the lack of match fitness, the conditions and a home side growing in confidence conspired against them.

So too did their own hesitancy.

Wexford continued to harvest possession but their use of it was killing them and crossfield passing and running betrayed their nervousness in a period where they would score only four times compared to Louth’s ten.

The crucial difference was that one of the flags Wexford raised was green and it owed a great deal to fortune as Shane Roche’s point attempt rebounded off an upright and fell to PJ Banville who found the net from six yards out.

There were 30 minutes still to go and, with seven points the margin, Wexford seemed home and hosed. Instead, Louth peeled off seven of the next eight points and only fell one point — and one man — short with John O‘Brien shown red in injury time.

Scorers for Louth: S Lennon (1-5, 0-3 frees), B White (0-6, 3fs), P Keenan (0-2), A McDonnell, D Maguire (0-1 each).

Scorers for Wexford: C Lyng ((1-3, 1f), B Brosnan (0-5f), PJ Banville 1-0), A Flynn, A Doyle, R Barry, J Holmes, P Byrne (0-1 each).

Subs for Louth: C Judge for Byrne (42), P Smith for Donnelly (48), R Carroll for Rafferty (53), J McEneaney for Judge (67).

Subs for Wexford: S Roche for Barry (47), P Byrne for Doyle (58), C Carty for Holmes (62), R Tierney for Chin (63), K Gore for Waters (68).

Referee: F Kelly (Longford).

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