Carlow had been branded virtual no-hopers, but they set about confounding those predictions from the off.
In truth, they produced most of the quality hurling over the 70 minutes, only to lose their way on the home stretch.
Little surprise then that manager John Meyler cut a disconsolate figure at the final whistle. “I am shattered with the result, but proud of the display of the team,” he said. “We went into this game confident we could have delivered a result and we came mighty close.”
Having trailed for the majority of proceedings, Wexford battled back to level at 2-14 to 0-20 with five minutes remaining. Ciaran Kenny then nudged the home side ahead before a Jack Guiney free ensured a narrow, if unimpressive, win.
Manager Liam Dunne was far from pleased with Wexford’s display. “We got the result in the end but one could not be happy with the display. Whether the boys underestimated Carlow or what, that first half display was not acceptable.”
The underdogs enjoyed the early initiative, building a 0-5 to 0-2 lead by the end of the first quarter, with David English, Craig Doyle and Mark Brennan all finding the target.
When it looked as if Carlow were about to stretch away, Wexford pounced for the game’s opening goal. A Jack Guiney delivery was kept in play by corner-forward Padge Doran, who angled a wonderful shot into the net to tie proceedings.
Scores from John Michael Nolan, Craig Doyle and a long Jack Kavanagh effort, re-established Carlow’s advantage and while Guiney kept the Wexford scoreboard ticking over, the accurate English guided the visitors to a 0-13 to 1-6 interval lead.
The visitors, continued to pull the strings at the change of ends, with Eddie Byrne and English splitting the posts.
With Carlow ahead by 0-17 to 1-12, then arrived the key moment of the match. Carlow substitute James Doyle won possession to the right of goal, created space, but saw his shot go across the face of the goal and wide.
A goal at that juncture would surely have left Wexford with an almost unsurmountable challenge in the closing 15 minutes.
With the door still ajar, David Redmond crashed home a 58th minute goal and thereafter Wexford held their nerve to eke out the result.
Scorers for Wexford: J Guiney (0-11, 0-10 frees), D Redmond, P Doran (1-0 each), R Jacob (0-2), E Quigley, G Sinnott, C Kenny (0-1 each).
Scorers for Carlow: D English (0-10, 0-9 frees), C Doyle, JM Nolan (0-2 each), M Brennan, S Murphy, A Gaule, R Coady, J Kavanagh, E Byrne (0-1 each).
WEXFORD: M Fanning; E Moore, T Waters, B Kenny; R Kehoe, M O’Regan, C Kenny; H Kehoe, Shaun Murphy; J Guiney, G Sinnott, L Chin; P Morris, R Jacob, P Doran.
Wexford subs: D Redmond for Murphy (31); J Tonks for Regan (41); E Quigley for Kehoe (42); G Moore for Morris (57); C O’Shaughnessy for Chin (62).
CARLOW: F Foley; C McCabe, E Nolan, H P Byrne; D Byrne, R Coady (0-1), E Coady; J Kavanagh (0-1), D English (0-10, 9f); E Byrne (0-1), M Brennan (0-1), S Murphy (0-1); C Doyle (0-2), J M Nolan (0-2), A Gaule (0-1).
Carlow subs: M Kavanagh for Gaule (41); J Doyle for Nolan (55).
Referee: A Kelly (Galway).