Wexford hadn’t beaten Offaly in a competitive league or championship fixture at a Faithful County venue since 1973 going into yesterday’s clash but, from the moment Jack Guiney’s deflected shot agonisingly crept over the line in the 20th minute, the Slaneysiders were always in complete control of this tie and never looked in any danger of getting nabbed by their hosts.
“Jack’s goal was probably the winning of the game for us,” said Wexford manager Liam Dunne afterwards.
“We created three or four chances in that half and that was the only one we took. But it gave us that leeway at half time with a four point lead after playing against a strong breeze.” Offaly doggedly hung on the coat-tails of their opponents throughout the majority of the second half but they found themselves heavily outnumbered close to goal, with the result that they scored just one point from play after the break. Wexford failed to take advantage of that however, largely due to their inability to convert their dominance in general play into scores. Liam Dunne’s men struck 17 wides in total, 14 while playing with the wind, and understandably it was that lack of killer instinct that was Dunne’s biggest concern.
“Of course I was concerned that we didn’t kick on more with the opportunities we had,” he said. “We hit five wides in two minutes at one stage, which at this level is not good enough, but it gives us something to work on. We don’t come up here too often and get victories and I’m delighted that we won the game.”
Offaly led by the odd point in seven with 15 minutes on the clock and had done enough to suggest that they had successfully carried their form from their opening round win in Portlaoise into this tie. The game turned in the five minutes after that, however, as Wexford posted 1-2 without reply, all thanks to their inside forward duo of Jack Guiney and Liam Óg McGovern, who were given acres of space by Offaly’s decision to follow substitute Kevin Foley out the field.
After picking off a point each to put Wexford in front, McGovern set up Guiney 20 yards out from goal. The full-forward’s shot was initially parried by James Dempsey in the Offaly goal but, by a matter of inches, the sliothar crept over the line before the Kinnitty custodian could scramble back and sweep it clear.
Offaly remained four points adrift at half time but were put under added pressure when teenage substitute Cillian Kiely received a straight red card for striking Kevin Foley five minutes after half-time.
Due to Wexford’s profligacy and some strong performances by players like Seán Ryan, Emmett Nolan and Colin Egan in the middle third, Offaly trailed by just 1-12 to 0-12 with 10 minutes to play, but Wexford cut loose in the closing stages with points from David Redmond, Liám Óg McGovern and a close-range goal from Podge Doran.
“The sending-off was definitely a big factor coming into the last seven or eight minutes,” was the view of Offaly manager Brian Whelahan.
“We had a lot of tired bodies out on the field trying to make up ground. We still remained very positive with regard to the type of game we wanted to play but obviously when we went down to 14 men, it was going to be very tough.”
Scorers for Offaly: S Dooley 0-8 (six frees, one 65), J Bergin 0-3, S Kinsella 0-1.
Scorers for Wexford: J Guiney 1-3 (three frees), L Óg McGovern 0-5, D Redmond 0-4, P Doran 1-0, D Waters, K Foley, I Byrne 0-1 each.
OFFALY: J Dempsey; S Egan, D Shortt, N Wynne; E Nolan, C Egan, D Mooney; S Ryan, P Camon; P Murphy, S Kinsella, D Currams; S Dooley, J Bergin, S Quirke. Subs: C Kiely for Quirke (25), S Cleary for Murphy (43), G Mann for Kinsella (59), C Mulrooney for Ryan (68).
WEXFORD: M Fanning; L Ryan, M O’Hanlon, C Kenny; P Foley, L Chin, E Moore; D Redmond, E Martin; I Byrne, D Waters, D O’Keeffe; P Morris, J Guiney, L Óg McGovern. Subs: K Foley for Morris (9), P Doran for Waters (50), H Kehoe for Martin (50), J Kelly for O’Keeffe (60), S Tomkins for Byrne (65).
Referee: F Horgan (Tipperary)