So, the heather continues to blaze and there’s no mystery about the identity of the man who set it aflame. From attracting 3,000 to Bunclody for a Walsh Cup match on the first Sunday of the year to gaining promotion, to securing a place in the league semi-finals: Davy Fitz’s honeymoon in Wexford isn’t over just yet and it may not be for a while.
And yes, this was the county’s first win in the competition at Nowlan Park against the old enemy since October 1957. Depending on the average Wexford supporter’s viewpoint, that will have been either further cause for satisfaction — the cup that runneth over — or merely an interesting footnote.
Whatever way you’re having it yourself. Nobody’s going to object.
Readers who weren’t there yesterday may have been taken aback by the outcome.
Readers who were among the 14,568 attendance — proof, not that it were needed, of the excitement and colour a successful Wexford bring to the scene — will not have been. The visitors were worth every point of their winning margin and more besides. Much more.
Consider this. Kilkenny’s best performer by a mile was Eoin Murphy, who pulled off no fewer than four saves that fell into the very-good-to-absolutely-blinding category. The first came as early as the opening minute, when he was equal to a bullet from Conor McDonald that zipped through a ruck of players and could only have been seen at the last moment. The second, at close range from David Redmond in the 22nd minute, was rub-your-eyes stuff. On the three-quarter mark, Murphy rushed off his line to block a shot from the ubiquitous McDonald, who’d been left alone in front of goal by Wexford’s neat support play, a feature of their second-half work.
Now, you agree that the better team won and should have won by more?
“We’re going to enjoy today,” Davy declared afterwards. “It’s great to have days like this. No matter if it’s only a league quarter-final, Wexford people have been waiting to have a day like this for a while. I’m delighted for them and delighted for the lads.”
The winners landed the first heavy blow five minutes before half-time when Aidan Nolan burst through from midfield and found David Dunne, who blasted home from near enough to point-blank distance. After Colin Fennelly had quite possibly the most obvious penalty claim in history turned down on being upended by Mark Fanning soon afterwards, the protagonists went in level, 1-7 to 0-10.
Wexford were entitled to be happy. The house hadn’t fallen in; they hadn’t conceded a goal or even a goalscoring opportunity; and they hadn’t been unduly defensive either, with the deployment of Shaun Murphy to sweep in front of the full-back line the height of it when it came to tactical wheezes. In short, they’d come to hurl a match rather than strangle one.
With the wind behind them they restarted with four of the second half’s first six scores. Now, they led by 1-11 to 0-12, and in Davy Land a two-point advantage can be as useful as an eight-point advantage.
The visitors kept plenty of bodies back — for a fleeting moment they only had one man in the opposition half of the field — and invited their opponents to negotiate a way through.
Not for the first time when faced with a packed defence, a team of Brian Cody’s behaved as though stricken by a glance from Medusa.
And Wexford also had Conor McDonald, who was well nigh unstoppable and received intelligent, ground-devouring support from Lee Chin. A collector’s item of a point from McDonald in the 48th minute, when he took down the sliotar from on high and lofted a gorgeous score, suggested the tide was turning purple and gold.
The same man made things safe in the last minute when touching home a long-range Fanning free.
A shock result? Yes, but what a delightfully pleasant shock.
TJ Reid 0-10 (0-9 frees); L Blanchfield 0-3; O Walsh 0-2; P Deegan, C Buckley, W Walsh and R Hogan 0-1 each.
C McDonald 1-8 (0-4 frees); P Morris 0-3; L Chin 0-3 (0-1 free); D Dunne 1-0; M Fanning 0-2 (frees); D O’Keeffe and D Redmond 0-1 each.
E Murphy; P Murphy, P Walsh, S Prendergast; L Ryan, J Cleere, P Deegan; C Buckley, O Walsh; C Fennelly, W Walsh, TJ Reid; L Blanchfield, R Hogan, C Martin.
JJ Farrell for Ryan (49).
M Fanning; W Devereux, L Ryan, J Breen; D Reck, M O’Hanlon, D O’Keeffe; A Nolan, S Murphy; C McDonald, D Redmond, J O’Connor; P Morris, L Chin, D Dunne.
J Guiney for Redmond (52); H Kehoe for O’Connor (59); B Carton for Morris (69); A Maddock for Nolan (71).
A Kelly (Galway).