Wexford come from 11 points behind to beat Meath

Meath 2-13 Wexford 2-14

Meath 2-13 Wexford 2-14

Wexford secured their place in the Leinster SFC semi-finals thanks to arguably the greatest comeback in the history of the football championship.

This afternoon's quarter-final clash at Dr Cullen Park was dominated by Meath in the opening half.

Playing some fine football and helped by goals from Stephen Bray and Graham Geraghty, the Royals led by 2-08 to 0-04 at the break.

However, Jason Ryan's Wexford side, displaying the sort of spirit that saw them outlast Fermanagh in last month's NFL Division 3 final, launched a superb second-half comeback.

Meath completely lost their shape, they were not helped by the sending-off of midfielder Mark Ward and also had a disallowed goal from Joe Sheridan.

Wexford clawed their way back into the tie with goals from Redmond Barry and PJ Banville and, in a dramatic finish, two late points from the mercurial Matty Forde saw them pull through.

It is the fifth successive year that Wexford have reached Leinster's last-four - ironically they will face Laois at Croke Park on June 22.

The Model county's championship charge came off the rails against Laois last summer when they lost 1-13 to 0-13 at the semi-final stage.

Speaking after the final whistle, Wexford boss Ryan, who is in his first season in charge, said: "It's an amazing feeling. The guys put in a brilliant performance and I hope now that they get the credit they deserve.

"This a good Wexford team, they've beaten some good sides this season. Their ability (is second to none).

"They have been there or thereabouts over the last few years and it shows. We are going to do everything in our power to get a good performance against Laois in three weeks' time."

This was Wexford's fifth straight win over Meath but Colm Coyle's charges played all the football in the first half, with Ryan left frustrated by his side's 'poor marking, poor kick-outs and an attack that never got going.'

Wexford goalkeeper Anthony Masterson struggled with his kick-outs and with Ward and Brian Meade garnering a plentiful supply of ball around centre-field, Meath were quick out of the traps.

Championship debutant Masterson had to be on his toes in the first-minute to deny Sheridan a smash-and-grab goal.

Wexford registered early points through Redmond Barry and Ciaran Lyng but Meath raced ahead thanks to a scoring burst of 1-04 during a devastating ten-minute spell.

Points from Cian Ward, Alan Nestor, Peadar Byrne and Bray sandwiched Meath's opening goal in the 26th-minute, which saw Bray blast past Philip Wallace and find the net after a sublime long range pass from Ward.

Meath's second major followed just before the break when Sheridan found Geraghty on the edge of the square and the 1999 All-Ireland-winning captain rolled the ball past Masterson with a peach of a finish.

But something seemed to click for Wexford between half-time and the start of the second half. They kicked a succession of points - four to a single effort from Meath - as Paddy Colfer, Forde and Banville all raised white flags.

Meath kept a good bit of distance between the sides with points from Byrne and Sheridan, yet Wexford soon edged closer with Barry netting after a pass from substitute Shane Roche.

The gap was down to six points when Forde beat his man Cormac McGill and knocked over a sublime score.

The Kilanerin attacker then passed for Banville to fire home his goal and make it a three-point game. The Wexford supporters in the 10,000-strong crowd roared their approval.

Disaster struck for Meath as Ward's dismissal for his second bookable offence was sandwiched by Wexford points from Roche and his fellow substitute Adrian Morrissey.

Forde levelled with his third point of the afternoon and then produced the winner with what is sure to be one of the most-talked about points in Wexford GAA history.

MEATH: M Ahern; C O'Connor, D Fay, C McGill; E Harrington, K Reilly, C King; B Meade, M Ward (0-01); A Nestor (0-02), C Ward (0-02, 0-02f), P Byrne (0-03); S Bray (1-02), J Sheridan (0-03), G Geraghty (1-00).

Subs used: B Farrell for Nestor (half-time), A Moyles for Meade (52 mins), D Sheridan for J Sheridan (68), S O'Rourke for Farrell (70).

WEXFORD: A Masterson; C Morris (capt) (0-01), P Wallace, B Malone; N O'Sullivan, D Murphy, N Murphy; R Stafford, E Bradley; PJ Banville (1-01), R Barry (1-01), A Flynn; C Lyng (0-04, 0-02f), P Colfer (0-01), M Forde (0-04, 0-01f).

Subs used: T Howlin for O'Sullivan, A Morrissey (0-01) for Stafford (both half-time), D Walsh for N Murphy (39 mins), S Roche (0-01) for Flynn (42), C Byrne for Bradley (65).

Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois)

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