Wexford stun Armagh to go into semi-finals



The Wexford fairytale continued at Croke Park this afternoon as smiling assassin Matty Forde put Armagh to the sword.

Scoring a brilliant late haul of 1-03, man-of-the-match Forde shot Wexford into an All-Ireland semi-final against either Dublin or Tyrone.

Three inspiring points from Ronan Clarke had Armagh holding the edge at half-time, leading by 0-06 to 0-05.

The Ulster champions still led going into the final 10 minutes, at 0-11 to 0-09, but the sharpshooting of Forde and Ciaran Lyng (0-05) helped the Models to a simply stunning win.

The managerial graph of one Jason Ryan just continues to rise. Somehow, the Waterford man has got his adopted county back on track after their Leinster final humbling at the hands of Dublin.

The quality of football in last weekend's qualifier defeat of Down may not have been anything to write home about and Ryan made certain that this was a much-improved display from his side.

Armagh, although now announcing it publicly, ventured south confident of securing an All-Ireland semi-final berth in Peter McDonnell's first season at the helm.

Paul McGrane and his team-mates looked to have done their homework when they kept Wexford scoreless for the first 18 minutes.

The counties' first ever championship meeting took its time in getting off the ground. Armagh hit three wides in the opening six minutes and, at the other end, former All-Star Forde looked to be struggling with a hamstring injury.

Ryan's side crowded their defence and Armagh also hunted in packs when they lost possession, so there was very little in the way of flowing football in the opening stages.

Nine minutes in, Stevie McDonnell pinged over a point for the game's opening score. Now settling, Armagh went 0-02 to 0-00 ahead when youngster Charlie Vernon clipped over a deserved point.

The Wexford defence was coming under an amount of pressure, with Clarke needing a lot of attention.

The sides shared the next four points as placed balls from Forde and Lyng got Wexford off the mark, and Aaron Kernan and Clarke replied for Armagh.

Lyng's free was superbly struck. Off the ground and nestled close to the right sideline, he bent the ball through the uprights to rally his colleagues.

Those efforts from play from Kernan and Clarke moved the northerners 0-04 to 0-02 ahead, yet Wexford showed their mettle when scoring the next three points.

Lyng popped over a free from a central position and then after a Brian Mallon shot had come down off the post, a sideline success from Forde and a PJ Banville score from play nudged the underdogs into the lead for the first time.

The busy Banville jinked and found enough space in the Armagh defence to fire over the lead point in the 30th-minute, after a good thrust forward by team captain Colm Morris.

Nonetheless, Armagh got on top again in the closing minutes of the first half.

Clarke showed his quality, three minutes before the break, when he shrugged off Brian Malone and split the posts with a huge, curling shot from the right.

That effort levelled the sides for a third time but Armagh were able to nip ahead when Malone misjudged the flight of a through ball, Clarke was there to gobble up possession and he pointed on the turn for a 0-06 to 0-05 advantage.

Wexford had more of the ball in the opening 35 minutes, yet it was not in areas that they could hurt Armagh in and Forde was really being limited to frees.

Ciaran Lyng, the younger brother of Wexford senior hurler Diarmuid Lyng, began to show his quality again from placed balls as the action resumed.

He levelled the sides for the fourth and fifth times, sandwiching an Aaron Kernan free with one of his own and a volleyed point from play.

Wexford's sudden purple patch ended with Forde hitting his first point from play. Trailing by 0-08 to 0-07, Armagh awoke from their second half slumber with successive points from Brian Mallon and the elusive McDonnell (0-02).

Mallon squared up the game with a well-taken point after a quick feed from Paddy McKeever.

A point on turn from McDonnell edged Armagh back in front and the same player powered ahead of David Walsh to land an excellent point from the left wing.

As the pace of the game and its quality began to improve, one wondered if a goal was to decide this quarter-final tie.

Neither goalkeeper had been tested over the first hour and with newcomer Collie Byrne and Kernan (free) trading points, Armagh were beginning to look comfortable.

Time was ticking on and Wexford certainly sensed this. Right on the hour mark, Redmond Barry cut the gap to a single point after swivelling onto his left foot.

Then came the goal and what timing from Wexford. 62 minutes into the fray and with Francie Bellew taking a breather, a floated ball in towards the Armagh square picked out Forde, who had stolen a march on the Armagh number 3.

Forde held his nerve as he confronted goalkeeper Paul Hearty and evaded his grasp as he tapped home low to the net.

Lyng's fifth point of the afternoon followed two minutes later and Wexford, with their supporters about to explode, were suddenly 1-11 to 0-11.

A Kernan free briefly reduced the arrears to two points but Armagh, despite some hefty shoulders, lacked the spark and imagination to mount a late comeback.

Barry rifled over a superb point off his right and Forde, the smiling and crest-clutching All-Star elect, finished off the job with two sublime points.

The second of which was struck from an impossible angle over his left shoulder and after he had mercilessly exposed Bellew again. What hamstring injury?

ARMAGH: P Hearty; E McNulty, F Bellew, F Moriarty; A Kernan (0-04, 0-03f), A O'Rourke, C McKeever; P McGrane (capt), K Toner; C Vernon (0-01), B Mallon (0-01), M O'Rourke; S McDonnell (0-03), R Clarke (0-03), S Kernan.

Subs used: P McKeever for S Kernan (47 mins), B Donaghy for Vernon (62), P Kernan for Moriarty (67), D McKenna for Toner (70+1).

WEXFORD: A Masterson; D Walsh, P Wallace, B Malone; A Morrissey, D Muphy, C Morris (capt); E Bradley, B Doyle; R Barry (0-02), P Colfer, C Byrne (0-01); C Lyng (0-05, 0-04f), PJ Banville (0-01), M Forde (1-05, 0-02f, 0-01 sl).

Subs used: C Deely for Morrissey, N Murphy for D Walsh (both 61 mins), R Stafford for Byrne (65), T Wall for Colfer (68), A Flynn for Doyle (70+3)

Referee: Paddy Russell (Tipperary)

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