Laois 0-19 Wexford 5-12
The final scoreline flattered Wexford at Nowlan Park this afternoon as the Model County ensured their Division 1B survival against Laois.
The talismanic Willie Hyland gave Laois an early four-point advantage as Wexford struggled to make any impact in this relegation play-off.
But they registered the game’s first goal through Jack Guiney, and a soft second from Paul Morris gave Liam Dunne’s side a 2-7 to 0-10 interval lead.
Further goals from Guiney (2) and David Redmond settled the issue, although Laois, who were too reliant on Hyland for scores, were the better team for long spells.
Wexford were easy 4-18 to 0-15 winners when they met the midlanders in the last round of the league a fortnight ago, with Morris, Guiney and Rory Jacob getting the goals.
But Laois, showing nine personnel changes from that game, were much more competitive in today’s win-or-bust encounter.
The O’Moore men had the breeze behind them in the first half and got off to a strong start, with captain Hyland converting three early frees.
Chris Murray and Sean Burke, with a terrific long range effort, also added points as Laois broke into a 0-5 to 0-1 lead.
Guiney lobbed over Wexford’s opener from a free but missed a second shot from a tight angle in the 12th minute, with the returning Cahir Healy keeping the dangerous Morris quiet.
Guiney was back on target after Joe Fitzpatrick was yellow carded, and Laois net minder Eoin Reilly was equal to Guiney’s close-in free when he went for goal.
The resulting ‘65’ was converted by Guiney to make it 0-5 to 0-3 and as Wexford’s general play improved, Harry Kehoe struck their third successive point.
Hyland was quick to respond for the underdogs, although both attacks were guilty of missing opportunities with only Hyland and Laois midfielder James Walsh really standing out.
Guiney did the donkey work for Wexford’s fifth point which he finished off himself, and a clever move put Jacob through for his first of the afternoon.
As the pace quickened, Walsh drove forward to claim a deserved score and substitute PJ Nolan responded for Wexford to leave it 0-8 to 0-7.
From the very next attack, Morris took advantage of a slip by Healy to set up Guiney for a 29th-minute goal and suddenly the Model men were ahead.
Worse followed for Laois just moments later as Reilly failed to connect with a long ball in from Jacob, and Morris got the slightest of touches to help it into the net.
Laois answered back just before the break with Murray driving over from 60 metres out and Hyland’s sixth score - another placed ball - left just three points between the sides.
However, Laois’ task grew considerably more difficult in the opening minutes of the second half as Guiney waltzed through to take his tally to 2-4.
Morris added a point soon after and suddenly Laois were 3-8 to 0-10 adrift. Hyland, as ever, rallied his side with a pointed free.
Clearly fired up by their manager Dunne’s half-time words, Wexford began to motor as Diarmuid Lyng pointed from a sideline cut and Jacob and Harry Kehoe added further points.
The fit-again Healy broke forward to put his name on the scoresheet and his defensive colleague Michael McEvoy did likewise, cutting the deficit back to 3-11 to 0-13.
Hyland popped over two frees and Conor Dunne also scored to make it five in a row for Teddy McCarthy’s battling charges, and Wexford were looking sluggish once again.
They took their second half wides tally to seven as Laois put the pressure on. Substitute Neil Foyle was fouled for a penalty but Hyland’s driven effort was flicked over the crossbar by goalkeeper Eanna Martin.
It was a real turning point for Wexford. Their nerves abated shortly afterwards when midfielder Redmond banged home their fourth and most important goal of the day.
A subsequent point from Jacob extended the lead to 4-12 to 0-17, and Laois’ lack of a goal-scoring threat was all too obvious at this stage.
Had Hyland tucked away the penalty, they might have had enough momentum to cause a shock and send Wexford down to Division 2A.
As it turned out, they remained goalless and Redmond’s strike ended the game as a contest.
Hyland landed his second superb sideline cut and Murray hit Laois’ final point, but only after Guiney had completed his hat-trick of goals profiting from another Morris assist.