Offaly 0-15 Wexford 1-17
This afternoon’s five-point win over Offaly at O’Connor Park won’t be remembered as one of the better Wexford performances during this year’s Allianz NHL Division 1B campaign.
However, it will go down as the result that secured the Slaneysiders’ return to the top division of the league for the first time since 2011.
A final tally of 16 wides, six shots dropped short in the second half and two good goal chances spurned will no doubt feature prominently when David Fitzgerald and his management team sits down to review this afternoon’s action at Tullamore, however they will be far more pleased with their defensive work, not least the manner in which they restricted Offaly to just six points from play, including just one Oisín Kelly strike after half time.
With a strong wind blowing down the ground, it looked as if Wexford’s 1-7 to 0-8 interval advantage represented a solid foundation, from which the visitors would build a comprehensive victory. Offaly took some time to find their feet and were guilty of sending a series of blind deliveries in the general direction of the opposition goal, where they were easily mopped up by the Wexford defenders.
They did pick out a couple of excellent scores, not least Shane Dooley’s only point from play which was very well set up by a fine catch and delivery from Seán Ryan, but Wexford looked far more methodical in their hurling and seemed far more interested in finding a colleague with their striking, rather than simply hitting the sliothar as far as it would travel.
Paul Morris, David Redmond and Jack O’Connor were among the Wexford players that registered fine points from play in that opening period, however their key score came from Conor McDonald three minutes before the interval, when he soared above three other players to field Aaron Maddock’s high delivery and slam a low shot past James Dempsey.
The expected onslaught after half time never happened however as Offaly won some good possession at midfield and half back, while Wexford produced some shocking attempts on goal, striking just 0-9 from 25 attempts on goal.
On another day they might have paid for that profligacy but a magnificent penalty save from Mark Fanning to deny Shane Dooley after 47 minutes ensured that the home side always trailed by at least two points.
While Offaly were within striking distance as injury time loomed large, they never looked like creating another goal chance.
Instead they coughed up possession as they attempted to work the ball out of defence and allowed Diarmuid O’Keeffe, Aidan Nolan and David Dunne to pick off late points that wrapped up the win, and promotion to Division 1A in 2018.
Offaly supporters now need to hope that Wexford don’t ease off in a fortnight’s time as they’ll need the Slaneysiders to beat Laois, and to pick up a victory against Kerry in Tralee, to sneak into fourth spot and avoid a relegation playoff.
Wexford are two points clear of Galway in Division 1B, who saw off Kerry by 1-22 to 0-12, but are guaranteed to finish above them thanks to their head-to-head record.
Scorers for Offaly: S Dooley 0-10 (0-8f, 0-1 ’65), S Cleary 0-3, S Quirke & O Kelly 0-1 each.
Scorers for Wexford: C McDonald 1-6 (0-4f), P Morris, D O’Keefe & A Nolan 0-2 each, J O’Connor, D Redmond, L Chin, H Kehoe, D Dunne 0-1 each.
OFFALY: J Dempsey; P Rigney, M Cleary, P Delaney; D Morkan, D Shortt, S Gardiner; S Ryan, Aidan Treacy; J Mulrooney, C Kiely, O Kelly; S Dooley, S Quirke, S Cleary.
Subs: E Nolan for Ryan (25 – temp), D King for Delaney (31), Nolan for Mulrooney (HT), B Conneely for Ryan (40), P Geraghty for Cleary (61), T Carroll for Quirke (61).
WEXFORD: M Fanning; S Donohue, L Ryan, J Breen; D Reck, M O’Hanlon, D O’Keeffe; J O’Connor, A Maddock; D Redmond, L Chin, S Murphy; H Kehoe, C McDonald, P Morris.
Subs: A Nolan for Morris (8 – temp), Nolan for Maddock (47), D Dunne for O’Connor (21), J Guiney for Morris (56), B Carton for Redmond (60).
Referee: Cathal McAllister (Cork)