Wexford 0-20 Clare 1-13
By Brendan O’Brien, Innovate Wexford Park
Davy Fitzgerald’s Wexford put paid to his native county’s perfect start to Division 1A of the Allianz Hurling League on Sunday afternoon courtesy of an impressive and dominant second-half performance.
Trailing by a point at the break, Wexford now join Clare on six points in the standings and, with any fears of relegation now firmly abandoned, they can plan ahead instead to a league quarter-final.
Not a bad day for them, then.
Both sides had a handful of players doubling up after Fitzgibbon Cup duties the day before. Paudie Foley, who put in 47 minutes for DCU on Saturday in that colleges decider, lined out here at wing-back for Wexford and a couple of college buddies started on the bench.
For Clare, Conor Cleary was in situ at full-back having raised the cup with UL the day before. Tony Kelly, who scored a point for Gary Kirby’s Limerick outfit, took his place among the Clare reserves in front of a crowd of 7,800.
There was no lack of commitment and bite in a game which saw Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald face his native county but both sides, despite their impressive openings to the season, struggled for fluency and accuracy.
Misplaced passes were commonplace and bunching a blight on what was as good a February day as you will get for a game of hurling. By the break, both sides had registered eight wides with Clare leading by eight points to seven.
Wexford’s scores came largely in clusters of two, Clare spread theirs out more evenly with John Colon hitting three from play and Peter Duggan doing damage from place balls. Wexford relied on four from the deck from Lee Chin to keep them in touch.
What the game needed badly was a goal but the half passed without a sniff of one. Or even a chance. The only attempt at the nets came from Wexford’s Aidan Nolan from the sort of angle and under the sort of pressure that made a point the more logical step.
Goalmouth action was still on the rationing list on the restart but the quality of the entertainment was much more appealing, especially so for Wexford supporters who watched their side claim eight of the next nine scores.
Chin had been replaced at the interval but the man who came on in his place was 19-year old Rory O’Connor. Just back from injury, the teenager stole the show with four points from play to leave Wexford with a comfortable stroll home.
Even Duggan’s last-minute goal from a free couldn’t change that.
R O’Connor (0-4); L Chin (0-4, 3f and 1 ‘65’); M Fanning (0-3f); P Foley, C McDonald and K Foley (all 0-2); J O’Connor, C Dunbar (both 0-1); P Morris (0-1f).
P Duggan (1-7, 1-6f and 0-1 ‘65’); J Conlon (0-4); D McInerney and S O’Donnell (both 0-1).
M Fanning; D Reck, L Ryan, C Firman; P Foley, M O’Hanlon, D O’Keeffe; K Foley, A Nolan; J O’Connor, C McDonald, S Murphy; L Chin, D Dunne, P Morris.
Subs: R O’Connor for Chin (HT); C Dunbar for Morris (58); H Kehoe for Dunne (60); A Maddock for Murphy (66).
Clare: D Tuohy; J McCarthy, C Cleary, J Browne; S Morey, D McInerney, M O’Malley; C Galvin, C Malone; N Deasy, J Conlon, D Reidy; S O’Donnell, P Duggan, P Collins.
Subs: M O’Regan for Galvin (35+2); D Corry for Deasy (HT); G O’Connell for McCarthy (56); M O’Neill for Collins (60); D Ryan for Morey (69).
C Lyons (Cork).