When the final whistle sounded, Wexford supporters paused before a huge cheer greeted their dramatic comeback having pulled off one of the great escapes at Wexford Park yesterday.
Nine points adrift, 2-20 to 0-17, with seven minutes remaining, five points with four minutes to go, last year’s minor star Jack Guiney then blazed a 21m free to the net and Wexford just about escaped.
“Credit to our lads they never stopped fighting and competing,” said Wexford selector Murty Dempsey.
“We are under no illusions that we have a huge job but the lads are putting in a big effort, working very hard and doing everything asked of them. We have not yet finalised a panel but we are delighted with the win which should be a tremendous boost to the players’ confidence.”
And that confidence means everything to a team. Offaly had it in the first-half, playing with composure and skill. Their half-back line of Derek Morkham, Rory Hanniffy and Diarmuid Horan were particularly impressive.
With the sides tied at 0-3 each, Offaly struck for their opening goal when Wexford corner-back Bobby Kenny delayed his clearance, and it was blocked down into the path of Brendan Murphy who smashed it home. Wexford were rocked further when big Joe Bergin powered through the centre, laid it off to Colin Egan who goaled.
Some splendid point taking from Harry Kehoe kept the home side in touch but they still trailed, 2-9 to 0-10, at the interval.
The midlanders looked comfortable as they led by a commanding nine points with seven minutes remaining.
But Wexford refused to surrender. Jack Guiney had a 23m free blocked and Diarmuid O’Keeffe pounced to fire home the loose ball to start the comeback and though Offaly hit back with a Dermot Mooney point, Gary Moore’s goal further trimmed the deficit.
With three minutes to go, Offaly clung to a two-point lead when corner-forward Stephen Wynne was sent-off on a second yellow card. From the ensuing free, young Guiney blazed the ball to the net.
Wexford still had to defend desperately in the final minute of additional time but they managed to hold out for a dramatic late, late victory, leaving Offaly in a state of shock at the final whistle.
Scorers for Wexford: D O’Keeffe, G Moore 1-1 each, J Guiney 1-0 free, H Kehoe 0-7 (5fs), D Redmond, E Quigley, PJ Nolan 0-2 each, R Kehoe, T O’Leary, R Jacob 0-1 each.
Scorers for Offaly: S Dooley 0-9 (8fs), B Murphy 1-2, C Egan 1-1, J Bergin, D Molloy 0-2 each, D Morkham (1f), S Ryan, T Carroll, D Mooney 0-1 each.
WEXFORD: E Martin; B Kenny, M O’Hanlon, B Kehoe; K Rossiter, J Leacy, C Kenny; D Redmond, H Kehoe; R Kehoe, E Quigley, PJ Nolan; T O’Leary, G Sinnott, D O’Keeffe.
Subs: R Jacob for O’Leary (ht), J Guiney for Sinnott (ht), J Tonks for B Kenny (ht), G Moore for R Kehoe (47), E Moore for Leacy (60).
OFFALY: J Dempsey; C McDonald, D Kenny, S Wynne; D Morkham, R Hanniffy, D Horan; J Rigney, C Mahon; S Dooley, J Bergin, B Murphy; S Ryan, C Egan, D Molloy.
Subs: D Mooney for Mahon (46), T Carroll for Ryan (60).
Referee: A Stapleton (Laois).
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