Wexford 1-21 Offaly 1-13: Maybe, just maybe, there’s some light at the end of the tunnel for Wexford manager Liam Dunne.
The word on the street suggests that this year, his fifth in charge, will be his last even if the Slaneysiders collect the Liam MacCarthy Cup in September.
That’s a fanciful thought, of course, but given Dunne’s current position, and the setbacks he’s had to endure recently, baby steps will do just fine.
Andrew Shore and Shane Tomkins both underwent cruciate knee ligament surgery last Friday week while Aidan Nolan, David Redmond, Shaun Murphy and Liam Ryan are also on the injured list.
Throw into the mix the continued absence of Jack Guiney, the player’s own choice, and Dunne is without over half a team.
The latest curveball thrown his way arrived in the 24th-minute at Innovate Wexford Park on Saturday, when Mark Fanning’s superb penalty ricocheted off the back stanchion of his opposite number James Dempsey’s goal and back into play.
Fanning screamed ‘goal’ but the umpires, and referee Johnny Ryan, missed it.
It was a desperate call, the umpires more culpable than referee Ryan, and had Wexford not pulled away in the second half, could have had major ramifications.
In light of the recent Christy Ring Cup and Laois football subs sagas, this was another potential boardroom headache that GAA top brass needed like a hole in the head.
But Wexford reacted positively and despite falling five points behind by the 18th minute, against an Offaly team playing with the breeze, the hosts dug in.
They were just two points down at the break, 0-7 to 0-9, and unloaded with a quick-fire 1-2 after the restart to gain the whip hand.
Wexford, in front of 3,100 spectators, kicked for home and are in the bowl for this morning’s round 2 draw, along with Clare, Cork and Limerick.
In the closing minutes, Offaly had David King sent off for a second bookable offence before sub Oisín Kelly claimed a consolation goal.
In truth, they were outclassed although Dunne claimed that Fanning’s penalty wasn’t a source of motivation and, in fact, didn’t merit a half-time mention.
He said: “We didn’t even tell the players and none of the players even mentioned it. I didn’t know myself until half-time.
“And then I just saw some of the supporters getting onto Johnny Ryan coming in but we just got on with it.”
Lee Chin, back from injury, and leading scorer Conor McDonald led the charge but lively forwards Podge Doran and David Dunne were excellent too.
Just a pity, as Dunne acknowledged, that he’s not working with a full complement.
“If you had everybody available to you, at this stage, we’d be a match for anybody,” he insisted.
“It takes these fellas a little bit longer to develop physically and mentally. I’m shipping guys into this after coming out of minor grade for the last number of years.
“People are expecting wonders out of these fellas. I just said it to them in the dressing room there, particularly over the last two years, the transition has been phenomenal down here.
“When you mention all the guys injured, you have Keith Rossiter, Rory Jacob, Garrett Sinnott, Tomás Waters, all these guys have retired as well. It adds to it but when we get everybody back and rowing in the one direction, you’d never know what a Wexford man can do.”
Unfortunately, Dunne might not want, or get, the chance.
For Offaly boss Eamonn Kelly, the future is equally uncertain.
He deserves credit for turning around a championship season that began in disastrous fashion against Westmeath but it ended with another poor performance.
Kelly said: I don’t like losing but I hate not performing. That was a bad performance. The lads deserve better than that – the players have worked extremely hard and I would have liked to see them more competitive.
“I had a huge backroom team, it’s not just me and we’ll stand back and take a look at ourselves and who needs to do what to change things up.”
Scorers for Wexford:
C McDonald (0-11, 8 frees); P Doran (0-4); P Morris (1-0); D O’Keeffe, L Chin (1 free) (0-2 each); L Óg McGovern & D Dunne (0-1 each)
Scorers for Offaly:
S Dooley (0-7, 6 frees); O Kelly (1-0); S Kinsella (0-2); P Murphy, S Ryan, J Bergin & P Guinan (0-1 each)
M Fanning; M O’Hanlon, J Breen, E Moore; D O’Keeffe, P Foley, É Martin; J O’Connor, E Conroy; L Óg McGovern, L Chin, P Doran; P Morris, C McDonald, D Dunne.
H Kehoe for Conroy (55), A Kenny for Foley (67), C Dunbar for Dunne (68).
J Dempsey; N Wynne, C McDonald, P Rigney; S Gardiner, D King, D Mooney; P Murphy, S Ryan; J Mulrooney, J Bergin, S Kinsella; S Dooley, S Cleary, K Connolly.
B Conneely for Mooney (26), E Nolan for Cleary (29), O Kelly for Connolly (30), D O’Toole-Greene for McDonald (53), P Guinan for Dooley (60).
J Ryan (Tipperary)
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