Wexford 1-24 Westmeath 1-16: This was not a performance to overly worry Kilkenny but then it is highly unlikely Wexford were ever going to reveal too much of themselves in a Leinster quarter-final tie in Mullingar.
Progression, as manager Liam Dunne insisted after, was paramount and Wexford duly achieved that with a healthy eight points to spare.
But it wasn’t anything but uncomfortable for a finish up either as resurgent Westmeath applied the pressure in front of their home fans and Wexford surprisingly wilted.
A worrying neck injury to Westmeath’s Derek McNicholas forced a stoppage of around 12 minutes and when play resumed in the 65th minute it was the hosts that appeared energised.
Westmeath trailed by 15 points at that stage and were merely playing for pride.
But they salvaged that and more as they outscored Wexford by 1-9 to 0-4 in the remaining 20 minutes or so.
As far as sign offs go before a potentially season defining game with Kilkenny at Nowlan Park in the Leinster semi-finals, it was about as bad as it gets.
Then again, with Brian Cody looking on in the crowd at Cusack Park, the Model County were never going to unveil any grand Championship plans or team tweaks.
Still, it wasn’t the performance any of the travelling Wexford supporters hoped for and Dunne was particularly cutting with his post match assessment.
His side racked up 15 wides and he delivered blame to the front doors of individual forwards.
Without naming names, it was clear he was talking about Jack Guiney and Liam Óg McGovern when he criticised players who were taken off, ‘and it wasn’t because they were getting a rest’.
Asked if he was talking about Guiney who was called ashore after just 46 minutes, Dunne repeated the statement.
“I’m just saying we took guys off and they weren’t taken off because they were getting a rest.
“Some guys know they have to come up to the mark. But look, no better a team than Kilkenny to come up to the mark against.”
On the credit side of the ledger, Ian Byrne was strong on the frees and clipped over 1-7 in total. David Redmond was excellent at midfield when Wexford as a team were still interested in the game.
He patrolled the middle third with panzer tank like efficiency and weighed in with three points.
How he fares against Kilkenny’s midfield will be intriguing.
Ex-footballer Daithi Waters performed relatively well at centre-forward too, scoring two points.
In fact, for over an hour it appeared that Wexford were going to run up the score that pretty much everyone expected with a business like display.
The sides were level at 0-2 apiece after 10 minutes but four Wexford points in a row hinted at what lay ahead as the Slaneysiders found their range.
Redmond was excellent throughout the first-half and contributed two points as they reached the interval with a 0-15 to 0-6 lead.
Poor Westmeath managed just a single point from play. It came from Joe Clarke while the rest of their scores were McNicholas frees.
Conor McDonald was a useful option for Wexford at full-forward and made some great catches including one for a point before the break.
The game was officially put beyond Westmeath in the 38th minute when Byrne strode free down the right and blasted a shot back across the goals to the far corner of the net.
He added another point soon after before scores from Waters, Paul Morris and Redmond. Without ever truly sizzling, Wexford were 15 points to the good, 1-19 to 0-7, and already turning their thoughts to Nowlan Park.
The injury to McNicholas took all the wind from the visitors’ sails for some reason. They couldn’t raise a gallop when play restarted and Westmeath, in contrast, seemed energised by yet another obstacle to be thrown at them.
They’d already lost Shane Power to a freak eye injury in the warm up while Niall O’Brien was the victim of a suspension at U-21 level that manager Michael Ryan claimed was ludicrous.
All that frustration came pouring out in the closing 20 minutes or so when they were superbly led by the ultra experienced Brendan Murtagh.
The former captain picked off 1-3 in that period and 1-4 in total. His 70th minute goal was an expert strike.
It stemmed from his own goalkeeper’s puck out which dropped kindly for Murtagh to volley low to the Wexford net.
Wexford heads weren’t exactly in their hands.
But it was chastening all the same and Cody must have wondered exactly how he should feel as he made for the exit gates soon after.
Was it all a subtle ruse? We’ll know in a fortnight’s time.
Scorers for Wexford:
I Byrne (1-7, six frees, one 65), P Morris (0-5, one free), D Redmond and C McDonald (0-3 each), D Waters (0-2), A Shore, H Kehoe, J Guiney and L Og McGovern (0-1 each).
Subs for Wexford:
K Foley for Guiney (46), R Jacob for McGovern (48), G Sinnott for Kehoe (55), S Tomkins for McDonald (76), P Doran for Byrne (82).
Subs for Westmeath:
E Corrigan for Price (51), K Murphy for McNicholas (65).
Scorers for Westmeath:
B Murtagh (1-4, one free), D McNicholas (0-5, one free), N Dowdall (0-2), A Clarke, C Boyle, A Devine, J Clarke and K Murphy (0-1 each).
Johnny Ryan (Tipperary).
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