Brosnan exorcised his free demons
BEN BROSNAN exorcised his free-taking demons with a sweet kick into the wind at the Gaelic Grounds, Drogheda, on Sunday last as the Wexford Senior footballers survived a late Louth onslaught to set up a Leinster championship semi-final clash with Meath or Wicklow in Croke Park on June 30.
The home side had hit three scores without reply in a dominant eleven-minute spell to move within one point of the Slaneysiders when a Brian Malone pass down the right found Shane Roche who was fouled. Brosnan was kicking into the teeth of the breeze off the ground but effortlessly split the posts to make rich amends for his off-day against the Dubs last year.
His point arrived twelve seconds into added time and left Wexford ahead by 2-13 to 1-14, but the drama was far from over. Louth's two best attackers combined to reduce the deficit to the minimum, with Shane Lennon picking out Brian White as home supporters sensed that they were still in with a shout.
John O'Brien received a straight red card for striking Ciarán Lyng as the duo awaited the subsequent kick-out at midfield which was caught by Paddy Byrne who was fouled to earn a valuable few seconds' respite.
However, fellow substitute Kevin Gore then coughed up possession, and it was left to yet another replacement, Robert Tierney, to get a hand in and make a vital interception before the three minutes of added time concluded and left Wexford celebrating a marvellous victory away from home.
While they had led by seven points following P.J. Banville's goal 15 minutes into the second-half, it was somewhat inevitable that Louth would fight back given the strength of the breeze in their favour on a beautiful day and the fact that many Wexford men tired rapidly after a herculean effort.
The manner in which they held out was a tribute to their composure and self-belief, and it now means that they will be part of the biggest show in town as their semi-final on the last Sunday of the month will be the undercard on the meeting of the Dubs and Kildare in what will likely be a Croke Park sell-out.
Wexford captain Redmond Barry won the toss and opted to play with the wind, with Ben Brosnan getting them off the mark from a 14-metre free taken from the ground inside two minutes after the St. Anne's man was fouled when he ran on to a P.J. Banville handpass.
An off the ball tug by Lee Chin on Derek Maguire's jersey was spotted by referee Fergal Kelly and led to the equaliser via Shane Lennon, before Brosnan and Barry combined to set up overlapping wing-back Adrian Flynn for the lead score in the fifth minute.
Wexford were dealt a big blow though less than 60 seconds later when one of Louth's chief tactics paid rich dividends. The diagonal ball to the far post delivered from the right wing was used time and time again, and on this occasion Shane Lennon caught Derek Crilly's neat kick and shook off Graeme Molloy before firing left-footed to the net (1-1 to 0-2). Crilly started at left half-back but had a free role when Louth were on the attack, with most of his best work done on the opposite flank as he repeatedly raided without his runs being tracked.
A converted Ben Brosnan '45 after an Adrian Flynn kick was deflected settled Wexford somewhat, and Molloy's confidence was also helped in the ninth minute when he blocked Lennon following a carbon copy of the move which led to that goal.
He did foul the Louth dangerman though who duly made it 1-2 to 0-3 on their next attack in the eleventh minute, before Ciarán Lyng cancelled that score after the free was moved to a more central position for dissent after James Holmes latched on to a quickly-taken Flynn line ball and was impeded.
Holmes then kicked the first of seven first-half Wexford wides (ten in all) before Louth's sole miss prior to the break courtesy of Andy McDonnell from a total tally of five.
Another advance from Derek Crilly resulted in a Derek Maguire point, but Rory Quinlivan won hard-earned possession around the middle and the resultant move ended with Redmond Barry pulling back a point in the stand-out moment from a quiet day by his own high standards.
The visitors equalised in the 18th minute courtesy of Aindreas Doyle after good work by Adrian Flynn and Ben Brosnan, but Lee Chin entered the notebook for a high challenge on the lively Derek Maguire along the endline and Shane Lennon sent over the free for a 1-4 to 0-6 lead.
Up to that point Wexford hadn't fully utilised all of their possession, but a purple patch finally arrived after a Flynn wide and the receipt of a yellow card by Daithí Waters for a late challenge on Andy McDonnell.
Ciarán Lyng was sandwiched and Brosnan converted the free in the 25th minute before the former kicked his side back into the lead via his left boot. What followed next was a moment to savour and remember as Lyng put Louth on the back foot with a peach of a goal.
Once again Rory Quinlivan played a part as he fisted a Louth kick-out into the path of P.J. Banville who popped a pass to the advancing Lyng. He had only one thing on his mind as he calmly picked his spot in the corner of the net, low to the left of netminder Neil Gallagher in the one position where he hadn't a hope of keeping it out. There won't be too many better finishes in this year's championship, and it powered Wexford into a 1-8 to 1-4 lead with the momentum finally behind them.
Although Brian White responded with a pointed free after Rory Quinlivan fouled Andy McDonnell, Wexford ended the half with two further points while they also kicked four wides, two attempts at the posts from Adrian Flynn and Redmond Barry plus a brace of over-cooked passes from James Holmes and Lyng.
Ben Brosnan converted a fine free off the ground from the left flank though while Lyng increased his personal tally to 1-3 after midfield colossus Daithí Waters won a Louth kick-out and fed his St. Martin's colleague.
There was a let-off all the same in the last piece of action before the break when Derek Maguire appeared to be fouled by Lee Chin but was penalised for overcarrying.
It was one of a few dodgy decisions by referee Fergal Kelly, but Louth fans had even more reason to feel aggrieved just 20 seconds into the new half when Andy McDonnell broke away from Brian Malone in the right corner but was called back for a free converted by Brian White when the move would almost surely have ended up in a goal.
Both sides then hit wides from good openings, with Ciarán Byrne luckily failing to spot an unmarked Paddy Keenan inside before Brian Malone ghosted in behind the defence but Ben Brosnan's pass was just too long to find him.
A long-range miss followed from Keenan before the hugely-influential Daithí Waters picked up a knock which gradually curbed his dominance as the game wore on. Andy McDonnell kicked the third Louth wide of the half and this was the cue for Wexford to up the stakes, with Waters making a great catch from an Anthony Masterson kick-out and James Holmes ending the move with a point (1-11 to 1-6).
Shane Roche came into the fray for an off-form Redmond Barry in the 47th minute, a big call by the management but the right one in the circumstances.
Brian White pulled back a score after the ball flew off David Murphy's fingertips, with Louth substitute Colm Judge booked for a late charge at the Rosslare man before lady luck smiled on the Model county men in the 50th minute.
A long and patient build-up across the field saw possession retained despite a couple of Louth blocks, and it was transferred from left to right before Ciarán Lyng's pass gave Shane Roche the space to try for a point.
And when his effort rebounded off the post, P.J. Banville was in the ideal position to gather the ball and lash it home from close range for a 2-11 to 1-7 lead.
The goal provided a crucial cushion, because Louth had more left in the tank and picked off the next four points to ensure a nervy conclusion.
Brian White converted a free before Adrian Flynn kicked wide at the other end, with Paddy Keenan then making it 2-11 to 1-9 after good work by Derek Crilly and Derek Maguire.
A quick Ronan Carroll free found Shane Lennon who split the posts off his left peg with just over 15 minutes left, and Paddy Byrne was called in for Aindreas Doyle before Keenan latched on to an Andy McDonnell handpass to leave just a goal between them.
The siege was briefly lifted as P.J. Banville and Adrian Flynn combined to give Byrne space to kick an important point, but over eleven anxious minutes were to follow before Brosnan grabbed that priceless late score.
Anthony Masterson rose highest above Derek Maguire when they contested an Andy McDonnell cross from the right, before points from Shane Lennon and McDonnell reduced arrears to two as Conor Carty replaced Castletown clubmate James Holmes.
Robert Tierney was next in for Lee Chin whose heavy weekend exertions were bound to eventually take their toll, with Masterson testing the patience of both sets of supporters when he conceded a throw-in on the '21 for delaying a kick-out after that McDonnell point which he appeared to suggest was thrown rather than fisted.
Derek Maguire and Michael Furlong swapped wides while Shane Roche had a shot blocked, before Shane Lennon's weak low kick in an attempt to replicate that stunning Lyng first-half strike was comfortably saved by Masterson with four minutes of normal time left.
Kevin Gore came in to the team for the exhausted Daithí Waters and Paddy Byrne moved to midfield, with Brian White getting the break from a long free and leaving the minimum between the sides before Ben Brosnan assumed centre stage on another memorable day for Wexford football.
The return to Croke Park will be awaited with bated breath by this group after leaving the game behind them against Dublin there last year.
And their opponents on June 30 will be determined on Saturday evening next when Wicklow entertain Meath in Aughrim in the last of the quarter-finals after their win over Longford at the same venue.
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