Power revels in glory as Model men march on
Wexford 2-16 Down 2-11
Wexford footballers may not experience Leinster or All-Ireland wins these days, but a day of championship glory is something they are accustomed to as the Model men haven’t had a winless season in over a decade.
Their last barren championship came in 2003; it is remarkable consistency which is only shared by Dublin, Meath, Tyrone, Cork and Kerry while all other championship pretenders suffered a victory drought during the period.
Even with this historical fact they were heavy underdogs going into this game against Down who are heading for Division 1, while the Slaneysiders slipped to the fourth tier in the league.
None of that, however, counted for anything as the mixture of youth and experience in the ranks was crucial with the likes of Simon Donohoe and Graeme Molloy shackling Down dangermen Mark Poland and Conor Laverty expertly.
The Rossiter brothers made it a family affair as they each found the net in a one-minute spell to put the wind in the sails of the yellow bellies to surge to victory.
Up front, Ciaran Lyng and Ben Brosnan were at their imposing best while Michael O’Regan delivered fully on his underage promise.
“To score 2-16 against a Division 1 side, it’s really amazing and it’s fabulous, but it’s all down to hard work, it’s all down to giving young fellas a chance,” said manager David Power afterwards.
“There are too many good players in there, you have the (Ciaran) Lyngs, the Graeme Molloys, the Ben Brosnans, and now you have the next generation of players.
“I could see a performance, I can never guarantee a win, I knew if we performed we would be there or thereabouts,” he added.
The small but vociferous home crowd could be forgiven for thinking the game may have turned into a hard-luck story after a five-minute spell near the end of the first quarter culminated in a black card for Adrian Flynn.
Minutes earlier he had been denied by Down goalkeeper Stephen Kane pushing his shot onto the post only to see the opening goal come up the other end from Jerome Johnson to put Down ahead.
The concession of the goal followed by the black card didn’t deter Power’s ‘lovely mix’ as they led by two at half-time, gaining further yards early in the second half.
“We were still playing good football and I hoped we would keep playing good football. Adrian (Flynn) got a black card, it was one of those things, and technically speaking it probably was a black card,” said Power.
“I’m not going to dispute that but then I would have to question some of the Down tackles that weren’t black cards but look that’s for another day’s work.
“I believed that if we kept playing good football there was a lot of gaps in the Down defence and pace was killing them.”
The crucial passage of the game came with less than 15 to play courtesy of the Rossiter clan, first Tiarnan punched home and then Naomhan drove forward to find the net, leaving Down eight down and treading water.
“Goals win games, they got their scores, we didn’t; our goalkeeper made some really good saves but we missed an awful lot of opportunities and they didn’t,” was how Down manager Jim McCorry summed it up afterwards.
Down, to their credit, weren’t lacking guile up front and when Anthony Masterson could not hold onto a shot, Arthur McConville pounced to close the gap on the scoreboard.
Discipline proved costly for Down, conceding 20 frees and the sending off of Conor Garvey with five minutes to play all but ended their hopes with referee Cormac Reilly brandishing the red card for an off-the-ball incident with Michael O’Regan.
With the extra man Wexford were never liable to be caught by a walking wounded Down side. However, McCorry wasn’t looking for excuses.
“It didn’t make that big of a difference, a team that is motivated on the day and a team that executes their game plan properly can win, so that’s what happened today.
“We had quite a few missing today but that wasn’t the reason, we have a big squad and players that come in should be able to do the business for us”.
Game at a glance
Man of the match: Graeme Molloy (Wexford). The award could easily go to Brian Malone or Ciaran Lyng but the day belongs to Molloy. Playing in his first game of the year, the experienced defender was superb from start to finish. A marvellous block in front of goal early on set the tone for a Wexford victory.
Talking point: Is the standard of Division 2 league dropping? Nobody in a lower tier has beaten a Division 1 team yet while Division 2 sides Down, Roscommon and Laois have all lost to lower ranked opposition.
Magic moment: Graeme Molloy’s hanging shot from 45 metres out just dipped just over the crossbar to level the game with half an hour gone. It was a key score as the Wexford crowd rose to their feet sensing an upset, and Down never regained the lead.
Ref watch: Cormac Reilly from Meath got the red card and the black card spot on. However, consistency is what managers are crying out for and he failed to produce black cards for similar offences.
What’s next? Wexford await the qualifier draw today, while Down will have a long winter to lick their wounds before entering the Division 1 fray next year.