Ryan 'gutted' as Cork prove a bridge too far
All-Ireland SFC Qualifier
REVENGE for '94! That's 1894 and no, they won't be composing stirring ballads in honour of Cork's win at Wexford Park.
Grim weather, grim playing conditions, and a grim 70 minutes plus time added on for stoppages resulted in Cork doing a professional job and moving on to play Limerick next weekend.
It was hardly worth the Wexford fans' 116-year wait to play Cork in an All-Ireland senior championship game.
Pre-match predictions could only favour Cork, but there was a hope within Jason Ryan's squad and their core football support that they could rattle the Rebels' cage, and with luck anything might happen.
Well, it didn't work out that way. Wexford have more to offer than they showed yesterday, even allowing for the brutal weather and the big wind that favoured Cork in the first half.
Ryan summed it up with brutal honesty afterwards: "I'm gutted. We felt good at half-time. I suppose we would have liked to have been a bit closer.
"They scored a few early frees after half-time that allowed them to pull away and because of that they didn't leave the gaps and space that we needed to exploit to get back in the match.
"Every point against you in that situation hits the confidence. We weren't as clinical when chances arose. Too many balls dropped short, into their goalkeeper's arms.
"The fact that the boys fought to the finish shows the spirit of the side. The wind was so much stronger in the first half than the second. Their handling was superior to ours in the difficult conditions. We gave it everything but did not perform to our capabilities."
Considering that Cork led by only four points -- 0-7 to 0-3 at half-time -- Wexford were entitled to hope they could rally in the second half.
Those Cork scores were hard won. Paddy Kelly and Daniel Goulding got two each from frees, and Graham Canty, Aidan Walsh and Ciaran Sheehan nicked points from play.
Wexford's first point came after 19 minutes by wing-back Adrian Flynn, their second was scored in the 32nd minute by midfielder Eric Bradley and in the last minute of five added on, Colm Morris scored a point.
The signs, though, were ominous. The wind and greasy surface posed a challenge for both sets of players, but Cork adapted much better.
Wexford struggled all over the pitch with their handling of the ball. When they carved out hard-won possession, they were either too slow in moving it and lost the ball, or they played passes to team-mates closely marked by the red jerseys.
It looked too often as if Wexford were the flies, and the Cork defenders and midfielders the fly paper, as time and again the home side ran into the glue of the Rebels' defensive screen.
It was 'F' for frustration throughout that half, and some niggly fouls caused referee Gearoid O'Conamha to issue six yellow cards, before half-time -- four to Cork and two to Wexford players.
Cork boss Conor Counihan had a simple message for his troops during the interval.
"We said 'let's not panic. Let's try and get hold of the ball and try and get on top early in the second half'. Thankfully, that's what happened," he said.
The key issue was which side would take the initiative after half-time, and it proved to be Cork. Nicholas Murphy won a free and gave Kelly a chance to slot it over from close range two minutes into the half.
Two minutes later, Canty drove forward into the heart of the Wexford defence and Goulding obliged with another point from the resultant free.
Kelly, again from a free, tacked one over in the 41st minute and in the 45th minute, John Miskella, this time from play, extended the lead to eight points on a 0-11 to 0-3 scoreline. Just after that, Wexford talisman Matty Forde finally got on the score sheet with a well-taken shot from 30 metres. The rest? Let's draw a curtain over it.
Each side scored just once more -- Wexford sub Ben Brosnan got one in the fourth minute of time added on, and Ciaran Sheehan promptly replied for Cork to end the misery for all concerned.
Counihan summed up his team's visit to the not-so-sunny south-east saying: "Wexford gave it their all. They threw everything into it, very physical, very fair, real honest-to-goodness stuff, but the main thing is we're still on tour."
Scorers -- Cork : P Kelly 0-4 (0-4f), D Goulding 0-3 (0-2f), C Sheehan 0-2, G Canty, J Miskella, A Walsh 0-1 each; Wexford: C Lyng (0-1f), A Flynn, E Bradley, M Forde, B Brosnan 0-1 each.
Cork -- A Quirke 7; R Carey 7, G Canty 8, J O'Sullivan 7; J Miskella 7, M Shields 7, P Kissane 7; A O'Connor 6, A Walsh 7; F Goold 7, P O'Neill 7, P Kelly 7; D Goulding 7, C Sheehan 7, C O'Neill 7. Subs: P Kerrigan 7 for Goold (36), N Murphy 6 for O'Connor (ht), D Kavanagh 6 for Murphy (60) (blood), N O'Leary for Kissane (67), J Hayes for C O'Neill (67), F Lynch for Kelly (69).
Wexford -- A Masterson 6; J Wadding 6, G Molloy 6, B Malone 6; A Flynn 6, D Murphy 6, A Doyle 6; E Bradley 6, D Waters 6; C Morris 6, R Barry 6, S Roche 6; C Lyng 6, M Forde 6, C Byrne 6. Subs: B Doyle 6 for Byrne (23), P Naughter 6 for Waters (54), PJ Banville 6 for Roche (54), D Carter for Wadding (69), B Brosnan for A Doyle (70).
Ref -- G O'Conamha (Galway).