Rebels spark their summer rising
Cork 2-22 Wexford 0-20
Having cruised through the first half, at the end of which they led by 14 points, Cork comfortably held off a second-half Wexford recovery to emerge with an eight-point victory in this first-round qualifier at Wexford Park yesterday.
Wexford were trying to atone for their provincial semi-final mauling at the hands of Kilkenny, while pressure had also been mounting on Jimmy Barry Murphy's Cork following league and championship defeats to Waterford.
The sides' championship interests were about to be decided on the first weekend of July, adding intense pressure inside both camps.
Cork were forced to line out without several experienced defenders, while Wexford manager Liam Dunne rang the changes in the wake of that heavy Kilkenny defeat, with Ciaran Kenny, Daithi Waters and Shane Tomkins dropping to the bench.
Dunne handed a senior championship debut to under 21 defender Paudie Foley, while Aidan Nolan, introduced during the Kilkenny defeat, was retained in midfield, with Kevin Foley introduced to the troublesome centre-forward berth following his seven-point showing in the provincial under 21 semi-final.
Wexford won the toss but decided to play into the strong breeze. Immediately Cork asked questions of their decision as they stormed all over the home side during the opening 10 minutes.
Ace marksman Pat Horgan pointed a free inside 90 seconds, which was followed by quick-fire points from Damien Cahalane and Brian Lawton, before Wexford opened their account through an Ian Byrne free after five minutes. But there was no questioning the early Cork dominance with Conor Lehane on fire in attack having switched into the full-forward line. Lehane outfielded three Wexford defenders under an Anthony Nash puck-out to blaze to the net from 14 metres, giving his side a 1-3 to 0-1 lead after just six minutes.
But the expected Wexford resistance into the breeze was coming unstuck as a Horgan free and two Lehane beauties stretched the Rebel county into a 1-6 to 0-1 lead. Although, Ian Byrne responded with two pointed frees, Wexford had failed to score from play as Cork stretched into a 1-10 to 0-4 lead by the 20th minute.
Cork were finding an extra gear throughout the field, doing much as they liked as they totally outhurled the home side. Their dominance was such that it came as no surprise when Seamus Harnedy flashed a ball to the net after his initial effort had been beaten away by keeper Mark Fanning, giving his side a 2-10 to 0-4 lead after 21 minutes.
Wexford had to wait until the 26th minute for their opening score from play, a David Redmond point their first direct shot from play.
Horgan (free) and Byrne exchanged points but with Lehane sparkling up front it was Cork who looked comfortable leading 2-17 to 0-9 at the interval, despite shooting 10 wides, while an amazing statistic for Wexford is that they had not a single first-half wide, while they only managed four first-half points from play.
Wexford resumed with a new midfield partnership in Waters and Harry Kehoe, with Kehoe marking his presence with the opening second-half point after just one minute, while Foley followed with a further point one minute later. While Wexford were playing with more urgency, they were unable to prise open the Cork defence when Stephen McDonnell, Brian Murphy and Mark Ellis were outstanding, having to rely on points from Burne, Kehoe and Redmond to reduce the deficit, but they still trailed 2-20 to 0-17 after 55 minutes.
When points from Conor McDonald and two Byrne frees reduced the deficit to 2-20 to 0-20 with 12 minutes remaining, the stage was set for a grandstand finish.
With seven minutes left Pat Horgan had a chance of sealing the game but pulled his goal chance wide,
However, man of the match Lehane sent over two delightful long-range points to push his side into a 2-22 to 0-20 lead with five minutes remaining, leaving no way back for the home side as Cork fashioned a hugely impressive victory.
Scorers - Cork: P Horgan 0-8 (7f); C Lehane 1-6; S Harnedy 1-1; B Cooper, B Lawton 0-2 each; D Cahalane, A Cadogan, P Cronin 0-1 each. Wexford: I Byrne (11f) 0-12; D Redmond 0-3; H Kehoe 0-2; K Foley, P Morris, C McDonald 0-1 each.
Wexford: M Fanning; L Ryan, M O'Hanlon, E Moore; A Shore, L Chin, P Foley; D Redmond, A Nolan; D O'Keeffe, K Foley, I Byrne; P Morris, C McDonald, L Og McGovern. Subs: A Kenny for Moore (18); D Waters for Nolan (30); H Kehoe for P Foley (31); R Jacob for McGovern (47); G Sinnott for K Foley (65).
Cork: A Nash; D Cahalane, S McDonnell, B Murphy; A Walsh, M Ellis, C Murphy; D Kearney, B Cooper; C Lehane, P Cronin, B Lawton; A Cadogan, S Harnedy, P Horgan. Subs: S Moylan for Harney (51); D McCarthy for A Cadogan (58); R O'Shea for Cronin (60); P O'Sullivan for Kearney (63).
Referee: A Kelly (Galway).
Sunday Indo Sport