Wexford progress after a fine response to penalty fiasco
Wexford1-21 - Offaly1-13
GAA top brass were surely relieved to see Wexford advance from yesterday's All-Ireland SHC qualifier clash with Offaly - as match officials disallowed a first-half goal for the hosts that should have stood.
Goalkeeper Mark Fanning bashed home a 24th-minute penalty - his effort striking the back stanchion before rebounding out. But referee Johnny Ryan's umpires behind the goal, and the whistle blower himself, failed to notice that the sliotar had crossed the line. To the naked eye, it appeared that it might have struck the angle of upright and post, but TV replays proved that it was a perfectly legitimate goal.
The last thing that Croke Park chiefs need right now is another scoring controversy to rival the Christy Ring Cup final saga - but it was avoided as Wexford produced an excellent second half display to end Offaly's season, and potentially Eamonn Kelly's spell at the helm. In front of 3,100 spectators, Wexford fell five points down in the first half, but were in touch at the break, 0-7 to 0-9, despite playing against the breeze.
Paul Morris scored an early second-half goal to edge them in front and the Slaneysiders kicked on from there against an Offaly side that finished with 14 men. David King picked up a second yellow card in the final minute and while Oisin Kelly bagged a consolation goal in stoppage time, this was Wexford's day.
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The Fanning incident happened as Wexford were working their way back into contention, having fallen five points behind by the 18th minute.
Offaly, showing the greater work-rate, opened up a 0-7 to 0-2 lead playing with a breeze blowing towards the Town End of the venue.
But Wexford registered three successive points before Fanning's penalty, awarded for a foul on Diarmuid O'Keeffe, who had showed real adventure to cut through the Offaly cover from the left touchline. Undeterred by the non-awarding of the goal, Wexford, for whom the returning Lee Chin was outstanding, had the next score, leading scorer Conor McDonald on target with a free.
That brought them back to within a point, 0-6 to 0-7, and while Shane Kinsella responded with an Offaly score from play, his second, McDonald landed another placed ball to take his first-half tally to five points.
A Shane Dooley free, his fifth point of the half also, left the half-time deficit at two points for Wexford, but they quickly ate into that early in the second half.
Liam Óg McGovern had a point after just 10 seconds and shortly after that, Morris registered the game's opening goal.
Jack O'Connor's lengthy delivery caused panic in the Offaly full-back line and as they failed to clear, Morris pounced from close range. That goal put Wexford 1-8 to 0-9 clear and they kicked on to claim a comfortable victory.
Doubt now surrounds the future of Offaly boss Kelly, who endured a difficult first season at the helm and copped some criticism following the Leinster round-robin defeat to Westmeath.
Offaly did rally to qualify for the provincial semi-finals, but after suffering a 10-point defeat to Galway, their season ended at the first hurdle through the back door.
Offaly, playing without suspended captain Colin Egan, were more than competitive in the opening stages and full value for their early lead, but they needed a bigger half-time advantage than two points, and didn't help their cause either by registering nine wides before the interval.
Wexford took over after the restart to ensure that the Fanning goal controversy, and their dismal Leinster quarter-final defeat to Dublin, can quickly be consigned to the history books.
It was Wexford's turn to be profligate as in the second half as they racked up 11 wides, finishing with a tally of 14. But what will have pleased Dunne most was Wexford's resilience, particularly in light of the goal that should have been.
Rather than buckling, Wexford responded positively to that setback and crucially, they were right in the hunt at the break and with the breeze to follow.
Chin, despite hitting some bad wides, led the second half charge and McDonald pegged on six second points to finish with a personal haul of 0-11.
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Scorers - Wexford: C McDonald 0-11 (8f), P Doran 0-4, P Morris 1-0, D O'Keeffe & L Chin (1f) 0-2 each, L Óg McGovern & D Dunne 0-1 each. Offaly: S Dooley 0-7 (6f), O Kelly 1-0, S Kinsella 0-2, P Murphy, S Ryan, J Bergin & P Guinan 0-1 each.
Wexford: M Fanning; M O'Hanlon, J Breen, E Moore; D O'Keeffe, P Foley, É Martin; J O'Connor, E Conroy; L Óg McGovern, L Chin, P Doran; P Morris, C McDonald, D Dunne.
Subs: H Kehoe for Conroy (55), A Kenny for Foley (67), C Dunbar for Dunne (68).
Offaly: J Dempsey; N Wynne, C McDonald, P Rigney; S Gardiner, D King, D Mooney; P Murphy, S Ryan; J Mulrooney, J Bergin, S Kinsella; S Dooley, S Cleary, K Connolly. Subs: B Conneely for Mooney (26), E Nolan for Cleary (29), O Kelly for Connolly (30), D O'Toole-Greene for McDonald (53), P Guinan for Dooley (60).
Referee: J Ryan (Tipperary)
Sunday Indo Sport