A tough day at the office
New Balance Youths Inter-League: Wexford League 7 Wicklow League 1
Wicklow Football League suffered a sobering defeat in their New Balance Youths Inter-League campaign opener when they were put to the sword by neighbours Wexford in Ferrycarrig Park on Saturday.
It was a tough day at the office for the visitors as an impressive Wexford outfit bossed the contest, and they were three goals to the good by the interval, with Kieran Murphy, Niall Connolly and Cian Hanley all hitting the back of the net.
Murphy added a second after the break, Paudi Casey contributed a double and substitute Rory O'Connor also got in on the act, while a Mark Cullen goal for the visitors was only a minor blot on the Slaneysiders' otherwise pristine copybook.
Wexford certainly have the hallmarks of a side that could go deep into the competition as they look solid at the back, and going forward they boast numerous attacking threats.
The home side began with real fire in the bellies and they put the Wicklow defence under enormous pressure from the off, with Ciarán Carthy, Jake Kearney and Cian Hanley all seeing efforts blocked inside the opening five minutes.
They continued to turn the screw and the inrushing Michael Delaney was the width of a coat of paint away from getting a telling touch on a teasing Niall Connolly free-kick with 15 minutes on the clock, while Kearney fired a snap-shot from the edge of the area narrowly wide moments later.
However, for all Wexford's dominance in open play in the first-half, it was set-pieces that proved the undoing of the Garden county outfit, and the breakthrough finally came in the 21st minute.
Cian Hanley whipped a free-kick into the box, which goalkeeper Aidan Murray failed to gather, and the alert Kieran Murphy was quickest to react to slot the ball home.
The hosts continued to pepper the Wicklow goal and in the 33rd minute they doubled their advantage, when Niall Connolly's wind-assisted free-kick from distance went all the way to the net.
Three minutes later Wexford had their third and again it was from a dead ball, as Cian Hanley powered an unstoppable piledriver out of the reach of Murray.
The home side went close to converting another free-kick six minutes before the break when Connolly curled a left-footer over the wall, but Murray spread himself well to claw the shot away.
The goalkeeper was called into action again two minutes after the turnaround when Ciarán Carthy let fly from distance, but Murray did brilliantly to tip the effort around the post.
Wicklow needed something to happen quickly if they were to put the brakes on a rampant home outfit and they got the chance to gain some sort of a foothold in the contest when Mark Cullen was taken down for a penalty.
Cullen dusted himself down and took the responsibility himself but Anto Larkin got across well to save the spot-kick.
Wexford continued to dominate possession and extended their advantage just before the hour mark, when Paudi Casey met a deep Connolly cross and side-footed to the net.
Kieran Murphy added their fifth in the 66th minute, confidently burying a penalty into the left-hand corner after Carthy had been bundled over in the area.
It was six of the best for the hosts with 12 minutes remaining as Carthy played a short corner to Connolly and his cross was dispatched expertly by substitute Rory O'Connor, who arrowed a powerful volley to the net.
To their credit Wicklow kept plugging away and Mark Cullen forced a fine save out of netminder Larkin after getting on the end of a Luke Kearney cross in the 81st minute.
They got their reward three minutes later when Larkin failed to hold on to a Dale Fluskey free-kick and Cullen prodded the loose ball home.
However, Wexford had the final say when Paidi Casey squeezed home their seventh in the 89th minute, after Murray had initially done well to deny Rory O'Connor.
Wicklow must now regroup before their next game against the North Dublin Schoolboys League in the three-team group.
Wexford Football League: Anto Larkin, Gary Hall-Roche, Seán Breen, Paidi Casey, Darragh McDonald, Ciarán Carthy, Michael Delaney, Cian Hanley, Niall Connolly, Jake Kearney, Kieran Murphy. Subs. - Rory O'Connor for Josh Murphy (54), Shane Pettit for McDonald (54), Craig Peare for Breen (66), Josh Murphy for Hall-Roche (72), Cian Carthy for Hanley (72), also Liam Godkin, Kyle Martin.
Wicklow Football League: Aidan Murray, Cody Reid, Ryan Kenny, Andrew Brancato, Luke Kearney, Mark Cullen, Liam Dickenson, Seán Leonard, Cian Ward, Dale Fluskey, Dean Carter. Subs. - Callum Busher for Ward (56), Daniel Morley for Leonard (72), Alex Olohan for Carter (77), Daniel Hagan for Kearney (85), Drew Murray for Reid (88), also Dean Flood-Hayes, John Porter.
Referee: Seamus Kelly.