Minors in final four
Routine success over limited Laois: Wexford 4-17 Laois 1-16
Wexford advanced to the final four of the Electric Ireland Leinster Minor hurling championship with a routine victory over Laois in O'Moore Park, Portlaoise, on Saturday.
James Sheil's side never reached their potential but didn't have to as they possessed too many weapons for their hosts right across the park.
In fact, the scoreline probably doesn't do Wexford's comfort justice, with Laois adding 1-6 from the 54th minute onwards when the game was over as a contest.
The home side put a lot into the first-half, but Wexford were content to bide their time and not show their hand.
The Slaneysiders chipped away with points but did the most damage with their two goals, majors Laois couldn't counter.
Enda Lyons' side were also heavily reliant on dead-balls to keep the scoreboard ticking over. Wexford are trying to balance that fine line between legally and illegally impeding and would benefit from a referee that might want to let the game flow more than the experienced James McGrath did.
They'll hope to have just that when they face Dublin for the second time in the championship, this time in Parnell Park on Saturday. The winners will meet either Kilkenny or surprise package Kildare in the provincial decider.
Second gear was enough for Wexford in the opening half as Laois buzzed around with plenty of energy but with less prowess.
The hosts had an Adam Kirwan free on the board when Cian Molloy and Jack Kirwan linked up in the middle of the field and cut through the heart of the Laois defence.
Rapparees stand-out Kirwan fed the ball into the path of David Cantwell who flicked it over the closing Darragh Lyons before pulling home to the empty net.
The nippy Thomas Keyes pulled his side level in the fifth minute, but Wexford responded again.
Josh Shiel was first to point from a clever A.J. Redmond pass, and the Rathnure lad opened his account a minute later after Luke Kavanagh was felled 58 metres from goal. Laois then had what was probably their best spell of the game.
Cian Byrne had to be alert to deny James Duggan and Kirwan, while Laois were able to add points around those goal chances from Kirwan (twice) and Keyes to ease themselves ahead for the second time in the 16th minute.
Wexford got a handle on the Laois challenge as the half wore on. Redmond slotted a nice point from a classy Richie Lawlor crossfield feed, Kavanagh intercepted a wayward handpass and scored, and Redmond added a free after Emmet Cullen was fouled.
Ahead by 1-6 to 0-8, Wexford kept edging clear. David Cantwell made light work of a tight angle to point before Redmond followed suit after Paddy Whitty was pulled across.
The Slaneysiders added a killer second goal before the break and it was all about Richie Lawlor.
The Faythe Harriers man started his run from deep, just inside the '65. He looked to have lost possession when his handpass bounced on the turf but he collected it himself, cantered around the last defender and flashed across Lyons to make it 2-8 to 0-8 at half-time.
Wexford can't have felt too threatened by what they faced in the first-half, but Laois did come out after the resumption and pushed for a way back into the game. They only managed to nab a Kirwan free and the visitors soon raced away.
Paddy Whitty score the first point of the period for Wexford and was provider for Cantwell's bullet of a second major in the 38th minute. Redmond saw a low shot tipped behind by Lyons moments later, and Cian Molloy converted the resulting '65.
Molloy again made light work of a long-range dead-ball to see Wexford 3-11 to 0-10 in front.
Cantwell was fouled for a penalty in the 46th minute and Fethard's Cian Byrne stepped up to flash home a perfectly-placed shot high to Lyons' net.
Justin Moran scored two superb back-to-back points from distance, while Conor Foley added another to move Wexford 4-14 to 0-10 ahead.
Cantwell cracked the crossbar and soon missed out on his hat-trick goal from close range as his side threatened to run riot.
Foley and Shiel increased the advantage to 18 with seven minutes remaining, and Wexford downed tools a little in the remaining minutes.
Kavanagh did score a late point but Laois finished with 1-6 in that spell, including a well-taken Cathal O'Shaughnessy major to make the scoreline more respectable.
Wexford will have no room for coasting into the contest when they travel to Dublin this week. James Shiel and management will be looking for their sides best performance of the season to propel them into the title decider.
Wexford: Cian Byrne (St. Mary's, Rosslare); Joe Conroy (Craanford), Kyle Scallan (Faythe Harriers), Dylan Whelan (Fethard); Justin Moran (St. Anne's, 0-2), Cian Molloy (Naomh Eanna, 0-2, 1 free, 1 '65), Emmet Cullen (Gusserane); Jack Kirwan (Rapparees), Luke Kavanagh (St. Martin's, 0-2); Richie Lawlor (Faythe Harriers, 1-0), Dylan O'Neill (Shelmaliers, 0-1), Josh Shiel (Faythe Harriers, 0-2); A.J. Redmond (Rathnure, 0-4, 3 frees), Paddy Whitty (Cloughbawn, 0-1), David Cantwell (St. Martin's, 2-1). Subs. - Conor Foley (Horeswood, 0-2) for Whitty (42), Cian Byrne (Fethard, 1-0 pen.) for Redmond (42), David Codd (St. Martin's) for Moran (48), Cian Browne (Naomh Eanna) for Cullen (48), Diarmuid O'Leary (St. Martin's) for Shiel, temp. (49-52), O'Leary for Kirwan (52), also Derry Mahon (HWH-Bunclody), Oisín Pepper (Rapparees), Liam Cassin (Faythe Harriers), Michael Laffan (Glynn-Barntown).
Laois: Darragh Lyons; Lawson Obular, Danny Brennan, Ian Shanahan; Cian Conroy, Fionn Mahony, Noah Quinlan; Thomas Keyes (0-2), Kevin Mulhall; Cathal O'Shaughnessy (1-0), David Dooley, Tadhg Cuddy (0-1); Cian O'Shaughnessy, James Duggan (0-1), Adam Kirwan (0-7 frees). Subs. - Dan Delaney (0-5, 4 frees) for Mulhall (41), D.J. Callaghan for Keyes (51), Eoin Naughton for Kirwan (51), Brian Bredin for Conroy (55).
Referee: James McGrath (Westmeath).