Deely's master plan stuns sorry Wexford
GAA Allianz Football League Division 4 Round 3: London 2-10 Wexford 0-8
Only one Wexfordman left McGovern Park in Ruislip on Sunday with his reputation truly enhanced, and that was London manager Ciarán Deely whose clever and effective master plan inspired the exiles to a stunning eight-point double scores victory in this Allianz League Division 4 encounter.
It may have been one of the darkest days in our county's proud football history, but that was due in large measure to the dominance exerted by their unfancied rivals on a bitingly cold afternoon.
Deely had been disappointed with the tactical execution of his players in their seven-point loss to Derry one week earlier, noting after Sunday's win that on that occasion they had carried possession into the tackle too willingly and suffered as a result.
His plan to keep 14 players behind the ball and try to feed either outstanding midfielder Liam Gavaghan or the strong-running Mark Gottsche - who doubles up as Co. Secretary - in attacking positions required patience first and foremost, and the work in training during the week clearly paid off to a tee as London fully controlled this game.
Where does that leave a sorry Wexford, though? I mistakenly believed that the first round flop to Leitrim might have only been a hiccup that was promptly corrected against Antrim, but I was wrong.
It's clear now that it merely papered over the cracks and, in hindsight, it probably said more about the win-less Ulster side's general weakness than any great ability on our own team's part.
Nothing of a positive or constructive nature could be gleaned from this result. Only registering three points from play in 70-plus minutes is a shocking indictment of a group with big problems, and to get just two scores in the entire second-half, one from a late consolation free, does them no favours either.
I don't take pleasure in criticising this mixture of tremendous long servants of football in the county and their very young and green colleagues.
However, I imagine my view was shared by the quite sizeable contingent of Wexford people who travelled over for the game, given its novelty value as the first-ever league clash of the teams in Ruislip.
They had met there once before, in the 2010 All-Ireland qualifiers when the side managed by Jason Ryan romped home by 4-22 to 0-9, but we're dealing with a markedly less able Wexford side now.
And in fairness to Deely, it should be noted equally that the progress they have made since that game, when he appeared as a substitute himself for his native county, has been off the charts.
While three of Wexford's last four games would still be considered winnable - home to Waterford and Limerick, and away to Wicklow - in reality their promotion hopes are well and truly gone barring a series of unforeseen events.
It looks like their last round trip to meet Division 4 league favourites Derry will be a meaningless fixture for both sides, and it will now require a huge task to lift the spirits and morale for the first round of the championship against Louth which carries the carrot of hosting All-Ireland champions Dublin in the quarter-final should Wexford win.
Nothwithstanding the poisoned chalice vibe to that potential match-up, a win over the Wee county is about all that can save Wexford's 2019 football season even at this ridiculously early stage.
Three changes, two enforced, were made from the win over Antrim, with Eoin Porter replacing the suspended Glen Malone at right half-back, and Eoghan Nolan coming in for the injured Conor Devitt at left half-forward.
Daithí Waters was also back at midfield for his first start of the year, with Barry O'Connor moving to full-forward in place of Cathal Devereux who was on the bench.
There was an immediate sign of things to come as London, playing against the wind first, kept the ball for almost two minutes before a Waters tackle forced David Carrabine into over-carrying.
A rare handling error by a home defender was pounced upon by John Tubritt to kick a fine opening point in the third minute, while Conor Carty had a chance for another on the next attack but opted to pass to the Fethard man who was quickly closed down.
Some off-the-ball holding by captain Michael Furlong on the bustling Killian Butler led to Liam Gavaghan equalising from a free, with the latter going on to exert a huge influence at midfield and undoubtedly emerging as man of the match.
Gavaghan's second free was made easier by some dissent after a foul by Kevin O'Grady, and he duly obliged in the tenth minute.
However, a neat pass by Martin O'Connor bounced invitingly into the path of the St. James' man, and he moved on to his favoured left before making it 0-2 apiece.
Wexford's one big goal chance arrived in the twelfth minute, and it produced a magnificent low fingertip save. O'Grady found Tubritt who cut in on goal and tried to place the ball in the left corner of the net, but Gavin McEvoy somehow got down and turned his shot out for a '45.
That was kicked wide by Eoghan Nolan, the first of seven in total for Wexford, and he snatched badly at his second attempt just seconds later after McEvoy handed him back possession on a plate.
O'Grady and Conor O'Neill collected bookings for some off-the-ball jostling before Daithí Waters ballooned an offensive mark into the air after claiming it from an Eoin Porter pass.
And there was a big let-off for the visitors as the game moved into its 19th minute, with Mark Gottsche crashing a piledriver off the crossbar after a long ball by Matthew Moynihan from the right was broken into his path by the influential Killian Butler.
Conor Carty dropped an effort short, but his Castletown clubmate Jonathan Bealin restored the lead from a free after no advantage arose from a foul on Niall Hughes.
Conor Doran kicked the first of just three London wides, and the second followed immediately from Liam Gavaghan before Bealin made it 4-2 after a rare flowing move featuring Mark O'Neill, Brian Malone and Shane Doyle, who was fouled.
Barry O'Connor seemed a little bemused to be replaced by David Shannon, given that precious little of the ball was kicked in his direction at full-forward.
The Cork man didn't make an impression and was withdrawn himself midway through the second-half of a clash featuring some tenacious ball-winning by the home team's defenders which wasn't matched by the toothless Wexford attack.
After a Shane Doyle wide following a re-cycled free near the right sideline, a foul on Killian Butler was punished by the left boot of Conor Carty, but the leaders replied with a brace in the 32nd and 33rd minutes.
Jonathan Bealin was on target twice from frees, with John Tubritt fouled first before London netminder Gavin McEvoy overcarried under pressure from Kevin O'Grady (0-6 to 0-3).
London kicked two vital points in the four added minutes though, the first from David Dunne after a little Seamus Darby-type nudge by Killian Butler from a Matthew Moynihan delivery, and the second by Butler himself courtesy of an Aidan McGarvey pass and a slip by Mark O'Neill as he moved in to tackle.
Ahead by 0-6 to 0-5 at the break, but with the elements to face, it was clear that Wexford would need to do what London had done - keeping the ball and waiting for the right time to break a tackle - but do it even better to have any chance.
That may have been the task, but they never rose a gallop in a nightmare second period for the visitors when any attacks they did begin were painfully slow, with little or no penetration and a tendency to pass backwards at every attempt while facing an admittedly difficult wind.
Martin O'Connor had an early scoring chance from a Jonathan Bealin pass but took too many steps, with a thankfully brief spell of sheeting rain following as spectators in the new stand, opened in May of 2017, expressed gratitude for the cover provided.
Ben Brosnan replaced John Tubritt who had limped out of the Antrim game with an injury, and a foul on Niall Hughes drew a yellow card for David Carrabine.
Matt Doyle then showed his worth between the posts in the 44th minute after Killian Butler cut in from the right and fed Conor Doran whose shot was brilliantly stopped by the young goalkeeper.
A Jonathan Bealin free went wide via a post following a foul on Eoghan Nolan, and London finally equalised in the 48th minute courtesy of Killian Butler from a Liam Gavaghan assist (0-6 each).
They moved ahead when Daithí Waters lost possession up the field and Mark Gottsche fed Conor Doran, while Bealin missed another free after Ben Brosnan was tripped.
Robert Frayne and Michael O'Regan came in for O'Grady and Shannon before a long spell of London keep ball ended with a cheap free conceded by Mark O'Neill and a Gavaghan point (0-8 to 0-6).
Brosnan kicked a high shot wide before Brian Malone showed the only piece of attacking nous of the second-half with a good solo point after a one-two with Eoin Porter in the 60th minute.
Brosnan dropped an attempt short before Shane Doyle lost the ball in the right corner, and Gavaghan curled a beauty between the posts (0-9 to 0-7).
Wexford's woes were compounded then in a period lasting less than five minutes when London registered their match-winning goals.
The first was a beauty from Killian Butler after a fine move which saw Gavaghan injecting the pace when it was needed, and David Carrabine supplying the last pass.
Eoghan Nolan tried to respond but was penalised for overcarrying close to goal, and any slight doubt surrounding the outcome was wiped out in the 66th minute.
Experienced ex-Donegal substitute Adrian Hanlon and Liam Gavaghan combined to find Carrabine whose over-exuberance close to goal saw him almost leave the ball behind.
He had to grab it from behind his back and that killed the prospect of taking a shot on goal himself.
Instead he improvised with a fisted point attempt that dropped short under the crossbar and was forced to the net by substitute Ciarán Houlihan, with Killian Butler also close at hand (2-9 to 0-7).
Jonathan Bealin pointed a consolation free in added time after Niall Hughes was fouled, with Robert Frayne blasting a shot wide before the last word fittingly went to London.
And it was the appropriate man to close the scoring too, as Liam Gavaghan punished a sloppy Tiarnan Rossiter pass with a point that left eight between the teams at the finish.
Incidentally, the over-exuberant scoreboard operator had London on 2-11, but referee Seamus Mulvihill confirmed afterwards that 2-10 was their final tally, enough to leave Ciarán Deely with the widest smile in Ruislip, and Wexford facing a sombre trip home with a lot of searching questions for both management and players to answer.
It was without question one of the poorest displays in my living memory.
Wexford: Matt Doyle; Conor Carty, Michael Furlong (capt.), Mark O'Neill; Eoin Porter, Shane Doyle, Martin O'Connor; Daithí Waters, Niall Hughes; Brian Malone (0-1), Jonathan Bealin (0-5 frees), Eoghan Nolan; Kevin O'Grady (0-1), Barry O'Connor, John Tubritt (0-1). Subs. - David Shannon for B. O'Connor (26), Ben Brosnan for Tubritt (43), Robert Frayne for O'Grady (52), Michael O'Regan for Shannon (52), Tiarnan Rossiter for Porter (65).
London: Gavin McEvoy; Philip Butler, Matthew Moynihan, Conor O'Neill; David Carrabine, Michael Clarke, Ryan Jones; Ryan Forde, Liam Gavaghan (0-5, 3 frees); David Dunne (0-1), Mark Gottsche, Aidan McGarvey; Conor Doran (0-2, 1 free), Killian Butler (1-2), Barry Tully. Subs. - Adrian Hanlon for Forde, inj. (46), Eoin Flanagan for Jones (52), Pierce McGirr for Dunne (56), Ciarán Houlihan (1-0) for Doran (65), Liam Gallagher for Tully (70)
Referee: Seamus Mulvihill (Kerry).
New Ross Standard