Rossiter goal helps Wexford beat Offaly
A SWEETLY TAKEN 23rd-minute goal from newcomer Tiarnan Rossiter gave Wexford the cushion they needed when Offaly pressed hard in the second-half.
Then, a late trio of unanswered points made sure of success in this Allianz Football League Division 3 opener in O'Kennedy Park, New Ross, on Sunday last.
While St. Mary's (Rosslare) stalwart David Murphy has taken on the role of supporter after his retirement, his young clubmate ghosted up from left half-back to plant the ball past Alan Mulhall and set the Slaneysiders on the road to a precious first victory.
Newly-appointed captain Graeme Molloy set the move in train with a pass to St. James' colleague Kevin O'Grady, and his quick transfer found James Holmes. Rossiter had raced upfield in support and when the ball was popped in his direction he applied a cool finish to extend his side's lead to 1-6 to 0-1.
Offaly had been all at sea despite having wind advantage and this score really should have buried them. However, it had the opposite effect in actual fact as it awoke them from their slumber and they got their act together in the lead-up to half-time. Indeed, they pulled back five points without reply courtesy of Anton Sullivan, Niall Darby, Ciarán Hurley, Ken Casey and Nigel Dunne (free), with Wexford restricted to a Michael Furlong wide and an effort from Colm Kehoe which dropped short in the same period.
It marked a complete transformation because the rampant home side had struck 1-6 without reply after conceding the opening point to Niall McNamee a mere 24 seconds into proceedings. Paddy Byrne in particular gave Wexford a dominant midfield platform and they piled forward at will, with Ben Brosnan levelling inside three minutes from a free.
This came after referee Maurice Deegan called back play when he saw that no advantage arose after Michael Furlong was nudged when he kicked for a point, and the rule seemed to take a lot of spectators by surprise as the game proceeded. The Laois official repeatedly raised his arm to indicate he was allowing the play to continue before blowing for the free instead where it was more beneficial.
The game also had one black card as Offaly wing-forward Graham Guilfoyle blocked Daithí Waters in the 16th minute and must have known his fate as soon as the man in the middle approached.
Wexford owned possession once they settled into the game, with Graeme Molloy marshalling a back line which played from the front while the midfield superiority kept the forwards busy. Colm Kehoe supplied the last pass for Paddy Byrne to give them the lead for the first time in the fifth minute, and it took a fine Alan Mulhall save to deny Ben Brosnan a goal shortly afterwards when he caught a high and hopeful kick to the far post by Ciarán Lyng.
The subsequent '45 was missed by Brosnan for the first of Wexford's six wides (three per half), while Offaly had five efforts off target over the 70 minutes. The Bannow-Ballymitty sharpshooter had better luck from a free earned by Tiarnan Rossiter before Ciarán Lyng and James Holmes added to the tally, with the latter score coming after more good work from the influential Paddy Byrne (0-5 to 0-1).
After getting one with the left peg, Lyng added a second via his right, with Byrne involved again even though Offaly had moved Eoin Carroll to midfield in a swap with Johnny Moloney in an effort to put a stop to his gallop.
Local followers could have been forgiven for expecting a handy win after that Rossiter goal, but they certainly knew differently by the interval as a rejuvenated Offaly were within touching distance just 1-6 to 0-6 adrift.
Byrne was in the wars inside one minute of the re-start, suffering a blow to the head which had to be bandaged and forcing him into two brief spells off the field when he was replaced by Cillian Kehoe.
Two Ciarán Lyng points extended the gap, the first from a free after he was fouled and the second when he latched on to the subsequent poor kick-out and did more damage (1-8 to 0-6).
Offaly weren't going to go away though as Nigel Dunne tapped over a free before Niall Smith fisted netminder Alan Mulhall's '45 over the bar, and they came very close to equalising in the 46th minute.
Indeed, it was arguably the most crucial piece of play in the contest as Niall McNamee's point attempt was blocked by a defender and fell very kindly for Eoin Carroll who was clean through in a one-on-one situation. Anyone questioning the worth of placing Shane Roche between the posts will have got their answer there and then as he pulled off a tremendous save at a time when an Offaly goal would have given the midlanders a lot of momentum.
Instead the ball was transferred quickly downfield and Daithí Waters sent a high left-footed kick between the posts to make it 1-9 to 0-8 when it could have been 1-8 each just as easily.
Joe Maher sent over a free from a tricky angle for the visitors before two recently-introduced substitutes combined well as Robert Dempsey picked out P.J. Banville who sent over the first of his three points.
The fingertips of a back prevented Banville from getting a Paddy Byrne handpass moments later in a move with 'goal' written all over it, but at least the resultant '45 was pointed by Ben Brosnan (1-11 to 0-9).
Offaly pressed strongly through for the next five minutes and were rewarded with points from two Ken Casey frees and substitute Rúairí Allen.
They didn't score in the last eleven minutes plus added time however as the Wexford defence shut up shop, with Michael Furlong dropping back on occasions from centre-forward to help out.
A push on P.J. Banville gave Ciarán Lyng a straightforward chance which he took to bring it to 1-12 to 0-12, and it was left to the Horeswood man himself to make certain sure of success with a brace of late points.
This was the first of four home games and with no team likely to go through this tight division unbeaten, Wexford really need to make the most of performing on their own soil.
The trip to Kiltoom on Sunday next will be a lot harder, with Roscommon buoyed by Sunday's win over neighbours Longford, but it's great to be travelling west with a brace of points in the bag.
The 50 frees awarded were shared evenly between the teams, with 15 of Wexford's 25 coming in the second-half. And as well as that black card for Graham Guilfoyle, yellows were dished out to Brian Malone, Robert Dempsey and Offaly duo Niall Smith and David Hanlon.
New Ross Standard