Saturday 18 November 2017


ALAN AHERNE In Blackwater

Match officials look on as the Wexford physio, Donal 'Gammy' O'Connor, works on Richie Kehoe's hamstring during half-time of the Bórd na Móna Walsh Cup game against Offaly in Páirc Naomh Bríd, Blackwater. WEXFORD 1-24 OFFALY 1-15 WEXFORD'S PROMISING start to the new season continued before a contented crowd in Blackwater on Sunday last when they outscored early pace-setters Offaly after the break by a whopping 1-14 to 0-5 to ease into the Walsh Cup Senior hurling semi-final against Kilkenny next weekend.

The team chalked up a very impressive points tally for the second game on the trot after initially taking some time to get to grips with the stronger challenge posed by the midlanders. Trailing by 1-10 to 0-10 at the break, they had edged in front by the minimum (017 to 1-13) entering the final quarter.

A run of three points on the trot from lively substitute David Redmond, Paudge Doran and ace free-taker Gary Moore put daylight between the sides for the first time in the second-half, and the real clincher came with just over eight minutes left. Doran had found experienced Leinster regular David Kenny a tough customer to deal with after moving to the edge of the square eleven minutes after the interval, but on this occasion he did well to control a Michael O'Regan delivery and turn the Offaly captain.

Referee Anthony Stapleton awarded a penalty for the resultant challenge, and netminder Mark Fanning came forward to drill the sliothar to the net for a 1-21 to 1-14 lead. It was the longest journey the GlynnBarntown netminder made over the 70 minutes, but it was only small fry compared to his full weekend schedule as he was in Cork on Saturday manning the posts for his college, W.I.T., in a Waterford Crystal tournament quarter-final loss to the Leesiders.

Shaun Murphy and Harry Kehoe also featured in that game, and the latter looked sharp again on the following day when he added another three points from play to the half-dozen he landed against D.I.T. Gary Moore struck twelve scores for the second game running, while the defence settled down after a shaky enough first-half and grew in stature as a unit as the game wore on.

Two of the selected team - number three Tomás Waters and centre-forward Eoin Quigley - didn't tog out, with Eoin Moore joining the Kenny cousins in the full-back line while the verstaile Lee Chin came in at midfield. Harry Kehoe started at right half-forward, with P.J. Nolan moving into the corner and Paul Morris on the '40 where he did most of his best work against D.I.T.

Offaly had been on the challenge game circuit as they had a first round bye, but they travelled with a solid core to their team including such notable figures as David Kenny, Kevin Brady and Derek Morkham in defence, midfielders Rory Hanniffy and Cathal Parlon, plus attackers Brian Carroll, Shane Dooley, Derek Molloy and Joe Bergin.

It amounted to a good test for the hosts, and they were slow to get going as Carroll, Bergin and Dooley (free) picked off quick points, although Michael O'Regan did squander a goal chance when he batted a Paul Morris pass wide in the second minute.

Eoin Doyle, who got through a lot of hard work at midfield, opened the locals' account as the rain started to come down, but thankfully it only lasted five minutes and conditions were generally much more favourable than seven days earlier. Gary Moore (free) and Harry Kehoe had hit the target in that brief wet spell, with the latter score coming after a good block by P.J. Nolan.

Tom Carroll's tenth-minute point was bettered by Nolan and Moore (free) as Wexford hit the front for the first time (0-5 to 0-4), but it was shortlived as Offaly pounced for the opening goal when Shane Dooley's delivery was knocked down and swept to the net by full-forward Derek Molloy.

Dooley (free and play) widened the gap to 1-6 to 05 before Gary Moore pulled one back, although Offaly were winning their fair share of possession around the middle third and capitalised with a run of three unanswered points from Dooley (free), Cathal Parlon and Dooley (play).

They could have added a second goal too in the 22nd minute, but Derek Molloy didn't get a clean shot away and Mark Fanning dealt with it before Odhran Kealey sent the rebound wide while under pressure.

Another Dooley free left Offaly with their biggest lead of the 70 minutes (1-10 to 0-6). Ciarán Kenny had to depart from full-back as his younger brother, Andrew, was brought on for his first Senior appearance on the right wing, with Richie Kehoe going to centre-back and Andrew Shore taking over on the edge of the square.

And the last five minutes of the half were much more positive from Wexford's point of view as they pulled back four points through Paul Morris, Richie Kehoe (free) and two Gary Moore placed balls to leave the interval score at a more manageable 1-10 to 0-10.

David Redmond replaced the injured Lee Chin at midfield on the re-start, and Shane Dooley's free after 45 seconds was the first of only five points Offaly would add throughout the second-half as Wexford worked well as a team and picked off some fine scores in the process. The grand total of 15 flags were raised in all, along with a mere three wides to go with the seven from the opening half. Meanwhile, Offaly hit nine wides in total while they were awarded 15 of the 31 frees.

Fouls on Paudge Doran and P.J. Nolan enabled Gary Moore to reduce arrears to 1-11 to 0-12 before Harry Kehoe availed of a Michael O'Regan pass to leave the minimum between them. Moore briefly went to full-forward before Doran manned that position, and it looked as though Offaly might have steadied the ship when a fine catch by David Kenny led to a Shane Dooley point in the 45th minute.

That wasn't the case though, as Wexford hit four points without reply to ease ahead by 0-17 to 1-12 midway through the half. The first and last of those scores were Gary Moore frees, and Richie Kehoe's '65 was converted after the Glynn-Barntown man's shot for goal following a lovely crossfield Andrew Kenny pass struck the body of the latter's Offaly namesake, David. The effort from play was a fine example of David Redmond's opportunism as he snapped the sliothar from under the nose of a rival who was preparing to pounce on it and let the wind do the rest with a sweet shot.

Derek Morkham briefly stopped the rot with a fine long-range point, with Harry Kehoe and Shane Dooley (free) then swapping scores before that threepoint burst and Fanning's goal which left Wexford in a position of real strength.

Dermot Mooney pulled back what proved to be the final Offaly score, but Wexford finished on a real high as Paul Morris and Gary Moore (play and free) extended their winning margin to an impressive nine points to leave home supporters satisfied as they hurried to their cars to warm up.

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