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London’s late leveller a bitter pill to swallow for Wexford footballers


Niall Hughes goes to ground in a challenge from London’s former Laois dual player Cahir Healy.

Niall Hughes goes to ground in a challenge from London’s former Laois dual player Cahir Healy.

Gavin Sheehan soloing out of the Wexford defence.

Gavin Sheehan soloing out of the Wexford defence.

Roving Wexford goalkeeper Craig McCabe evades the challenge of London saviour Matthew Walsh.

Roving Wexford goalkeeper Craig McCabe evades the challenge of London saviour Matthew Walsh.

Wexford's Glen Malone gliding past Chris Farley of London.

Wexford's Glen Malone gliding past Chris Farley of London.


Niall Hughes goes to ground in a challenge from London’s former Laois dual player Cahir Healy.


Wexford 1-9 London 1-9

THE EVENING had started in high spirits as a bumper crowd of 3,497 arrived to witness Wexford’s first-ever home Allianz Football League Division 4 game under the new Chadwicks Wexford Park floodlights on Saturday.

However, the vast majority left in deflated mood after the hosts squandered the six-point lead they enjoyed in the 51st minute, with a sickening sucker punch in the last action of a low-quality game leading to an equalising goal for London.

Wexford were down to 13 men at that stage, after a frenetic spell in additional time resulted in dismissals for their best attacker, Seán Nolan (second yellow), and Kevin O’Grady (black followed by a yellow).

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The latter walked for a foul committed on the 13-metre line to the right of the town end posts, and initially it looked like the storm was weathered. London tried to work a goal, but Matthew Walsh’s hopeful fist across the square was gathered by Eoghan Nolan and the danger was temporarily averted.

Wexford couldn’t break out with possession though, and they were left gutted six minutes and six seconds into additional time when the ball made its way through a sea of bodies from the right of the posts again, and Matthew Walsh got the vital connection with his hands from a matter of inches to force it to the net.

The final whistle followed from the kick-out, and it was easy to understand why London celebrated as if they had won the game.

While a promising start to the second-half saw them reduce a 0-5 to 0-2 interval deficit to 0-6 to 0-5 by the 43rd minute, they proceeded to gift Wexford a bizarre own goal that killed their momentum.

And when Seán Nolan and Cian Hughes followed up with points to widen the gap to 1-8 to 0-5, it was difficult to envisage anything other than a welcome home win.

However, a pair of points apiece from free-takers Liam Gavaghan and Chris Farley – the last two in a period when Kevin O’Grady was in the sin-bin for dissent – meant they were still in with a chance in the closing minutes, as Wexford had only responded once, from a fisted finish by Glen Malone after a one-two with Nolan in the 63rd minute.

The home side didn’t score again, although they did have one decent chance two minutes into additional time, with the team restored to 15 by that stage after the return of O’Grady.

Niall Hughes drilled a long line ball from under the stand towards the Clonard end, and Wexford’s man-of-the-match Seán Nolan won it over the head of his marker before picking out the St. James’ veteran.

However, a London defender managed to get his body in the way and deny O’Grady at the expense of a ’45 that was missed by veteran substitute Ben Brosnan.

Seán Nolan was unfortunate to collect a second yellow, using his boot in a genuine attempt to play the ball as a London player stooped to pick it up, but it was perhaps inevitable that someone would be dismissed since erratic referee John Ryan was fond of dishing out the cards for minor offences.

That proved the case, too, when O’Grady incurred his wrath for an attempted tackle close to the town end posts as London pressed forward, and the time it took to complete the paperwork for that dismissal meant the five additional minutes announced were increased to six.

The manner of that late concession was a truly bitter blow, and it won’t be easy for Wexford to pick themselves up for the trip to take on Laois next Sunday. It was London’s best-ever result at the venue, after defeats by margins of 23, six and 15 points in 2016, 2017 and 2020 respectively.

And while it wasn’t as disastrous as Wexford’s meek 2-10 to 0-8 capitulation in Ruislip four years ago, by the same token the result undoubtedly inflicted early damage to their stated main aim for 2023 of breaking out of the basement division.

Interestingly, only five of Wexford’s starting 15 from last year’s 0-11 to 1-6 win in McGovern Park were involved from the off here, compared to six among the London line-up.

The hosts weren’t helped by a number of absentees owing to injury, with captain Liam Coleman, the Brooks brothers, joint vice-captain Eoin Porter, and Liam O’Connor among the walking wounded.

First league starts were given to three recent O’Byrne Cup full debutants – defenders Brian Cushe and Brian Molloy plus Conor Kinsella, who featured on the ’40 – along with the latter’s Kilanerin team-mate Cian Hughes, whose sole previous appearance came in May’s Tailteann Cup exit to Offaly.

And another newcomer arrived off the bench in the second-half, with Cathal Walsh becoming only the third-ever Monageer-Boolavogue clubman to feature at this level. Billy Rowsome was the first, in a stellar career spanning from 1974 to 1983, and the second was Cork native John Hegarty, whose sole league appearance came as a replacement for Matty Forde on the Kilanerin great’s Senior debut against Fermanagh in Enniskillen in February of 1999.

The positioning of Páraic Hughes was interesting, and it certainly asked a lot of the talented youngster in terms of distance covered.

While he was placed at full-back and did a good job of keeping tabs on potential London dangerman Enda Lynn, he was also encouraged to bomb forward at every opportunity and featured in numerous promising attacking moves.

The repeat of the previous week’s pre-match light show saw the crowd swell to more than four times the norm for a home football league game, coupled with the fact that adults had to accompany the many primary schoolchildren provided with tickets.

However, if the marketing was a success, unfortunately the turgid product on view won’t encourage first-timers to return any time soon. The current risk-averse approach to inter-county football is a tough watch at the best of times, and this error-strewn clash was one to forget.

It was best summed up by the events leading up to Wexford’s goal, registered in the 46th minute to give them a 1-6 to 0-5 lead.

London’s Stephen Dornan, under no pressure at midfield, kicked a short pass straight into the grateful hands of Wexford’s most menacing solo runner, Seán Nolan.

In fairness, he tried to respond to his error, dashing back as the Horeswood forward eventually made it to the 13-metre line. However, in Dornan’s attempt to tackle, he only succeeded in slapping the ball down near his own feet, and he couldn’t get out of the way as it deflected low and beyond netminder Kevin Mullan for a truly sloppy goal.

Mullan had his own issues too from kick-outs, and he sent his first straight to Mark Rossiter who teed up Seán Nolan for Wexford’s opening point in the fourth minute.

Rossiter had missed a free beforehand for the first of Wexford’s twelve wides (London had six), and he was off target again before the lead was doubled in the twelfth minute.

Eoghan Nolan found the advancing Páraic Hughes who broke through a tackle and handpassed to Seán Nolan, with his powerful kick flying over the bar.

More than eleven scoreless minutes followed, during which London hit two wides and dropped one shot short, compared to one Wexford miss and one easy catch for Kevin Mullan at the other end.

The visitors got off the mark in the 23rd minute, with Chris Farley obliging from a free after Ronan Sloan was fouled following a Liam Gavaghan pass.

However, Wexford responded in a flash, with Kevin O’Grady leaving them 0-3 to 0-1 clear from 44 metres after a Seán Nolan off-load.

London’s first point from play arrived from an astute handpass by former Dublin Under-20 attacker Niall O’Leary that took out a couple of defenders in the 25th minute, with Henry Walsh availing of the space created to make it a one-point game.

Mark Rossiter opened his account after a foul on Niall Hughes before Eoghan Nolan made it 0-5 to 0-2 with a nice curled effort from a pass down the right flank by his Shelmaliers clubmate, Glen Malone.

Páraic Hughes had a half-chance for a goal in the 31st minute when a Kevin O’Grady delivery broke into his path, but he was under pressure when his effort was saved and the rebound struck him before going over the endline.

Another poor kick-out by Kevin Mullan, this time straight to Cian Hughes, should have been punished close to half-time, but Kevin O’Grady’s attempt at a point was blocked and London recovered.

The Michael Maher-managed side resumed on a bright note, with Liam Gavaghan punishing a foul on Chris Farley, but Mark Rossiter replied after Gavin Sheeehan darted into the ‘D’ and was taken down (0-6 to 0-3).

London were clearly gathering momentum, though, and Farley earned and converted a free before they won the resultant kick-out. Matthew Walsh, their deep-lying centre-forward, spent a lot of time in his own half before bolting forward at speed.

And after he played a one-two with Stephen Dornan and split the posts, Wexford were clinging to a 0-6 to 0-5 lead.

Kevin Mullan redeemed himself for those earlier restarts when he saved with his feet to deny Mark Rossiter in the 44th minute, after the Gusserane forward latched on to a Niall Hughes free.

However, the goalkeeper was picking the ball out of his net after the next attack, and the soft concession clearly rattled London as the subsequent kick-out went over the sideline.

Seán Nolan then widened the gap to five after a Kevin O’Grady run, before a London restart was intercepted by Cian Hughes and he landed his first-ever point at Senior level (1-8 to 0-5).

The fact that London clawed their way back from a succession of pointed frees should be a source of extreme annoyance to the Wexford mentors, even allowing for the dubious nature of some indiscretions.

Chris Farley tapped over when Matthew Walsh was impeded, before Liam Gavaghan was taken down to avert a potential goal chance and he had to settle for a point.

The sin-binning of Kevin O’Grady followed for dissent, after he felt a London free should have gone to him first. Gavaghan then made it 1-8 to 0-8, with Ronan Sloan earning the free, before a brief respite in the 63rd minute.

Glen Malone intercepted a poor Gavaghan kick and surged forward, exchanging passes with Seán Nolan before using his fist to secure a four-point lead.

Farley made it 1-9 to 0-9 before O’Grady returned, but six minutes later he was departing again and Wexford were down to 13, as Nolan’s dismissal had occurred just moments before.

Even with that numerical disadvantage, Wexford should have been able to defend their crowded goalmouth at the death. And in what promises to be a tight promotion battle, their failure to do so could prove very costly in the long run.

Wexford (own goal): Craig McCabe (Shelmaliers); Brian Cushe (Naomh Éanna), Páraic Hughes (Kilanerin), Michael Furlong (Adamstown); Glen Malone (Shelmaliers, 0-1), Brian Molloy (St. James’), Gavin Sheehan (Gusserane); Darragh Lyons (St. James’), Niall Hughes (Kilanerin); Eoghan Nolan (Shelmaliers, capt., 0-1), Conor Kinsella (Kilanerin), Kevin O’Grady (St. James’, 0-1); Cian Hughes (Kilanerin, 0-1), Seán Nolan (Horeswood, 0-3), Mark Rossiter (Gusserane, 0-2 frees). Subs. – Dean O’Toole (Kilanerin) for Kinsella (52), Ben Brosnan (Castletown) for C. Hughes (52), Cathal Walsh (Monageer-Boolavogue) for Lyons (58), Dylan Furlong (Sarsfields) for M. Furlong (66), Conor Carty (Castletown) for Rossiter (70+1), also Anthony Larkin (Starlights), Ríoghan Crosbie (Glynn-Barntown), Jim Rossiter (St. Fintan’s), Cathal Stokes (Naomh Éanna), Liam Doyle (Ballyhogue), John Tubritt (Fethard). Sin-bin: Kevin O’Grady (58).

London: Kevin Mullan; Michael Clarke, Nathan McElwaine, Eoin Walsh; Ronan Sloan, Cahir Healy, Aidan McLoughlin; Liam Gallagher, Stephen Dornan; Niall O’Leary, Matthew Walsh (1-1), Henry Walsh (0-1); Liam Gavaghan (capt., 0-3 frees), Enda Lynn, Chris Farley (0-4 frees). Subs. – Chris Duggan for H. Walsh (49), Conal Gallagher for Dornan (57), Eunan Curran for Healy (64), James Hynes for Lynn (69), Josh Obahor for O’Leary (70+4).

Referee: John Ryan (Cork).