| 12.1°C Dublin

Strong recovery isn’t enough for Wexford footballers as Laois prevail


Wexford veteran Ben Brosnan taking on Laois full-back Trevor Collins. Photographs: Noel Reddy.

Wexford veteran Ben Brosnan taking on Laois full-back Trevor Collins. Photographs: Noel Reddy.

Dylan Furlong trying to burst past Eoin Lowry, Trevor Collins and Seán Greene.

Dylan Furlong trying to burst past Eoin Lowry, Trevor Collins and Seán Greene.

Defender Michael Furlong is tackled by Mark Barry of Laois.

Defender Michael Furlong is tackled by Mark Barry of Laois.


Wexford veteran Ben Brosnan taking on Laois full-back Trevor Collins. Photographs: Noel Reddy.


Laois 1-18 Wexford 1-13

THE WEXFORD Senior footballers are still searching for their first win in Division 4 of the Allianz League, but there was enough evidence in Laois Hire O’Moore Park on Sunday to suggest that at least they are heading in the right direction.

It looked like a trying afternoon was in store in Portlaoise when the hosts stormed into a 1-6 to 0-2 lead by the end of the opening quarter, even though they were playing into the wind.

However, Wexford went on to produce their best football under the new management thus far as they outscored the hosts by 1-5 to 0-1 to go in at half-time on level terms.

This is Wexford Newsletter

A weekly update on the top stories from County Wexford in news and sport, direct to your inbox

This field is required

They only trailed by two points with six minutes left, and hot favourites Laois couldn’t afford to relax until the dying stages when Mark Barry picked off their last two insurance points.

One clear negative was the fact that Wexford didn’t score again from play after Conor Kinsella’s well-taken goal at this level in the 26th minute.

After that there was a complete reliance on Mark Rossiter from placed balls to keep them in touch, with the Gusserane attacker contributing our eight remaining points including all six in the second-half.

Let’s be honest there – the trip to Portlaoise wouldn’t have been targeted as a likely winning assignment when the mentors sat down to plan for this campaign.

Division 4 tends to contain one team considered too strong for the basement every season, with Laois filling this role in similar manner to the now-promoted Cavan in 2022.

There was always the sense that Wexford would be fighting for second place rather than first, and in that regard their next assignment – at home to unbeaten Leitrim on Sunday week – is likely to either make or break them as they simply cannot afford to be still stuck on one point after three games.

They lined out in a familiar fashion here, with the player starting at centre-forward – Darragh Lyons in this case – moving back into defence when the opposition had possession.

Seán Nolan then drifted out from the corner and played most of his football around the ’40 as a result, leaving a two-man inside line of Mark Rossiter and Ben Brosnan, who replaced Cian Hughes in the only change in personnel from the draw with London eight days earlier.

There was a bright start, as just 21 seconds had elapsed when Glen Malone – who had hit the milestone of his 50th Senior appearance against the exiles – angled over a point from the right corner after Niall Hughes and Rossiter featured in the build-up.

The pre-dominant Laois tactic was evident from their opening attack, when midfielder James Finn launched a long ball for captain Evan O’Carroll to win and slot over the bar.

I’m not sure if the hosts perceived an aerial weakness in Wexford’s full-back sector, or if they play like this all the time. Whatever the reason, in an era of constant handpassing and working the ball through the lines, this was like a throwback to days of old as they pumped the ball long at every opportunity.

Centre-back Brian Molloy and free-taker Mark Rossiter posted the first two of Wexford’s five wides (with Laois registering eight) before the locals pounced for a goal that could have been prevented in the seventh minute.

Midfielder Kieran Lillis arrowed the ball through a gap between Darragh Lyons and Páraic Hughes into the grateful arms of Evan O’Carroll, and he produced a composed finish as Craig McCabe darted off his line to ease Laois into a 1-1 to 0-1 lead.

With two players having the chance to cut out the pass, it was a poor goal to give away, and it clearly rattled the visitors.

The stray kick-out that followed was caught by Mark Barry who was then fouled after O’Carroll and Brian Byrne combined first, and Paul Kingston had a tap-over free.

Barry made it 1-3 to 0-1 after Páraic Hughes held O’Carroll’s jersey, and then the scorer was fouled on the endline by Darragh Lyons and Kingston doubled his haul from the placed ball.

Wexford dodged another bullet from the restart that was caught by James Finn, with an O’Carroll point effort rebounding off the post.

The second point for the visitors was conjured out of nothing in the 15th minute, with Seán Nolan letting fly from 40 metres on the right and splitting the town-end posts with a lovely outside-of-the-boot strike (1-4 to 0-2).

However, the Laois dominance continued, with O’Carroll pumping a free into Kingston to pick off their next point before he made it 1-6 to 0-2 himself after Conor Kinsella was booked for a foul on James Finn.

Wexford were in danger of being beaten out of sight, but some credit is due as they rallied admirably and hauled themselves right back into contention with a scoring burst of 1-3 on the bounce between the 21st and 26th minutes.

It all started when a block on a Ben Brosnan kick led to a converted ’45 from Mark Rossiter, and he added a pointed free after Laois defender Seán O’Flynn touched the ball on the ground.

Kevin O’Grady’s 24th-minute point after a crossfield solo run from the right was significant, given that it was the 100th he has scored to go along with the eleven goals recorded since making his debut in the league against Waterford twelve years ago (1-6 to 0-5).

And in the context of the game in general, the next Wexford attack yielded an even more important contribution.

A couple of efforts had dropped short in that second quarter, from a Rossiter free and from Ben Brosnan, but the next kick from distance had a more successful outcome.

Young Conor Kinsella had drifted in from the left flank to the edge of the square to catch Glen Malone’s kick, and he turned sharply on to his left before drilling home his first-ever inter-county Senior goal to cut the gap to the minimum.

Laois did threaten an immediate response when Eoin Lowry raced towards goal, but a combination of Michael Furlong and Eoghan Nolan closed him down.

Nolan had picked up a knock a short time earlier that forced him off at half-time, while Gavin Sheehan was unable to resume also and both were significant losses.

A Kevin O’Grady handpass near the posts that was aimed for Brosnan was intercepted before Kieran Lillis put his boot through the ball and registered a fine point for the first Laois score in more than 13 minutes.

However, it was only a brief respite as Wexford’s bright spell continued. Eoghan Nolan almost picked out Niall Hughes on the edge of the square before Mark Rossiter kicked their third and final first-half wide.

The restart was won by Gavin Sheehan who was impeded after swapping passes with Nolan, and Rossiter duly obliged. And he repeated the dose after Conor Kinsella latched on to the kick-out, with his finish making it 1-7 each as Kieran Lillis quickly followed Trevor Collins into the notebook for that pair of fouls.

Cathal Walsh and Dylan Furlong resumed in place of the injured Nolan and Sheehan, with Wexford now playing into the wind.

And they fell behind quickly as Evan O’Carroll converted a mark from a Patrick O’Sullivan delivery before he added a beauty after a neat turn on to his left from Eoin Lowry’s long pass (1-9 to 1-7).

Yet another weak kick-out was won by Mark Barry who fed Lowry to widen the gap to three, but the rot was stopped when Mark Rossiter punished a foul on the solo-running Dylan Furlong in the 41st minute.

Rossiter repeated the dose when Conor Kinsella was dragged down, but Mark Barry responded from a free made easier by a Wexford player’s slowness in retreating from the ball.

A Glen Malone punch across the square led to a ’45 that Rossiter knocked over in the 47th minute, and they only trailed by the minimum (1-11 to 1-10) at that stage.

Paul Kingston hit back from an Eoin Lowry handpass, and the subsequent kick-out over the sideline resulted in the same player scoring from a free earned after a brilliant dummy by Mark Barry that threw Páraic Hughes off kilter.

The younger of the Hughes brothers, Cian, replaced Ben Brosnan, and his strong, direct running yielded two of the last three frees that Rossiter pointed.

There was also a first appearance of the year for John Tubritt after his club exploits, but Wexford ran down blind alleys and coughed up possession around the Laois 20-metre line on more than one occasion in the last quarter.

That was a pity because, after a Seán Nolan wide, Rossiter nailed his next two frees, with the second brought in for dissent after he was fouled on the 45-metre line.

Laois were struggling to shake their rivals off, but the breathing space they craved was finally secured with three points in three minutes from Paul Kingston (free), Mark Barry (play and free).

That made it 1-16 to 1-12, before Rossiter hit the last Wexford score after a foul on Cian Hughes in the 68th minute.

With the team pushing forward in unison, Mark Barry had a goal chance from a Patrick O’Sullivan pass but wisely opted to take his point. Seán Nolan struck the last Wexford wide before Barry pounced again, slotting over off his left peg after Kingston claimed a mark from the kick-out.

Wexford: 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); Eoghan Nolan (Shelmaliers, capt.), Niall Hughes (Kilanerin); Kevin O’Grady (St. James’, 0-1), Darragh Lyons (St. James’), Conor Kinsella (Kilanerin, 1-0); Seán Nolan (Horeswood, 0-1), Ben Brosnan (Castletown), Mark Rossiter (Gusserane, 0-10, 8 frees, 2 ’45s). Subs. – Cathal Walsh (Monageer-Boolavogue) for E. Nolan, inj. (HT), Dylan Furlong (Sarsfields) for Sheehan, inj. (HT), Cian Hughes (Kilanerin) for Brosnan (51), John Tubritt (Fethard) for Kinsella (59), Conor Carty (Castletown) for O’Grady (69), also Darragh Brooks (Castletown), Ríoghan Crosbie (Glynn-Barntown), Jim Rossiter (St. Fintan’s), Jamie John Murphy (HWH-Bunclody), Cathal Stokes (Naomh Éanna), Dean O’Toole (Kilanerin).

Laois: Scott Osborne; Seán Greene, Trevor Collins, Robbie Piggott; Seán O’Flynn, Mark Timmons, Brian Byrne; Kieran Lillis (0-1), James Finn; Mark Barry (0-6, 3 frees), Paul Kingston (0-6, 4 frees), Patrick O’Sullivan; Eoin Lowry (0-1), Evan O’Carroll (capt., 1-4, 0-1 free, 0-1 mark), Niall Corbet. Subs. – Kevin Swayne for Corbet (46), Lee Walker for Lowry (56), Pádraig Kirwan for O’Flynn (66), Ciarán Burke for Finn (70+3).

Referee: Chris Maguire (Clare).