Waterford 3-24 Wexford 0-11
WEXFORD WERE very much at a low level and Waterford high-octane as Davy Fitzgerald faced many of his old charges in Friday’s Senior hurling challenge in the Halo Tiles Centre of Excellence.
And the return of the former Model county supremo to these parts, coupled with the good vibes arising from the Walsh Cup victory over Kilkenny, brought an unusually high footfall for this work-out, with a crowd in the region of 300 witnessing what unfolded amid the dry but chilly conditions.
Wexford manager Darragh Egan and company opted to focus on mainly players at a developmental stage – including seven of last year’s Leinster Under-20 finalists – with a few seasoned hands peppered in.
By stark contrast, Waterford began with no fewer than eight of last May’s National League Division 1-winning side, while Dessie Hutchinson, Neil Montgomery and Billy Power appeared in the second-half.
And the younger Wexford bucks certainly got a flavour of the far greater strength and pace of the game at the top level, as Waterford bossed matters from the start, building a 2-13 to 0-5 interval advantage en route to a clearcut success.
Wexford intentions on the night appeared well distanced from the result, but more geared towards getting valuable minutes into the legs of many promising youngsters as well as into some returning from injury (Gavin Bailey starting, and Liam Óg McGovern coming on after 45 minutes) and others back from travels abroad (Kevin Foley starting at midfield, Joe O’Connor thrown in on 54 minutes), while Connal Flood returned after sickness.
The Cloughbawn flyer worked from centre-forward on this occasion, and the indications are that he is being considering for a role in that sector of the field this term after a succession of campaigns in the half-backs.
Seven Wexford players utilised hadn’t seen any action during the recent three-game Walsh Cup programme, with Cian Byrne of St. Mary’s (Rosslare) minding the goal in the face of some Waterford bullets; Naomh Éanna’s Jack Doran getting through some solid work in midfield; and Shelmaliers custodian Adam Howlin taking over between the posts for the second-half just as Waterford sprung the might of Austin Gleeson at full-forward.
Others who got valuable time from the bench were Darragh Carley (Glynn-Barntown), Mike Kelly (Oylegate-Glenbrien), Joe Coleman (St. Martin’s), and Cian Byrne of Fethard, who was strangely sent-off late on arising from a melee from which he emerged with the helmet ripped off.
Indeed, the tie wasn’t of the ‘friendly’ variety, with Laois referee Pádraig Dunne, who took charge of Horeswood’s Leinster Junior hurling final win over Comercials from Dublin at the same venue last December, having his hands full in a game pockmarked with melees.
Wexford: Cian Byrne (St. Mary’s, Rosslare); Conor Firman, Kyle Scallan, David Clarke; Gavin Bailey, Eoin Murphy, Simon Donohoe; Jack Doran, Kevin Foley (0-1); Tomás Kinsella (0-1 free), Connal Flood (0-1), Conall Clancy; Rory Higgins (0-1), Conor McDonald (0-4, 3 frees), Josh Sheil. Subs. used - Cathal Dunbar, Adam Howlin, Ian Carty, Darragh Carley, Cian Byrne (Fethard), Conor Devitt, Liam Óg McGovern, Mike Kelly, Joe Coleman (0-3, 1 ’65, 1 free), Ross Banville, Joe O’Connor, Niall Murphy, Cian Browne, Seán O’Connor.
Waterford: Shaun O’Brien; Iarlaith Daly, Conor Prunty, Shane McNulty (0-1); Micheál Harney, Calum Lyons (0-2), Darragh Lyons (0-1); Paddy Leavey (0-1), Jamie Barron; Stephen Bennett (1-5, 0-5 frees, 1-0 pen.), Tom Barron, Reuben Halloran (0-2); Kevin Mahony, Michael Kiely (1-1), Tadhg de Búrca. Subs. used - Austin Gleeson (0-6, 3 frees), Paudie Fitzgerald (1-2, 0-1 free), P.J. Fanning, Dessie Hutchinson, Billy Power (0-2), Neil Montgomery (0-1), Cian Wadding, Conor Ryan, Gavin Fives.
Referee: Pádraig Dunne (Laois).