Cork 0-19 Wexford 0-16
WEXFORD SUPPORTERS arriving early to Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday got a chance to see how the county Under-20 hurlers are shaping up ahead of their Leinster championship round-robin opener against Kilkenny on April 8.
And while Cork availed of a very strong start to assume control, the recovery was promising and the visitors had a chance to earn a draw when an injury-time free from the impressive Cian Byrne was saved by a defender.
Wexford followers will have been heartened by the fighting spirit shown by their team, as the outcome looked a foregone conclusion when Cork held an 0-18 to 0-10 lead in the 48th minute.
However, the next six points on the bounce were all reeled off by the Keith Rossiter-managed side, with J.J. Twamley, Corey Byrne-Dunbar, Cian Byrne (play and free), Byrne-Dunbar again, and late substitute Cillian Byrne doing the needful.
Cork had gone 13 minutes without a score before Jack Leahy knocked over what proved to be the game’s last score 50 seconds into additional time.
A foul on Twamley left Cian Byrne with that equalising chance from a close-in free, but his well-struck shot was saved and the home side held out for the win.
Nonetheless, the overall display was encouraging, a view no doubt shared by boss Rossiter and his fellow mentors. The backroom team includes David Franks, the former Offaly hurler who has been closely associated with Carrickshock – the current club of fellow selector Éanna Martin in Kilkenny – and Ballygunner in more recent times.
In a good example of effective communication between Senior and Under-20 mentors, the young guns involved on both panels were all utilised in this curtain-raiser.
It was important to have a full squad available ahead of that Kilkenny championship match, and with that in mind Conor Foley, Corey Byrne-Dunbar and Oisín Pepper weren’t considered by the Senior mentors for the league clash that followed.
Wexford were slow to get going, conceding three points before Luke Murphy opened their account in the seventh minute, and then another three prior to J.J. Twamley making it 0-6 to 0-2 early in the second quarter.
Derry Mahon made a good early save to deny Jack Leahy, and there was a gradual improvement from Wexford as they went toe-for-toe with their rivals for the remainder of the half to trail by a more manageable 0-12 to 0-9 at the break.
Cian Byrne picked off a couple of fine points in that spell, including one lovely effort from tight to the left flank, and he also slotted over a free while Corey Byrne-Dunbar (two), Cian Doyle and Oisín Pepper contributed as well.
Eleven of the twelve starting forwards from both sides scored from play in that opening half, but Cork dominated on the restart to open up that large gap.
They hit six of the opening seven points, with the only respite coming from a Cian Byrne free in the 35th minute.
Just when it looked like the game would peter out to an inevitable conclusion, Wexford launched that late surge to suggest they are more than good enough to tackle three tough championship rivals.
Their three Tier 1 opponents will be Kilkenny on April 8 (home), Dublin on April 15 (away), and Galway on April 21 (neutral). The top two will qualify for the semi-finals, with the third- and fourth-placed teams taking on Tier 2 qualifiers in the quarter-finals.
Wexford: Derry Mahon (HWH-Bunclody); Darragh Kehoe (Cloughbawn), Eoin Whelan (Fethard), Simon Roche (Oulart-The Ballagh); Conor Murphy (Taghmon-Camross), Conor Foley (Horeswood), Cian Doyle (Shelmaliers, 0-1); Darragh Carley (Glynn-Barntown, capt.), Shamey O’Hagan (Buffers Alley); Luke Murphy (Faythe Harriers, 0-1), Cian Byrne (Fethard, 0-6, 3 frees), Jack Redmond (Rathnure); J.J. Twamley (Naomh Éanna, 0-2), Oisín Pepper (Rapparees, 0-1), Corey Byrne-Dunbar (Ferns St. Aidan’s, 0-4). Subs. – Oisín Ó Ceallaigh (HWH-Bunclody) for Redmond, temp. (26-29), Ó Ceallaigh for Doyle (HT), Seán Rowley (Oylegate-Glenbrien) for O’Hagan (42), Darby Purcell (Faythe Harriers) for C. Murphy (48), Cian Ó Tuama (Naomh Éanna) for Roche (50), Colum Fitzgerald (St. James’) for Redmond (53), Luke Roche (Shelmaliers) for L. Murphy, temp. (54-56), Cillian Byrne (Fethard, 0-1) for Pepper (58), Luke Roche for L. Murphy (59), also Cian Turner (Glynn-Barntown), Darragh Farrell (HWH-Bunclody), Eoin O’Meara (Buffers Alley), Robbie Hillis (Glynn-Barntown), Eamonn Wickham (Rathnure), Brian Óg Curran (Blackwater), Cormac Walsh (Buffers Alley), Tadhg Brohan (St. Mary’s, Rosslare), Dylan Purcell (Duffry Rovers), Ben Asple (Ballyhogue), Liam Schokman (St. Anne’s), Diarmuid O’Leary (St. Martin’s), Michael Dundon (Clongeen).
Cork: Brion Saunderson; Darragh O’Sullivan, Seán Daly, Culann Geary; Ciarán Doolan, Shane Kingston (Ballinora), James Dwyer (0-1); Michael Mullins (capt., 0-1), Tadhg O’Connell (0-1); Adam O’Sullivan (0-1), William Buckley (0-2), Diarmuid Healy (0-3); David Cronin (0-1), Colin Walsh (0-2), Jack Leahy (0-7, 3 frees, 1 ’65). Subs. – Mark Howell for Dwyer (41), Eoin O’Leary for A. O’Sullivan (41), Ross O’Sullivan for Cronin (49), Ben Nyhan for Healy (54), Michael Finn for O’Connell (54).
Referee: Ciarán O’Regan (Cork).