Jacob goal seals win
WHILE IT was too close for comfort in Dr. Cullen Park, Carlow, on Sunday last, a goal from substitute Rory Jacob with three and a half minutes of normal time remaining finally killed off a competitive Carlow side as Liam Dunne's Wexford troops got the Allianz League Division 1B campaign off to a successful start.
The visitors had to dig deep to stave off a repeat of their shock defeat at the same venue three years earlier, as they were in an uncomfortable position 13 minutes from the end when centre-forward Shane Kavanagh converted a free near the right sideline to put their rivals into a 0-15 to 1-11 lead.
However, Wexford's composure saw them through a difficult test as they struck 1-4 without reply to join Dublin and Limerick as weekend winners in what will be a very competitive group. Gary Moore levelled from a free after a chop on Paul Morris before the same player pushed his side ahead by 1-13 to 0-15 in the 63rd minute after Rory Jacob was impeded.
A Garrett Sinnott handpass then set up Harry Kehoe for a good point from the right flank, and the next score from a Gary Moore free was very costly for Carlow as they also lost full-back Eoin Nolan to a second yellow card after catching Rory Jacob on the hand (1-15 to 0-15).
The clinching goal arrived in the 67th minute, starting deep in defence as Andrew Shore caught a teasing Shane Kavanagh free under his own crossbar. After soloing to the left, his clearance was gathered by Garrett Sinnott who in turn picked out Jacob, and the fleet-footed substitute made ground before beating Nicky Roberts with a low shot to silence the home crowd.
Richard Coady's late pointed '65 was no consolation at all for John Meyler's side who remained competitive throughout to their credit in a game which was noteworthy for two dismissals on straight red cards in the 30th minute. Offaly referee Brian Gavin doesn't have a history of sending players off in the games that really matter during the summer, but he flashed red cards at Wexford full-back Tomás Waters and Carlow's Marty Kavanagh after a brief row which didn't appear to be particularly serious when viewed from the stand.
Wexford were leading by 0-9 to 0-7 at the time, having hit seven of the previous eight points to recover from a sluggish start which had left them four in arrears by the 12th minute. Carlow's confidence was high in the early stages as they picked off three points without reply in the first four minutes courtesy of Marty Kavanagh (free), John Michael Nolan and Shane Kavanagh.
David Redmond opened Wexford's account with a solo effort from the right touchline before Gary Moore availed of a break off Garrett Sinnott to make it 0-3 to 0-2, but the home side responded with another flurry of three unanswered scores. Free-taker Marty Kavanagh doubled his tally before splitting the posts from play, and his third placed ball left Carlow with a deserved 0-6 to 0-2 advantage.
Wexford were struggling to make inroads beyond the half-forward line, with their rivals using the handpass effectively to get out of trouble while midfielder and captain Edward Coady dropped deep to help out his defenders. David Redmond and Richie Kehoe both fired long-range wides after successive catches and handpasses by Andrew Shore, but they gradually eased back into the reckoning as Carlow were punished for conceding scoreable frees.
Gary Moore may have been a little off colour from placed balls in the Walsh Cup final against Dublin, but he was back to his best on this occasion for the most part and twice converted after fouls on Redmond who was posing lots of problems. Jack Kavanagh had pointed in between for Carlow, and Moore did miss the second of two scoreable efforts before Eoin Nolan collected his first booking for a frontal charge on Stephen Murphy and the Glynn-Barntown man duly made it 0-7 to 0-5 in the 21st minute.
Lee Chin, showing no ill-effects from his football exertions in Armagh on Saturday night, was impeded on a solo and Moore did the damage again, with the equaliser arriving from the resultant puck-out which was caught by young Andrew Kenny who picked off his first point in a Wexford Senior jersey with aplomb (0-7 each).
Another Moore free, awarded after Michael O'Regan caught a Richie Kehoe centre shortly after moving to full-forward, gave the favourites the lead for the first time, and it was 0-9 to 0-7 at the interval after Garrett Sinnott fired over a neat effort off his left with space in short supply after 29 minutes.
With plenty of room available following the double dismissals, both sides elected to deploy spare men in defence at the start of the second-half. Wexford always had the option of a short puck-out as it was three full-backs against two full-forwards, while the Carlow free player was at left half-back where John Corcoran was replaced early on by Derek Byrne.
The re-structured Wexford side saw Andrew Shore at full-back, and Richie Kehoe at centre-half with Lee Chin on the right and Andrew Kenny on the left. Harry Kehoe partnered David Redmond at midfield with Paul Morris going to centre-forward, while new arrivals Rory Jacob and Paudge Doran lined up at full-forward and in the right corner respectively. Stephen Murphy and Michael O'Regan were the players to make way, and Carlow drew first blood as a Jack Kavanagh handpass set up his namesake, Shane, for a fourth-minute point (0-9 to 0-8).
Wexford's opening goal was just around the corner though, and it came after an impressive move. Harry Kehoe's centre was caught by Paudge Doran who looked a lot more confident in himself coming off the bench, having appeared nervous when starting throughout the Walsh Cup. He wasted no time in handpassing to the inrushing Paul Morris, and the Ferns flyer drilled a low shot to the net to stretch the Wexford lead to four points after 40 minutes.
There was no question of an easy ride though, as Carlow gave as good as they got and even better until well into the last quarter. A Mark Brennan point was cancelled out by Morris from a neat pass out the field by Paudge Doran, but the home side then came into their own with a run of five points on the trot between the 47th and 54th minutes.
Shane Kavanagh set the ball rolling from a free, and Wexford then enjoyed a huge let-off when their rivals created an overlap, with substitute Craig Doyle handpassing to Pádraig Nolan who really should have goaled despite a couple of defenders making despairing lunges which resulted in a wide.
The underdogs came back undaunted though, with Kavanagh converting another placed ball after a swing back when in possession by Richie Kehoe before Harry Kehoe and Paul Morris struck two of Wexford's five second-half wides (nine in all). Carlow's tails were really up, as two combined for Craig Doyle to pick out Mark Brennan for a point before Andrew Kenny was blocked and Jack Kavanagh latched on to the break for the leveller with 18 minutes left (0-13 to 1-10).
Eoin Doyle came in as the free man at the back, with the impressive Eoin Moore moving to centre-half at Richie Kehoe's expense, while James Tonks replaced Lee Chin shortly after and Ciarán O'Shaughnessy was introduced for Andrew Kenny as all three half-backs were replaced.
Fears of a nightmare repeat of 2010 started to grow when a sweet Jack Kavanagh pass gave Craig Doyle the space to push Carlow ahead by 0-14 to 1-10 with 16 minutes to go. Although Paul Morris equalised from an Andrew Shore clearance, Shane Kavanagh restored the Barrowsiders' lead from a free close to the sideline before Wexford finally shook off their lethargy.
They responded positively to the difficult task of recovering with that late scoring onslaught, although it goes without saying that vast improvement is required before the trip to face Offaly on March 10.