Carlow 2-17 Wexford 2-13
Wexford slumped out of the Leinster Senior football championship with a hugely disappointing loss to hosts Carlow in Netwatch Cullen Park on Sunday afternoon last.
Outside of the camp, for several weeks now, what always felt like a cringy discussion about host venues for a quarter-final overshadowed this tie. Will it be in Innovate Wexford Park, it will, fantastic. Well, something was seriously getting lost in all the natter; the fact that this current Wexford side have no right to overlook Carlow.
Simply put, the Slaneysiders were put to the sword by a combination of powerhouse Brendan Murphy in midfield and talented scorer Paul Broderick in attack. Two players, two fantastic players stood head and shoulders above everyone else on the field and Wexford couldn't contain them.
To be fair, Seamus McEnaney's side were badly hampered by the black card loss of Daithi Waters in midfield. Murphy was already off to a good start on the St Martin's man but there were plenty of legs in that fight. As much as that moment felt game-changing on its own, the loss of Colm Kehoe eight minutes later pretty much summed up Wexford's luck.
Look, deep teams can overcome those losses, playing against someone less dominant than Murphy would have helped hugely too but that's the way the cards were stacked. What has become clear is that there's no magic Banty wand, the impressive start to the season is long gone.
Wexford are playing up to the limits of their talents right now. Yes, there are always things that can be done better, that's the goal of any manager, to improve, but it's a slow process. Having an experienced man in McEnaney in charge probably makes people understand that.
David Power certainly wasn't given the benefit of the doubt after a really solid effort last season. Much like how Colm Bonner's tenure now looks so much better after five years with Liam Dunne, time might remind Wexford supporters that progress is not solely judged by wins in spring.
Carlow might have bored people to tears with their defensive tactics in this game but it got them the win. Fourteen men in and around their own '45 - it's almost expected that limited teams will offer up dull, preventative tactics. It won't change unless rules to keep a certain number of players in the opponent's half are introduced.
The strange thing about those tactics in this game is that Carlow pretty much took on the underdogs role by playing that way. Maybe the fear was what this set of Wexford forwards could do but it's no longer 2011.
Carlow may well have been good enough to go toe-to-toe with Wexford and get the win, it'll never be known. Yet playing that way, while making the game appealing to the 3,044 in attendance, would have served no purpose as preparation to face the mighty Dubs.
It was insipid stuff for most of the first half. Wexford actually went three points up against the breeze after two fouls on Brian Malone ended with Ciaran Lyng kicking frees. Then Michael Furlong popped up from the back to kick a nice score.
The hosts did have one decent goal chance in that spell but Eoghan Ruth hesitated too long on the ball and Conor Swaine and his defence combined to clear to safety. Alan Kelly scored Carlow's first point in the 15th minute to make it 0-3 to 0-1.
Waters was black carded for a foul on Brendan Murphy in the 18th minute, after Fergal Kelly consulted with his linesman. 'Banty' wasn't best pleased with the decision when talking to the media after the game and for the sheer inconsistency that was to follow he had a strong point.
Broderick started his phenomenal afternoon with a stunning 55 metre score in the 20th minute and added another one after Sean Murphy's blistering run had ended with the midfielder crashing his shot off Swaine's crossbar.
Not keeping with what went before, the final six minutes plus added time contained nine of the periods sixteen scores. Broderick notched three of them, including his fifth of the afternoon which gave Carlow their first lead in the 35th minute.
However, Wexford saw Ben Brosnan and Lyng point frees, while Adrian Flynn also rolled back the years with a score from the right of the posts, as the visitors took a credible draw in at the change of ends (0-8 each).
The boys in purple led for the final time when Brosnan kicked his fourth free three minutes into the second half. A fantastic move, that began with Daniel St Ledger, ended when the diminutive Danny Moran fired high to the net, probably after taking a few too many steps.
Wexford trailed 1-10 to 0-10 when the other Carlow wing-back, Gary Kelly, flashed over the crossbar in the 43rd minute. The visitors were still four down when Shelmaliers clubman, Eoghan Nolan, one of his sides better players on the day, picked up his second yellow card for a foul on Sean Murphy. Down to 14, things looked bleak for the Slaneysiders. However, they quickly bounced back. Ciaran Lyng's high ball was punched goalwards by P.J. Banville, Craig Kearney made a fantastic save but the Horeswood man followed up to net from close range.
The hosts seemed to have steadied the ship with a couple of Broderick points but when John Tubritt's high ball, that was contested for by Banville, defender and goalkeeper, fell to Nevin Rossiter, the Rosslare man made no mistake to tie the game for the fifth time (2-11 to 1-14).
After dragging themselves level, the experience in the Wexford ranks could have proved the difference-maker. However, they kicked two poor wides while Broderick put his side in front with his ninth point.
Substitute Paul Curtis made an impact, winning a free that Brosnan converted but that would prove to be the final time Wexford were level. After Broderick gave his county the lead, Sean Gannon made a horrible mess of a great chance when breaking through in the 62nd minute.
Just seconds later Carlow were reduced to 14 when Broderick got his marching orders, again for a second yellow card. Wexford should have had a penalty when Banville was pulled back trying to get hold of Lyng's ball in the 65th minute but referee Fergal Kelly had a clear view and bottled it.
Darragh Foley put his side two up only for Lyng to respond with his fifth free in the second of four added minutes. However, Foley won the resulting kick-out, fed Brendan Murphy down the left and he dragged his battered, weary body forward to net the clinching goal.
Wexford must now wait five weeks to have their chance in the qualifiers. It feels like a good draw is a must at this stage, with 'Banty's' side on a four match losing run. Whoever it ends up being, there are certainly no easy fixtures at this level for the Slaneysiders, not any more.
CARLOW: Craig Kearney; Chris Crowley, Shane Redmond, Conor Lawlor; Danny Moran (1-0), Daniel St Ledger, Gary Kelly (0-1); Brendan Murphy (1-2), Sean Murphy; Eoghan Ruth, Darragh Foley (0-2, capt.), Alan Kelly (0-1); Paul Broderick (0-10, 5 frees), Ciaran Moran, John Murphy. Subs. - Sean Gannon (0-1) for Moran, inj (24), Barry John Molloy for Crowley (35+4), Mark Rennick for Moran (53), Jamie Clarke for Ruth (53), Kieran Nolan for J. Murphy (63), Shane Clarke for Kelly (65), also, Robbie Molloy, Graham Power, Shane O'Neill, Darragh O'Brien, Brian Cawley.
WEXFORD: Conor Swaine; Jim Rossiter, Nevin Rossiter (1-0), Michael Furlong (0-1); Brian Malone, Joey Wadding, Kevin O'Grady; Daithi Waters (capt.), Colm Kehoe; Adrian Flynn (0-1), Ciaran Lyng (0-5 frees), Eoghan Nolan; Ben Brosnan (0-5 frees), John Tubritt, P.J. Banville (1-1). Subs. - Niall Hughes for Waters, black card (19), John Leacy for Kehoe, inj (27), Ronan Devereux for J. Rossiter (52), Paul Curtis for Tubritt (58), Conor Carty for Furlong (67), Donal Shanley for Flynn (68), also, Shane Roche, Tiarnan Rossiter, Jake Firman, Ryan Nolan, James Stafford.
REFEREE: Fergal Kelly (LD).