Hot-shot Roche's goals show Carlow real world
Wexford 4-12 Carlow 0-10
Thousands of Carlow fans came to Croke Park yesterday wearing multi-coloured jerseys and even brighter smiles, but their team's fairytale story had a grim ending.
For much of the first half those supporters must have allowed themselves to dream that there would be a 'happy ever after,' but the real world is an unforgiving place.
There's certainly little room in it for naivety and that's exactly what Carlow's defence was guilty of when they conceded a terribly soft goal just before half-time.
Until then they'd more than held their own against a Wexford team that struggled to find the sort of groove they'd jammed to against Offaly and Westmeath.
The goal changed everything, though. Carlow were severely weakened by the self-inflicted wound and Wexford put them to the sword comfortably in the second half.
"It was an absolute killer," admitted Carlow manager Luke Dempsey after the game. "I'd been so happy with how we'd played in the first half, but a goal like that inflates your opponents and deflates your own team.
"You have to take off your hat to Wexford, though. In the second half they controlled the game physically and were excellent tactically. They proved they're a serious force."
Wexford manager Jason Ryan wasn't inclined to agree with that last sentiment. His team won handily in the end, but he wasn't at all wowed by the quality of their overall performance.
"I'm just relieved to have gotten out of there with the win, that's about it," he said. "There had been a lot of talk about the great football that we'd been playing and how we are very exciting to watch, but today we were shocking.
"In the first half there were fundamental mistakes at basic things like handling. We were holding on to the ball too long or losing the ball in the tackle. Our shot selection was a little bit out. Carlow dominated their kick-outs
"We were really, really poor, but we still managed to just do enough. We're just delighted to get a win and score a few goals which is a great boost."
Wexford certainly can't afford to start the Leinster final as slowly as they did this one.
Man of the match Shane
Roche scored the first point after just a minute, but it didn't herald the sort of blitz we expected from Ryan's team.
Instead, it was Carlow who grew with the game, and three frees from Brian Murphy and a long-range point from Brendan Murphy helped them into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead.
But in a foretaste of a what was to come, they undid all that good work by conceding a sloppy goal after 20 minutes.
The crimes of coughing up possession all too easily and ball-watching by their defenders were punished by the one of the few slick Wexford attacking moves of the half as Ciaran Lyng, Redmond Barry and Ben Brosnan combined to put Roche through for a well-worked goal.
Carlow's resolve wasn't shattered just yet, though, and with the first half ebbing to a close, the teams remained level at 1-4 to 0-7.
But just when it looked they'd retire to their dressing-room in decent fettle, Carlow produced a revolver and shot themselves squarely in the foot with it.
Centre-back Shane Redmond unwisely chose to run the ball out of defence against a wall of Wexford men and, after he was relieved of possession, Lyng passed the ball to the unmarked Roche who smashed home his second goal.
Carlow came out for the second half with their chins still stuck to their chests, and Wexford didn't waste any time making them feel even sorrier for themselves as they clipped over four quickfire points to move seven clear.
Carlow were being cleaned out at midfield by now and without the platform of any decent possession, there was simply no way back for them.
The Wexford forwards were now profiting from a steady supply of ball, and though the Carlow defenders harried and hassled for all they were worth, they were fighting a losing battle.
Trevor O'Reilly kept Carlow's fading hopes alive with two great saves from Brosnan and Paddy Byrne, but eventually his and Carlow's resistance was subdued when substitute PJ Banville slammed home a fine goal.
The closing minutes were a procession for Wexford and the hard-working Eric Bradley added one last coat of gloss to the final scoreline when he finished low and hard to the net in the final minute.
Wexford know they'll have to improve significantly on this showing if they're to beat Dublin in the Leinster final, but they're going into that match in a very positive frame of mind.
"It definitely feels different this time," admits Ryan.
"In 2008 we were probably just happy to be there.
"There's no doubt about it that we'll be the underdogs, but we'll be giving it a good go anyway."
Scorers -- Wexford: S Roche 2-4, B Brosnan 0-6 (2f, 3 '45s'), E Bradley 1-1, PJ Banville 1-0, C Lyng 0-1.
Carlow: Brian Murphy 0-3f, B Murphy, C Mullins, D St Ledger (1f) 0-2 each, D Foley 0-1f.
Wexford -- A Masterson 6; J Wadding 6, G Molloy 7, B Malone 6; A Flynn 8, D Murphy 7, A Doyle 6; R Quinlivan 7, D Waters 7; S Roche 9, E Bradley 7, B Brosnan 7; C Morris 8, C Lyng 7, R Barry 7. Subs: A Morrissey 6 for A Doyle (43), B Doyle 6 for D Waters (47), P Byrne 6 for R Quinlivan (55), PJ Banville 7 for R Barry (57), G Sunderland 5 for C Morris (66).
Carlow -- T O'Reilly 8; A Murphy 6, C Lawlor 7, B Kavanagh 6; P Cashin 7, S Redmond 5, K Nolan 5; B Murphy 8, D Foley 7; P Hickey 5, T Walsh 6, E Finnegan 5; B Murphy 5, S Gannon 5, D St Ledger 6. Subs: A Curran 6 for K Nolan (43), C Mullins 7 for P Hickey, E Ruth 6 for E Finnegan (both 54), J Murphy 5 for D Foley (59), W Minchin 5 for T Walsh (64).
Ref -- M Collins (Cork).