Friday 19 January 2018

Laois rally to punish wasteful Wexford


Ross Munnelly: eight points
Ross Munnelly: eight points

Dermot Crowe

HOW Wexford must have longed for someone like Mattie Forde on an evening like this, one that will be assured a place in the pantheon of Wexford footballing regrets. Quite simply, they blew it and Laois took a slightly embarrassing ticket into the fourth round of the qualifiers.

Wexford had obscene levels of possession but were far too frantic and not nearly enough composed. Because of that they failed to extract the fruits of their labours. Laois survived on their wits and were blessed to win – they will need a vast improvement against the losers of today's Ulster final.

Everywhere you looked Wexford were wasteful. They finished the evening with a dispiriting 16 wides, to just two from Laois, and landed two more into the goalkeeper's lap. Having gone 12 minutes without a score, a point from Ciaran Lyng raised hopes of rescuing the match three minutes from time, leaving them one adrift. In the last minute, substitute Colm Kelly had a goal chance deflected over for a point and that gave Laois the cushion they needed. Four minutes of added time were not enough to save Wexford from themselves.

The wastefulness was more striking in the first half when they clocked up 12 wides, Laois not shooting any, and their lead at the interval of 2-4 to 0-9 was rough justice on the amount of ball they had handled.

Daithi Waters had a storming match in the middle of the field but the jumpiness in the Wexford finish was matched by a rash indiscipline at the back that bled frees. Of the Laois score total, half came from placed balls. Only two of Wexford's total came from the same source.

Two first-half goals kept them ticking and the home crowd hopeful in the brilliant sunshine. Playing with the breeze, they attacked Laois from the start and raised the first green flag in the 14th minute. Laois were caught dozing by a quicksilver delivery from Red Barry that dropped into the arms of Lyng. Lyng drew the cover before releasing to PJ Banville. Close to goal, Banville took a moment and slid it low past Eoin Culliton, showing rare Wexford composure. The score put Wexford back in front, having trailed 0-2 to 0-4.

The second goal came five minutes later, this time Laois losing possession when coming out of defence, Barry intercepting and releasing wing-back Adrian Flynn behind the cover. He took the chance impressively, driving the ball smartly past Culliton. That looked to have given Wexford enough momentum to take control of the match. Lyng added a free and one from play. Wexford were five in front.

Instead of kicking on, they allowed Laois back into the match by continuing to kick wides and fouling needlessly at the other end. Of Laois' nine first-half points, five came from frees. For the final quarter hour Wexford failed to add to their total and Laois hit four on the run, three of those from Munnelly to close the gap to just one at the interval. Laois, visibly improving, departed to the dressing-rooms the happier and the more optimistic.

The pattern continued after the break. Paddy Byrne had a shot for goal well saved by Culliton 10 minutes into the second half and soon after Banville shot lamely when in a good position with Laois stretched.

Six minutes after the interval Laois were level and from there it looked anyone's. In spite of the Herculean efforts of Waters, Wexford repeatedly lost their nerve in front of goal. At the other end Munnelly ended the game with eight points. David Conway had three more Laois frees. Wexford fouled lazily and paid the price.

Colm Begley's third from play and a free from Munnelly put Laois two in front, 0-14 to 2-6, with 55 minutes played. From there they held the advantage in spite of four minutes of added time.

Scorers – Laois: R Munnelly 0-8 (0-5f), D Conway (3f), C Begley 0-3 each, C Kelly, E O'Carroll 0-1 each. Wexford: PJ Banville 1-1, C Lyng 0-4 (2f), A Flynn 1-0, A Doyle, C Carty, C Lyng 0-1 each.

Laois: E Culliton; P Begley, M Timmons, P O'Leary; D Strong, P McMahon, K Lillis; P Clancy, J O'Loughlin; B Sheehan, C Meredith, C Begley; R Munnelly, E O'Carroll, D Conway. Subs: C Boyle for Clancy (43), D Kingston for Conway (45), S Attride for Timmons (56), C Kelly for O'Carroll (64), D Booth for Lillis (65).

Wexford: A Masterson; M Furlong, G Molloy, R Tierney; B Malone, D Murphy, A Flynn; D Waters, R Quinlivan; C Carty, R Barry, A Doyle; C Lyng, P Byrne, PJ Banville. Subs: B Brosnan for Doyle (41 mins), J Holmes for Tierney (56), S Roche for Banville (61), K Gore for Byrne (65), S Culleton for Gore (inj 68).

Referee: C Branagan (Down)

Irish Independent

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