Wexford footballers seem intent on wreaking vengeance for having promotion from Division 3 prised from their grasp. Before an admiring home crowd they demolished Westmeath's challenge, using the wind advantage to build an unassailable lead after half- time. Westmeath secured the promotion that eluded Wexford, exposing -- yet again -- the league's reputation for mischief and unreliability. But last night they were hunted into the qualifiers by a voracious and highly mobile and efficient opponent.
Jason Ryan's side put 2-16 past Offaly in the first round and they managed to exceed that scoring feat, destroying a Westmeath backline that was one of the province's most formidable assemblies not that long ago. They appeared to have discovered some form with a late winning run in the spring after ending a losing sequence of 15 league defeats. But this provided compelling evidence that they are still some way off where they'd wish to be. The gulf between the sides was irrefutable.
The chief damage was inflicted by Ciaran Lyng and Redmond Barry. Lyng finished with 10 points, seven of those from play, and got an ovation leaving the field. Westmeath could not subdue him. Francis Boyle didn't have an enjoyable time marking Barry and the selectors saw fit to haul him ashore. His 27th-minute replacement, James Dolan committed a wild tackle nearing half-time that earned him a yellow card, with the last line again stretched to breaking point. Westmeath looked increasingly flummoxed.
Barry had the game's only goal inside the opening minute. Doyle played a ball in front of the Wexford forward and he went on a jinking run before slotting the ball past Gary Connaughton. Westmeath were at their most competitive in the opening half hour. They had the wind to their backs, but it seemed to strengthen as the game went on and Wexford made full use with a string of scores from out the field after the interval.
While Westmeath were still breathing, Dessie Dolan was their main point of attack. It would do Wexford no harm not to lose sight of some of their shortcomings exposed in this period when they looked anything but assured in their own half of the field. Dolan rolled back the years to keep Westmeath afloat.
He had mined four points, the last a delightful score, when Wexford decided to relieve Joey Wadding of the onerous duty of policing him. Wadding had a trying time in the company of Niall McNamee in the opening round, so his confidence wasn't repaired by Dolan's interventions. Oddly Wadding was taken off Dolan and put on Denis Glennon. Glennon, standing near the Wexford goal and always a danger, proceeded to kick two more points from play. He finished the half with three in total.
Graham Molloy, one of Wexford's best players, went over on Dolan and had a better return. He won the first two balls and near the end of the first half he hared forward to take a pass and set up a score for Barry. Having closed to within two points of Westmeath with a score from Glennon six minutes from half-time, Westmeath finished six adrift. The home team went up a gear, hitting five points, the only response coming from the Westmeath's Aidan Finnan.
Westmeath drew encouragement from Dolan and Glennon, but they were unable to stem the tide of Wexford attacks. Their experienced defender Michael Ennis sat on the bench after missing the league through injury and wasn't introduced. Six points down, facing a wind, the signs didn't look good. So it proved.
Having scored 1-12 into the wind, Wexford hit 12 points in the second half; Westmeath had six, but three of those were in the last few minutes when the game was long gone from their reach. As a crumb of comfort, John Heslin, one of their promising underage players, came on at the break and showed glimpses of what he is capable of.
The restart only drove home Wexford's superiority. Westmeath were overtaken in the middle of the field and with the possession they drew frees. Ben Brosnan proved accurate from the placed ball and Lyng chipped in with three more on the night. Less than 20 minutes into the second half Wexford hit the 20-point mark with a Lyng score from play. Adrian Morrissey burst through and shot at goal but blazed wide. It could have been worse. Now they must try to dust themselves down for the qualifiers, hoping for a kind break when the draw takes place this evening.
Wexford go into the Leinster semi-finals full of confidence. They face the winners of Louth's game with Carlow this afternoon. A return to the provincial final where they have unhappy memories of their last visit in 2008 is now all that will concern them.
Scorers -- Wexford: C Lyng 0-10 (0-3f); B Brosnan 0-7 (0-5f); R Barry 1-3; A Flynn, S Roche, E Bradley, R Quinlivan 0-1 each. Westmeath: D Dolan 0-7 (0-2f); Denis Glennon 0-4; P Greville 0-2 (0-2f); A Finnan, J Heslin 0-1 each
Wexford: A Masterson; J Wadding, G Molloy, A Doyle; B Malone, D Murphy, A Flynn; R Quinlivan, D Waters; C Morris, E Bradley, B Brosnan; C Lyng, R Barry, S Roche. Subs: N Murphy for Wadding (49); A Morrissey for Flynn; B Doyle for Bradley, P Byrne for Roche (all 59); L McGovern for Lyng (65)
Westmeath: G Connaughton; F Boyle, K Gavin, A Finnan; G Egan, K Martin, D Harte; D Daly, D Corroon; P Sharry, David Glennon, C Lynam; P Greville, Denis Glennon, D Dolan. Subs: J Dolan for Boyle (27); J Heslin for Sharry (h-t); J Gaffey for Gavin (39); C Jordon for Corroon (56); B Murtagh for David Glennon (61)
Referee: P Hughes (Armagh)
Sunday Indo Sport