Kingston leads Laois comeback in cracker
Laois 2-21 Wexford 1-18
One of the championship's 'Off-Broadway' fixtures produced an absorbing contest in Wexford Park on Saturday night.
While the ultimate destination of the Delaney Cup in 2018 is scarcely in doubt, there could be plenty of fascinating sub-plots along the journey judging by what we witnessed here.
Three goals scored; two penalties awarded; two not given; a stirring second-half comeback; a controversial finish in normal time and extra-time. This was wonderful entertainment.
Backed by a strong breeze, Wexford sprinted out of the blocks and were 0-8 to nil ahead after 22 minutes, with full-forward John Tubritt causing havoc.
Laois had their first penalty claim turned down 11 minutes before the break when team captain Stephen Attride was tripped, but after consulting the umpires the referee hopped the ball and Laois eventually secured a point through Ross Munnelly.
Five minutes later the referee ignored a less clear-cut penalty shout after an apparent foot-block on Donie Kingston. Just to rub salt into Laois' wounds, Wexford scored a goal in between, with the Rossiter brothers, Tiernan and Naomhan, combining to create a chance which the latter converted.
Wexford had a 10-point lead (1-10 to 0-3) at the break, but had lost full-back Jim Rossiter through injury. However, having failed to score from play in the first-half, Laois grabbed the initiative.
Donie Kingston led the fightback, ably supported by Ross Munnelly, and Wexford's inability to win their own kick-out proved crippling. While they snaffled a couple of points, their lead had been halved by the 50th minute.
There was a key moment in the 64th minute when Laois full-back Mark Timmons fielded a Donal Shanley free under his own crossbar. Still, when Tubritt hit his fifth point from play three minutes later it looked set to seal it for Wexford, but it all unravelled in a controversial finish.
Ninety seconds from the end Naomhan Rossiter appeared to execute a perfect tackle on sub Niall Donoher to dispossess him inside the Wexford penalty area, but the referee ruled otherwise and pointed to the spot - a decision which frustrated Wexford boss Paul McLoughlin.
"I'd like to see it on video, but I thought the tackle was very clean," he said.
Kingston found the corner to level to the scores (1-14 each).
Still, Wexford looked to have earned themselves a reprieve when deep into the allocated four minutes of injury-time Brian Malone was pulled back in the Laois square by Stephen Attride. On instructions from the sideline, Donal Shanley tapped the penalty over the bar for what everybody assumed would be the winner.
Laois keeper Graham Brody took a quick kick-out and Laois went through the phases until Gareth Dillon kicked the equalising point from 35 metres.
Once midfielder Kieran Lillis found the net for Laois in the fifth minute of the first period of extra time the Wexford resistance crumbled. The Division 4 champions outscored the home side 1-6 to 0-3 in the 20 extra minutes to seal their place in the last eight.
Laois' Kerry-born manager John Sugrue is under no illusions about the task ahead.
"We're coming from a low base. We really have to turn up every day. Unfortunately we didn't in the first-half. It looked curtains for us when Wexford got the penalty in injury-time," he said.
For Paul McLoughlin, there was a feeling of deja vu.
"We're definitely making progress, but it's a real hard one to take because we had a few of these in the league as well."
scorers - Laois: D Kingston 1-6 (1-0 pen; 3f), R Munnelly 0-5 (3f) P Kingston 0-3; K Lillis 1-0; S Attride 0-2; G Dillon, T Collins, D Conway, D Strong, G Walsh (f) 0-1 each.
Wexford: D Shanley 0-8 (6f, 1 45, 1 pen); J Tubritt 0-5; N Rossiter 1-0; G Malone, S Doyle, D Waters, J Stafford, D Pepper 0-1 each.
laois: G Brody 7; R Fennell 5, M Timmons 7, G Dillon 7; T Collins 7, C Begley 7, S Attride 8; J O'Loughlin 7, K Lillis 7; A Farrell 6, D Kingston 8, D O'Connor 5; R Munnelly 7, D Conway 6, G Walsh 5. Subs: B Carroll 6 for Walsh ht; N Donoher 6 for Farrell (47); P Kingston 8 for Fennell (50) D Strong 6 for Conway (59); T Shiel 6 for Munnelly (66). ET: F Crowley 5 for O'Connor (75), D Booth for Dillon (86), D Holland for Collins (88)
Wexford: C Swaine 7 M Furlong 6, J Rossiter 7, C Carty 6; G Malone 7, N Rossiter 6, S Doyle 7, B Malone 7, D Waters 7, J Stafford 6 E Nolan 6, B Brosnan 6, P Curtis 6, J Tubritt 8, D Shanley 7. Subs: T Rossiter 7 for Curtis (11); A Nolan 6 for J Rossiter (35), E Porter 5 Brosnan (50) N Doyle for Stafford 6 59m, B O'Gorman 5 for S Doyle (69). ET J Stafford for O'Gorman (78), D Shannon for T Rossister (78) D Pepper (0-1) for A Nolan (80).
Ref - M McNally (Monaghan)