Melee acted as a spur to us – Barry
Wexford 2-15 Longford 0-16 (After extra-time)
WEXFORD and Longford both face disciplinary action after an ugly brawl involving players from both counties erupted at the end of normal time in a gripping match at Pearse Park.
"I didn't see what started the incident but it did no service to the game," said Leinster Council chairman Martin Skelly.
"I'm just glad that both sides settled down and played football again in extra-time. The fact that it didn't carry over is a credit to both managements and both sets of players.
"It was unfortunate and shouldn't mar what was a sporting encounter from start to finish."
Rival managers Aidan O'Brien and Glenn Ryan apologised for the row, which marred what was otherwise a very sporting encounter.
"It was absolutely awful and it is certainly something I wouldn't condone. It made for a bad image for the game and the GAA," said O'Brien.
Ryan admitted that he should not have gone out and protested to referee Padraig O'Sullivan over an incident involving Paul Barden at the end of the 70 minutes but, in this reporter's view, the Longford manager's action had nothing to do with the melee which erupted.
"It (the melee) was a pity. The couple of times we have played Wexford they have been great games. They have been physical, but there hasn't been any bad blow struck in them," said Ryan.
"I hope that is the end of it from a Wexford point of view as I wouldn't like to see any of them miss out on the next match as a result of it."
Barden was fouled 45 metres from the Wexford goal as he broke away in search for the winner but he stayed on his feet and the referee waved play on only for the Longford ace to put his shot wide.
Ryan said: "In the 70th minute, surely a free is a better advantage than having a guy trying to kick the ball with a couple of lads swinging out of him."
The drama certainly wasn't confined to the row and supporters of both counties must have left the ground wondering how Longford managed to lose this match.
Wexford were rubbish in the first half and, while they responded to their manager's uncompromising words at half-time, the Slaneysiders shot 14 wides compared to Longford's six.
This defeat puts Ryan's future as Longford manager right up there for discussion. He intends to give himself some time for reflection.
Wexford, meanwhile, march on to the next stage of the qualifiers. They have to be commended for their dogged persistence and they showed great character to finish the stronger team even when legs were cramping and fatigue ate into the minds and bodies.
Longford led at half-time by 0-8 to 0-4, and Wexford looked in disarray. Four minutes into the second half, Longford goalkeeper Damien Sheridan saved a shot by Aindreas Doyle, but PJ Banville – who needed a doctor's clearance to play because of a high temperature – reacted quickly to fire the ball into the net.
A Daithi Waters goal in the 56th minute followed by a Doyle point a minute later levelled the scores and it was game on from there.
Over the next 13 minutes each side added only two more points – Ciaran Lyng and Waters for Wexford, and Shane Mulligan and Sean McCormack for Longford.
Then came that Barden incident and the referee blew for full-time. Ryan made a beeline for O'Sullivan to protest that a free-kick had not been awarded. All hell broke loose and it was almost two minutes before order was restored.
Wexford were fired-up and won the first half of extra-time by four points to one, and the second period by three points to one.
Captain Redmond Barry said that the melee acted as a spur: "You know what I mean. When these things happen, you look afterwards and say, 'who responded better?'
"I think it actually kind of lifted us a bit more and got our goat up. I don't know how it happened or what it was about because there wasn't a dirty foul in the whole game. I can't understand how it came about. But look, we responded."
Manager O'Brien was delighted with the win, but was realistic about the performance and hopes the players are sharper next time out.
"They should be able to learn something about themselves in terms of their character. They have shown that when they apply themselves in the proper fashion they can do good things," he said. "If they approach games as they did in the first half at this level they might as well not show up," he said.
Scorers – Wexford: D Waters 1-1; PJ Banville 1-0; A Flynn 0-3; B Brosnan 0-3 (1f); S Roche (2fs); C Lyng (1f), R Barry 0-2 each; A Doyle, J Holmes 0-1 each. Longford: S McCormack 0-9 (8fs); S Mulligan 0-2; JJ Matthews, J Keegan, B Gilleran, M Brady, P Barden, 0-1 each.
Wexford – A Masterson 7; M Furlong 7, G Molloy 7, R Tierney 7; B Malone 7, D Murphy 7, A Flynn 7; D Waters 7, R Quinlivan 7; J Holmes 7, R Barry 7, A Doyle 7; C Lyng 7, P Byrne 8, PJ Banville 7. Subs: B Brosnan 7 for PJ Banville (40); C Carty 7 for J Holmes (54); S Roche for C Lyng (68); K Gore for A Doyle (71); A Doyle for R Quinlivan (80); C Lyng for R Barry (86).
Longford – D Sheridan 7; D Brady 7, B Gilleran 7, D Reilly 7; B O'Farrell 7, P McCormack 7, S Mulligan 8; J Keegan 7, M Brady 7; B McElvaney 6, P Barden 7, P Foy 7; F McGee 7, S McCormack 8, JJ Matthews 7. Subs: N Mulligan 6 for F McGee (57); D McElligott 6 for J Keegan (62); CP Smyth 6 for D Reilly (65); A Rowan 6 for P Foy (68); M Hughes for JJ Matthews (73); K Diffley for N Mulligan (86).
Ref – P O'Sullivan (Kerry)
Game at a glance
Man of the match
Paddy Byrne (Wexford)
There were a number of contenders, including Daithi Waters of Wexford and Sean McCormack of Longford, but Byrne's hard work, energy and contribution throughout a testing night gets the vote.
Waters' 56th-minute goal for Wexford. It put them a point behind and infused them with the belief that they were capable of winning. That was confirmed a minute later by Aindreas Doyle's equalising point.
From a Longford point of view, why didn't referee Padraig O'Sullivan blow for that late foul on Paul Barden? There was no guarantee that Sean McCormack would have got the score, but it was a real possibility. A case of 'advantage' being of no advantage to the attacking side.
A lovely point by Sean McCormack of Longford in the 55th minute. He was at an awkward angle around 35 metres out from the Wexford goal and kicked it beautifully.
A bit hasty in awarding some of the yellow cards and, in letting the play flow at times, O'Sullivan didn't always reward the player in possession.
What they said
Aidan O'Brien (Wexford manager):
"Halfway through the first half I was embarrassed with the effort and with the level of our performance. We had some honest exchanges at half-time and the guys responded to that."
Glenn Ryan (Longford manager):
"It (the melee) was a pity. I hope that is the end of it from a Wexford point of view as I wouldn't like to see any of them miss out as a result of it."
Wexford 13 (7 in first half)
Longford 4 (2)
Extra-time: Wexford 1 (0), Longford 2 (1)
Wexford 21 (8)
Longford 21 (11)
Extra-time: Wexford 15 (7), Longford 8 (5)
Wexford 5 (J Holmes 24, PJ Banville 35, C Lyng 51, R Quinlivan 53, P McCormack 65)
Longford 4 (M Brady 25, B McElvaney 47, N Mulligan 68, S Mulligan 83)
Wexford are in the draw for the next round of the qualifiers; Longford's season is over.
Irish Independent Sport Star Awards
Pick our magic sports moment of the year and win a trip for two to London. To view the shortlist and cast your vote click here.