Two goals from the Rossiter brothers in a one minute second half spell capped a marvellous display from Wexford as they shocked Down, eventually winning by a deserved five point margin in this opening round senior football qualifier at Innovate Wexford Park last night.
Meeting for only the second time in the championship both teams looked positive and well-organised from the opening minutes as they concentrated on fast attacking football. It was competitive, but open, with the respective attacks enjoying a supply of quality ball that in turn led to some excellent scores.
Down would have been the more seasoned team going into this game, but having lost their opening provincial championship game to Derry, they looked like a side on a mission, playing into the slight breeze with some excellent football through the opening phases of play.
But there was a sense of expectation in the home crowd that their young side could deliver on a promising opening round display against Westmeath. They opened the scoring after two minutes through a Ciaran Lyng pointed free, after Kevin O'Grady had been fouled. The Down response was positive as they came back with points from a Donal O'Hare free and Mark Poland to lead 0-2 to 0-1 after eight minutes.
There was a real spark about the football of both sides as a Ben Brosnan free levelled the scores, while at the opposite end it took superb defending from Graeme Molloy to deny Paul Devlin a goal. Brosnan and Devlin exchanged points, before Adrian Flynn got on the end of a sweeping move only to see his rebound off the bottom of the post across the goal before being cleared to safety after just 14 minutes.
Down showed their experience around the middle of the park winning clean kick-out possession, culminating in a fine move ending with Jerome Johnston shooting low to the net from an acute angle to give his side a 1-3 to 0-3 lead after 16 minutes. One minute later Wexford had defender Adrian Flynn, who was having an outstanding game, black carded.
It was evident that both sides looked capable of picking off points with Lyng (two) and Michael O'Regan responding for the home side. After Conor Laverty had bounced back with a Down point it was Wexford who finished the half impressively with three unanswered points through Graeme Molloy, Kieran Butler and Tiernan Rossiter, to lead 0-9 to 1-4 at the interval.
In a dramatic second half Wexford refused to be rattled as they absorbed the Down pressure while counter attacking at speed resulting in the visitors defence being stretched all over the pitch. Wexford, through two Lyng pointed frees, stretched their lead, while Kevin O'Grady followed with a further point, before Down managed their opening second half score, a Paul Devlin pointed 43rd minute free.
Wexford were keeping Down at arm's length with some brilliant defending from Neamhan Rossiter, Graeme Molloy and Simon Donohoe. Leading 0-15 to 1-10, Wexford got the crucial breakthrough when a Neamhan Rossiter shot was deflected to the net by his brother Tiernan, leaving Down with a huge challenge, which grew further when this time Neamhan Rossiter found the net giving his side a 2-15 to 1-10 lead after 58 minutes.
Nine minutes from the end, Down gave themselves a real chance when sub Arthur McConville goaled after a Mark Roland shot had been saved by sub keeper Anthony Masterson, but it was Wexford who continued to take the game to Down with some splendid attacking football, leading to a deserved five point victory in the end, with Down's Conor Garvey red carded three minutes from the final whistle .
Scorers - Wexford: T Rossiter 1-1; N Rossiter 1-0; C Lyng (5f) 0-6; B Brosnan (1f), M O'Regan 0-3 each; G Molloy, K Butler, K O'Grady 0-1 each.
Down: J Johnston, A McConville 1-0 each; D O'Hare (3f) 0-4; P Devlin (1f), C Laverty, C Mooney 0-2 each; M Poland 0-1
Wexford: S Roche; R Tierney, N Rossiter, J Wadding; S Donohoe, G Molloy, A Flynn; S Byrne, B Malone; T Rossiter, B Brosnan, K Butler; C Lyng, M O'Regan, K O'Grady.Subs: E Nolan for Flynn (BC 17); A Masterson for Roche (inj 30); J Tubritt for Butler (39); J Breen for N Rossiter (64); P Byrne for Regan (70).
Down: S Kane; D O'Hagan, L Howard, D Turley; C Garvey, K McKernan, R Boyle; P Fitzpatrick, C Mooney; P Devlin, M Poland, C Maginn; D O'Hare, C Laverty, J Johnston. Subs: R Johnston for Maginn (43); P Downey for Fitzpatrick (47); A McConville for O'Hare (58); R McGarvey for Poland (59).
Referee: C Reilly (Meath)
Sunday Indo Sport