Guiney states case for Cats clash as Model make light of Davy ban
Wexford 3-25 Laois 1-17
Something calculated and unemotional about Wexford here, qualities maybe not conspicuous historically in their hurling DNA, as they eased past over-stretched and, eventually, hopelessly depleted Laois.
Davy Fitzgerald watched inconspicuously from a box in the O'Moore Park Stand with selectors Paraic Fanning and JJ Doyle for company, the sideline management overseen for the day by Seoirse Bulfin.
It all felt a slightly empty facade. Laois simply did not have the physical capacity to stay with a Wexford team now hoping to mount a reprise of their National League quarter-final victory over Kilkenny when hosting Brian Cody's men on Saturday week.
This won't exactly have stress-tested them for that challenge, but it did at least amplify a sense of deepening quality in Fitzgerald's squad.
Jack Guiney's half-time introduction certainly added to the potency of an attack that would create a remarkable nine clear goal chances through the 70 minutes, only Enda Rowland's brilliance between the Laois posts protecting his team from a humiliating scoreline.
This despite Wexford playing for most of the game with Shaun Murphy again operating as sweeper in service to a system that Fitzgerald's critics deride as ultra-negative.
It certainly didn't look that way here, albeit Eamonn Kelly admitted afterwards that the great prairie of space between the two lines of Laois forwards effectively gave Murphy more room than he was probably entitled to expect.
Communication problems meant that Laois were slow to make the necessary adjustment and, truth be told, whatever storm they'd hoped to mount had pretty much already blown itself out when they got to the mid-point five points adrift.
They haven't beaten Wexford in Championship since 1985, but Laois started here as if ready for a day of days, Ross King and Paddy Purcell completely on top in midfield as they raced into a 0-3 to 0-0 lead inside five minutes.
But their goal had already had a narrow escape from a David Redmond effort and, in the sixth minute, Paul Morris and Redmond combined well to release Harry Kehoe for a well-taken Wexford goal.
Minutes later, Aidan Nolan tested Rowland with a rasper from 25 yards and, soon after, Conor McDonald and Nolan again drew further saves from the Laois keeper.
Then, on the stroke of half-time, Lee Chin blazed another goal effort wide, and it was tempting to wonder if Wexford's fixation with green flags might come back to haunt them.
Laois' best hurling was being done at midfield and half-back, where Ciaran Collier and Cha Dwyer especially were both hurling up a storm.
Still, at 1-11 to 0-9 behind at half-time, they needed a big start to the second half, but two Morris points in as many minutes made it pretty clear that there was no uprising looming. Indeed, Wexford won the opening nine minutes of the second half 1-7 to 0-1, effectively ending any lingering hopes locals might have been retaining of an upset.
The goal was scored with almost languid ease by Nolan and, seconds later, Guiney had the ball in the Laois net again, only for it to be ruled out for a foul on a defender. He wouldn't be denied much longer, however, McDonald brilliantly setting up the big Rathnure man to score Wexford's third goal with a clinical finish in the 53rd minute.
Thereafter, despite Purcell pulling a goal back just 60 seconds later, everything pretty much fell apart for Laois.
Centre-back Dwyer was already on a caution when he ended up tangling with Chin on the ground, and referee Cathal McAllister had little option but to show both yellow cards, translating into a red for the Ballinakill man. Reduced to 14 men, Laois were deep in crisis management now.
Wexford's movement, their ability to play ball into the space in front of a runner, their simple appetite for contact even, all asked questions of his young team that Kelly understood they could not answer.
"We've a very young squad, 15 of them U-21, a lot of them will be playing Wednesday night (Leinster U-21 Championship)," he told us afterwards. "We have a lot of positives to take out of it, but we've a lot of learning to take too. I certainly don't see it as the wheels off the wagon or anything like that."
Wexford's goal-threat was ever-present, yet so too was the diligence of Rowland, without whom the arithmetic would have been a good deal starker.
Sadly, Laois lost another man with just four minutes of normal time remaining, Willie Dunphy given a straight red for what looked an intemperate pull across Wexford substitute Eoin Moore.
Kelly thought the decision "a bit harsh", suggesting "a word in the ear" might have been more appropriate. McAllister, no doubt, would counter that referees' assessors don't speak that language.
In the end, Wexford had 14 points to spare then against opponents who have troubled them in recent League meetings but who, on this evidence, reside at a significantly more modest altitude in the hurling firmament.
With Andrew Shore and Shane Tomkins and Liam Og McGovern all on the match-day programme again after injury and the likelihood that first choice goalkeeper and corner-back respectively, Mark Fanning and Willie Devereux, should be available for the Kilkenny game, Wexford look in decent shape.
They must again cope that night without Fitzgerald on the line, but JJ Doyle doesn't expect it to be an issue.
"Listen, it's very much given over to the guys on the field," he reflected. "It's up to them. They know what we're looking for in the game.
"People on the outside maybe think it's a bigger deal for us than what it is. Thankfully today was a good performance, but there's a lot of stuff we need to work on that just won't be good enough to give Kilkenny a game."
SCORERS - Wexford: C McDonald 0-9 (5fs), P Morris 0-5, H Kehoe 1-2, A Nolan 1-1, J Guiney 1-0, L Chin 0-3 (1f), J O'Connor 0-2, S Murphy, D O'Keeffe, D Redmond 0-1 each. Laois: R King 0-7 (0-5fs), P Purcell 1-1, A Dunphy 0-2, C Collier, C Dwyer, S Downey, J Lennon, W Dunphy, S Maher, C Taylor 0-1 each.
WEXFORD - O O'Leary 7, S Donohue 8, L Ryan 7, J Breen 7, S Murphy 8, M O'Hanlon 7, D O'Keeffe 7, E Martin7, A Nolan 7, J O'Connor 8, D Redmond 6, H Kehoe 8, C McDonald 8, L Chin 7, P Morris 8. Subs: J Guiney 7 for Redmond (h-t), B Carton 7 for O'Connor (38), E Moore 7 for Breen (42), D Dunne 6 for Nolan (51), L Og McGovern for Morris (65).
LAOIS - E Rowland 9, L Cleere 5, L Bergin 6, D Palmer 6, C Collier 7, C Dwyer 7, M Whelan 6, R King 7, P Purcell 7, S Downey 6, J Lennon 6, W Dunphy 4, J Kelly 5, N Foyle 6, S Maher 6. Subs: C Taylor 6 for Kelly (h-t), A Dunphy 7 for Cleere (42), M Kavanagh 6 for Lennon (49).
Ref - C McAllister (Cork).