Tuesday 20 February 2018

Lehane fires Cork to victory as Dublin and Clare advance

Cork’s Conor Lehane celebrates after getting an early goal in last night’s 2-22 to 0-20 win over Wexford and, inset, Clare’s Conor McGrath shoots to score his side’s first goal in the win over Offaly
Cork’s Conor Lehane celebrates after getting an early goal in last night’s 2-22 to 0-20 win over Wexford and, inset, Clare’s Conor McGrath shoots to score his side’s first goal in the win over Offaly
Conor McGrath scores Clare's first goal
John Greene

John Greene

Wexford hurling was dealt another crushing blow last night with a second heavy defeat in a fortnight.

After the 24-point loss to Kilkenny in Nowlan Park, Liam Dunne's side lost by eight points to Cork, this time on home ground in Innovate Wexford Park.

Jimmy Barry Murphy's side hit the ground running after Wexford bizarrely opted to play against the stiff breeze in the opening half having won the toss.

Conor Lehane had the ball in the net inside six minutes, and a second followed later in the half from Seamus Harnedy as they raced into a 14-point lead at half-time.

"I leave that to the players," said Dunne of the decision to play against the wind. "I didn't know if we won it or not."

Wexford rallied somewhat in the second half, reducing the deficit at one stage midway through to six points, but all the damage had been done before the break.

"I am happy enough without getting carried away," said Barry Murphy. "Very happy with the first half, though.

On Wexford electing not to play with the wind, he said: "We probably would have played against it as well, but I'm happy with the way we played in the first half.

"I thought we could have put the game away early in the second half. We made a number of mistakes but we finished strongly. We took a step in the right direction tonight."

Dunne lamented his side's "simple errors". "We didn't do ourselves justice in the first half. Cork have very good forwards and they'll punish you if you give them the room."

Clare and Dublin will both know they have tougher tasks ahead after they had plenty to spare over Offaly and Laois respectively.

Ger Cunningham's Dublin side hit 21 wides in the 4-17 to 0-19 win in Portlaoise, which will be a source of worry for the Cork man ahead of tomorrow morning's qualifier draw.

Dublin's ability to get goals when needed was crucial. Mark Schutte hit two in the opening seven minutes but Laois did not collapse, and fought back to level at 2-4 to 0-10 until a third goal, from Conal Keaney, finally seemed to propel Dublin forward.

Brian Whelehan's Offaly had no answer to the fluidity of Clare's forwards and once John Conlon goaled for the Banner after three second-half minutes there was little doubt about the outcome.

Davy Fitzgerald resisted the temptation to throw the recently returned Colm Galvin back into the starting team, bringing him in seven minutes from time, but having Galvin and the experienced Brendan Bugler back in the squad is a boost to Clare.

In football, Roscommon shook off the disappointment of their Connacht semi-final defeat to Sligo with victory over Cavan in Kingspan Breffni Park.

John Evans' side ran out seven-point winners, but the game's turning point was the dismissal of Cavan's Tomas Corr before the ball was thrown in for the second half. Corr had been involved in an incident as the teams left the field at the break and despite being substituted during the interval, the midfielder was summoned from the bench by referee David Gough and shown a straight red card.

"We played as a team tonight," said man of the match Cathal Cregg. "We looked at our game against Sligo and we were too individualistic. We stood together as a unit tonight and no one was complacent."

Kildare managed to put last Sunday's horror show behind them to overcome Offaly by two points in Tullamore.

The visitors just about deserved their latest winning start on the back door circuit, recovering from a nervy first quarter when they trailed by three points; and then a hesitant third quarter when they leaked five of the first seven points.

"I'd say we were in control for 15 minutes, the 15 minutes coming in at half-time, that was it," said manager Jason Ryan. "The rest of the time it was fairly much tit-for-tat. After we scored our goal we had a few minutes where we were in the ascendency as well.

"When Offaly scored their goal there was nothing in it at that stage so we were lucky to come away from here with a win."

In Ennis, meanwhile, Longford's progress continued with a hard-fought three-point win over Clare. Having trailed by a point at half-time, Longford started the second half brightly, and Dessie Reynolds' goal gave them an advantage they never relinquished.

See Pages 2 and 3

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