Teenager Rory O'Connor inspires Wexford as Davy Fitz gets one over former county
Wexford 0-20 Clare 1-13
Clare's unbeaten National League record came to a shuddering halt at the hands of their former manager, Davy Fitzgerald, at Innovate Wexford Park today.
The half-time introduction of St Martins teenager, Rory O'Connor, transformed the home side as they took almost complete control to secure their quarter-final place with a round still to play in front of an appreciative 7,800 attendance.
O'Connor, just returning after knee surgery, drilled over three points from play as Wexford exerted authority in the middle third and only a late Peter Duggan goal from a 20-metre free managed to soften the final scoreline from a Clare perspective.
The game was chronically slow to find any early rhythm, both sides hunting in packs that quickly suffocated the ball-carrier. It made for a tense, closed first-half with neither side even coming close to the creation of a goal-scoring opportunity.
Wexford were winning a constant supply of ball through Jack O'Connor's aerial ability under puck-outs but, too often, the wrong option resulted in possession being wasted. Fitzgerald's men would leak eight wides through those opening 35 minutes, leaving their manager visibly frustrated on the line.
They trailed from the tenth minute to the interval, Clare leaning heavily on the dead-ball talents of Peter Duggan and the sniping of an excellent John Conlon on the 'forty'.
Yet the exchanges were always tense, the Banner's joint-manager, Donal Moloney, taking a warning from the fourth official after a remarkable ninth minute incident in which he collided with Wexford midfielder, Kevin Foley, on the sideline.
A great score from David McInerney stretched Clare 0-7 to 0-4 clear by the 24th minute, yet Foley quickly responded after another splendid fetch from O'Connor in the middle third. The St Martin's man was giving young Clare wing-back, Michael O'Malley, a torrid time of it while Paudie Foley, less than 24 hours after playing in the Fitzgibbon Cup final with DCU, was having a stormer at wing-back.
That said, Wexford could get little change out of a visiting back-line for whom McInerney and Conor Cleary (also a Fitzgibbon Cup final participant with University of Limerick) were outstanding.
The home side did finish the half strongest though, Chin's '65 reducing the margin to a single point (0-7 to 0-8), with the wind about to come in their favour.
That wind was put to full use, particularly with O'Connor excelling after coming on for Lee Chin at the interval, and Wexford now go to Nowlan Park next week already secure in the knowledge that they will be in the quarter-funals.
SCORERS: Wexford - R O'Connor 0-4 (0-1 65), L Chin 0-4 (0-3 frees, 0-1 65), M Fanning 0-3 (frees), P Foley, K Foley and C McDonald 0-2 each, J O'Connor, and C Dunbar 0-1 each. P Morris 0-1 free.
Clare - P Duggan 1-7 (1-6 frees, 0-1 45), J Conlon 0-4, D McInerney and S O'Donnell 0-1 each.
WEXFORD: M Fanning, D Reck, L Ryan, C Firman, P Foley, M O'Hanlon, D O'Keeffe, K Foley, S Murphy, A Nolan, D Dunne, J O'Connor, P Morris, L Chin, C McDonald. Subs - R O'Connor for Chin (half-time), C Dunbar for Morris (57 mins), H Kehoe for Dunne (59 mins), A Maddock for Murphy (66 mins).
CLARE: D Tuohy, J Browne, C Cleary, J McCarthy, M O'Malley, D McInerney, S Morey, C Galvin, C Malone, N Deasy, J Conlon, D Reidy, S O'Donnell, P Duggan, P Collins. Subs R Taylor for Galvin (35 mins), D Corry for Deasy (half-time), G O'Connell for McCarthy (55 mins), M O'Neill for Collins (59 mins), D Ryan for Morey (70 mins).
Referee - C Lyons (Cork).