Tipp hold off late rally to derail Wexford bandwagon
Tipperary 3-21 Wexford 1-21
Tipperary halted the Wexford hurling bandwagon in its tracks last nigh, inflicting only the fourth loss the visitors have suffered since Davy Fitzgerald took charge in late 2016.
Jason Forde took the scoring honours hitting 2-9 and although Lee Chin replied with 0-10, Wexford's late rally wasn't enough to preserve their unbeaten run.
Tipp's victory all but guarantees them a place in the top flight next season as well a berth in next month's quarter-finals. Wexford are still on course for a place in the last eight as well, though this loss will give them food for thought.
Wexford came to Thurles seeking their first win over the Premier county in the competition since 2005.
Flu victim Michael Cahill was a late withdrawal from the Tipp team which showed five changes from the side that crushed Waterford, while Conor Firman replaced Willie Devereux on the Wexford team.
The visitors hit the ground running, with three points in the opening five minutes - all from unforced Tipp errors. A monster 12th-minute point from Chin, who lined out at left half-forward, underlined the pattern of the early exchanges.
But a Forde goal a minute later after an assist from Sean Curran gave Tipp a flattering 1-3 to 0-5 lead. Wexford were back in front by the 16th minute when Aidan Nolan drove a penalty to the Tipperary net after Barry Heffernan had no option but to drag down Chin, who was put through by a sublime pass from Kevin Foley.
With 15 minutes left in the half Wexford had extended their advantage to three points, but then the game turned. Tipperary's classy forwards demonstrated how to neutralise a sweeper by hitting a series of long-range points and drawing a series of unnecessary frees, and by the break all six had scored from play.
Wexford only managed one more point during the period whereas Tipperary hit 11 with Forde - who ended the half with 1-7 - hitting four frees in that blistering spell leaving his side in command at the break leading by 1-15 to 1-8.
Though Wexford outscored the home side by three points to one in the early stages of the second half they never really looked like overturning the deficit.
Forde struck for Tipperary's second goal in the 43rd minute after John McGrath had brilliantly pulled a huge free from goalkeeper Daragh Mooney from the air. As the confidence ebbed from the Wexford players they spilled passes, and Chin was off target with three long-range frees and fluffed a decent goal chance.
Still, Wexford refused to die and it took a brilliant one-handed save from Daragh Mooney to deny Conor McDonald a goal in the 63rd minute, and with their superior fitness level telling they finished much the stronger, outscoring the home side seven points to one in the closing 12 minutes.
Padraic Maher's huge point from his own half in the 69th minute did break Wexford's scoring momentum but when Chin landed his tenth point of the game and his second '65' - after Mooney had again denied McDonald with a breathtaking save - in the second of the three minutes of allocated injury time it left a score between the sides
But the final action of an enthralling contest went to Patrick 'Bonner' Maher who soloed in from the right-hand side and buried the ball in the Wexford net to secure the points in the dying seconds.
Scorers - Tipperary: J Forde 2-9 (0-8f, 0-1 sl), Patrick Maher 1-2, J McGrath 0-2, D Maher, B Heffernan, Padraic Maher, R Maher, S Curran, N McGrath, M Breen, B McCarthy 0-1 each. Wexford: L Chin 0-10 (4f, 2 '65'), A Nolan 1-0 pen, P Morris 0-3f, K Foley, J O'Connor 0-2 each, S Murphy, D Dunne, C McDonald, R O'Connor 0-1 each.
Tipperary: D Mooney; S O'Brien, J Barry, D Maher; B Heffernan, Padraic Maher, P Feehan; B Maher, R Maher; S Curran, N McGrath, Patrick Maher; M Breen, J Forde, J McGrath. Subs: B McCarthy for Heffernan (53); G Browne for Curran (60), M Russell for Breen (65).
Wexford: M Fanning, D Rock, L Ryan, W Devereux; 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 Morris (48); C Dunbar for Dunne (59); H Kehoe for Murphy (62); E Martin for O'Keeffe (70).
Referee: J McGrath (Westmeath)
Sunday Indo Sport