'We need to get a bit of spirit from somewhere' - Kevin Martin wants Offaly to 'graft' as Wexford loss leaves team in crisis
Wexford 5-24 Offaly 2-9
Wexford ruthlessly burned off the fragile shoots of recovery that Offaly had painstakingly nurtured during the last five months on a night of hurling carnage in Tullamore on Saturday.
It was Offaly's worst loss in Championship hurling to Wexford since enduring a 32-point mauling (9-13; 2-2) in the 1958 Leinster semi-final.
Team boss Kevin Martin now faces the Herculean task of reviving his players ahead of next Sunday's clash against Dublin, where defeat will almost certainly condemn the Faithful County to second-tier hurling in the Joe McDonagh Cup in 2019.
"Obviously their heads are going to be down. They're very tired from a third game in a row. We're just going to have to try and get them back up on the horse again," he said.
"People said it from the start of the Championship that it could boil down to this game against Dublin. They're just really going to have to graft at it now and just get a bit of spirit out of somewhere.
"They're after working too hard to just die away like this. These guys are only amateurs, they have to go and do a week's work, they can't just sit around and relax and recuperate."
Offaly finished the game with 12 players as their discipline unravelled in the face of the visitors' onslaught.
Full-back Sean Gardiner was dismissed after picking up two yellow cards when he conceded two penalties near the end of the first half. Oisín Kelly - who scored Offaly's first goal - and sub Ronan Hughes were red-carded, which rules them out of the Dublin game.
Wexford boss Davy Fitzgerald acknowledged his side had targeted Offaly from the throw-in, but he had sympathy for his counterpart.
"That little break in the middle (of the round robin) is so important. We decided to attack it early because we felt that Offaly had two tough games played and we said let's set the pace really hot at the start and it worked for us. I'd expect Galway to do the same with us next Saturday.
"I feel sorry for Offaly. I've been watching them all year and I think they've made great progress, but as I said to Kevin (Martin) it was their third big weekend in a row, how do you keep getting up, week after week."
Wexford's ruthlessness was obvious from the start. Early goals from Conor McDonald and Aidan Nolan had them 2-5 to 0-2 ahead after 13 minutes. Even though Offaly goalkeeper Eoghan Cahill saved Nolan's 31st-minute penalty, he couldn't stop a second from Wexford goalkeeper Mark Fanning 90 seconds later.
By half-time Wexford were leading by 15 points (3-12; 0-6).
Goals from Lee Chin and Jack O'Connor had stretched the visitors' advantage to 22 points by the 45th minute, which was the signal for Wexford to empty their bench.
The biggest cheer was reserved for the introduction of Liam Óg McGovern, who was returning having recovered from two cruciate ligament operations.
"I cannot express what that man has gone through. I'd say there was a point where he wondered if he'd get back. He still knows that he has a lot of work to do, but I'm so happy for him that he got out on the field," said Fitzgerald, who will also have noted that another replacement, Harry Kehoe, chipped in with three points.
"Can we do three or four weeks? I don't think we can do four. Next week (against Galway) is a big opportunity for us," said the Wexford boss.
The stony silence which greeted Shane Dooley's injury-time goal summed up the sombre mood in the Faithful County.
Offaly hurling is in crisis again.
Scorers - Wexford: R O'Connor 0-7 (4f,1 65);L Chin 1-4 (4f); J O'Connor 1-3; C McDonald, A Nolan 1-1, each, M Fanning 1-0 pen; H Kehoe 0-3 (f)P Morris 0-2,D Reck, D O'Keeffe, K Foley 0-1 each
Offaly: S Dooley 1-5 (5f); O Kelly 1-1, J Bergin, K Dunne, T Geraghty 0-1 each
Wexford - M Fanning 7; D Reck 7, L Ryan 8, S Donohoe 7; P Foley 7, M O'Hanlon 7, D O'Keeffe 7; A Nolan 7, S Murphy 7; L Chin 7, K Foley 7, J O'Connor 8; P Morris 7, R O'Connor 8, C McDonald 8. Subs: C Firman 6 for Donohoe (46), H Kehoe 7 for Morris (51), L Óg McGovern 6 for R O'Connor (51), W Devereux 6 for P Foley (57), D Dunne 5 for Chin (65).
Offaly - E Cahill 6; P Delaney 5, S Gardiner 4 B Conneely 5; D Egan 5, P Camon 5, D O'Toole-Greene 5; S Kinsella 5, D King 5; O Kelly 5, C Mahon 4, B Murphy 4; S Dooley 6, J Bergin 5 K Dunne 5. Subs: C Egan 5 for Mahon (h-t), T Geraghty 5 for Murphy (h-t), D Currams 5 for Kinsella (43), P Rigney 5 for Conneely (48), R Hughes 4 for Bergin (53).
Ref - J McGrath (Westmeath)