Davy Fitzgerald has wasted no time in winning over the hearts of Wexford supporters as his side staged a dramatic second-half comeback to snatch a stunning three-point victory over Limerick in anexciting encounter at Innovate Wexford Park yesterday.
After trailing by six points at the break, having played intoa stiff breeze, it required a massive second-half performance from Wexford to upset their visitors, but Conor McDonald's 61st-minute goal turned the game his side's way, and their ruthless defence in the closing minutes completed their impressive comeback.
However, Limerick manager John Kiely pointed the finger at referee Diarmuid Kirwan, clearly annoyed with some of his decisions, or lack thereof.
"The lads were absolutely superb, we won ball, we broke ball, broke lines, broke tackles, attacked their '21', but we were hacked down, full stop, that's the story," said Kiely.
"We got lots of frees outside their '65' but did not get anything inside their '21' or close to goal. (It's) very disappointing, one would expect better at this level.
"There was a penalty there all afternoon, so disappointing, but the lads were still fantastic, did everything they were asked to do, but Wexford got momentum in the final 10 to 15 minutes, got some scores, and that is difficult to stop.
"Our full-forward David Dempsey was clear on goal in the closing minutes, was hacked down by their keeper (Mark Fanning), who injured himself in the process, just a free, no penalty. It should have been a second yellow carded no doubt."
Kiely's mood was in stark contrast to that in the Model camp, with Fitzgerald very satisfied with the spirit showed by his men.
"I'm delighted with the fighting qualities, we played well in patches, though we can do better than that," former Clare boss Fitzgerald said.
"Six points down at half-time, I knew about five minutes before we went back out on the pitch, the lads still believed. There was no panic for we played against an unbelievable wind in that first half. I thought we could be closer, just say four points down at the interval, but that is where we found ourselves."
Taking the scalp of a top team is all part of the learning curve, according to Fitzgerald.
"We will not get carried away. There's no doubt there is still a lot of work to be done. Yes, we can do better on the hard ball, but that's part of the learning curve.
"It's a long time since we bet a side like Limerick. They are one of the top sides in the country. I know there are bigger days ahead, but we'll enjoy today and start worrying about Galway tomorrow.
"Still it's nice to beat one of the bigger teams. Still there is no harm in letting everyone not forget this is a process."
Limerick were dominant through the opening five minutes hitting three quick points through Graeme Mulcahy, Peter Casey and a long Diarmuid Byrnes free to lead 0-3 to 0-0, with Wexford opening their scoring through McDonald point one minute later.
With a strong wind behind them, Limerick opened a 0-7 to 0-2 gap by the 15 minute as Seamus Hickey, Peter Casey (2) and Cian Lynch all found the target, with Wexford responding through McDonald, who scored all his side's first-half points as the home side trailed 0-10 to 0-4 at the interval.
Two minutes into the second half, Wexford keeper Fanning pulled off an excellent save from full-forward David Dempsey, when a goal would have put the Shannonsiders out of sight.
Wexford still trailed 0-12 to 0-7 after 44 minutes but then hit a real purple patch as they struck 1-6 without reply in the next 13 minutes - the lead score coming through Lee Chin after sub Podge Doran brought the sides level, 0-12 each one minute earlier.
Then came the crucial breakthrough nine minutes from the end. A huge Fanning delivery broke in front of goal leaving McDonald to control the ball before crashing a low shot to the net to give Wexford a vital buffer.
Scorers - Wexford: C McDonald 1-8 (4f, 1 65); L Chin, P Doran 0-2 each; D O'Keeffe, H Kehoe 0-1 each.
Limerick: P Casey 0-6 (3f); D Byrnes (f), D Hannon, S Hickey, P Browne, G Hegarty, C Lynch, G Mulcahy, J Fitzgibbon (f) 0-1 each.
Wexford - M Fanning 8; E Moore 7, L Ryan 7, J Breen 7; S Donohoe 7, M O'Hanlon 8, D O'Keeffe 7; S Murphy 7, A Maddock 7; A Nolan 7, D Redmond 7, B Carton 7; C McDonald 9, L Chin 7, P Morrisv7. Subs: P Doran 8 for Maddock (41); H Kehoe 7 for Morris (47); J O'Connor for Carton (70).
Limerick - N Quaid 7; S Cahill 6, R McCarthy 7, M Casey ; D Byrnes 8, D Hannon 7, S Hickey 7; P Browne 6, J Ryan 6; G Hegarty 6, C Lynch 7,K Hayes 6; P Casey 8, D Dempsey 6, G Mulcahy 7. Subs: J Fitzgibbon 7 for Ryan (44); A Dempsey 7 for Hegarty (47); S O'Brien 6 for Lynch (55); T Morrissey 6 for Hayes (63); P Ryan 6 for Browne (64).
Ref - D Kirwan (Cork).