Wexford make it day to forget for 12-man Offaly
Wexford 5-24 Offaly 2-9
Wexford pushed Offaly nearer the exit sign in the new-look Leinster championship when they crushed them by 24 points in an embarrassingly one-sided affair in front of 6,186 spectators in Tullamore last night.
Offaly finished the game with 12 players after full-back Sean Gardiner, wing-forward Oisin Kelly and substitute Ronan Hughes were sent to the line by referee James McGrath.
Kevin Martin's side now have to beat Dublin in Parnell Park next Sunday to have any chance of keeping their place in next year's Leinster series. A loss will mean they will compete in the second-tier Joe McDonagh Cup in 2019 unless Kerry win the latter competition or the GAA changes the rules.
The Offaly boss admitted that it was an evening to forget for his team who had performed creditably in their opening two matches against Galway and Kilkenny even though they failed to win either.
"Listen, we never turned up - that is the be-all and end-all of it. We looked very flat in the warm-up and I was concerned. But it is what it is. We got three men sent off as well. It's just an utter disaster. What can we do? We just regroup on Tuesday and try and get our heads right for next Sunday. This was just a write-off," he acknowledged.
Oisin Kelly scored the game's opening point but from the moment Conor McDonald goaled in the second minute, after a free from Paudie Foley struck the upright, it was downhill for the Faithful County.
"We decided tonight to attack it early because we felt Offaly had two tough games played," said Wexford boss Davy Fitzgerald. "We set the pace really hot at the start and it really worked for us. I expect Galway to do the same with us next week. That little break in the middle (of the schedule of games) is so important. You need a small bit of time to breathe and reflect.
"But our only objective is to get us qualified for the latter stages. We have Kilkenny and Galway to come and they are massive games. If we are fresh and right we won't be one hundred miles away from either of them," he said.
Wexford racked up 29 scores, hit 19 wides and also missed a penalty which equates to 49 shots at goal which pleased their manager. After two wins in a row his side are within touching distance of a place in the last three - though whether they qualify for a second successive Leinster final will depend on the outcome of their clashes next Saturday against Galway (home) and away to Kilkenny the following weekend.
Wexford were always in cruise control. Their second goal in the 13th minute emphasised the gulf in class between the sides as a wonderful cross-field pass found corner-back Simon Donohoe in splendid isolation in the danger zone and he linked up with Aidan Nolan who found the net from close range.
The goal gave Wexford a 2-5 to 0-2 advantage and Offaly's only tactic of piling high ball in on top of Joe Bergin wasn't working. But in the five minutes before half-time Offaly fell over the precipice.
Full-back Sean Gardiner was booked for a foul on Rory O'Connor in the square after he was put through by Paul Morris. Nolan's weak penalty was saved by Eoghan Cahill and when Rory O'Connor drove a resultant 65 wide Offaly breathed a sigh of relief.
But their respite lasted less than 60 seconds. In their next attack McDonald got clear and when Gardiner hauled him down McGrath had no option but to book him again which meant he was red-carded and Offaly were down to 14 men.
This time goalkeeper Mark Fanning came forward and deceived Cahill with a beautiful strike to the corner of the Offaly net. So by half-time any lingering competitive elements of the contest had disappeared as Wexford led by 15 points, 3-12 to 0-6.
The second half piled more embarrassment and misery on Offaly. After 41 minutes Lee Chin fielded a Foley free, cut inside his man and beat Eoghan Cahill for his side's fourth goal.
As the skies darkened so did the mood of the Offaly fans as Wexford hit their fifth goal after 44 minutes when a neat interchange between Chin and Jack O'Connor culminated in the latter finding the net.
The only consolation for Offaly was that they didn't concede any more goals. Indeed, they managed to score two themselves. But within two minutes of finding the Offaly net Kelly was in the dugout after he received a red card for appearing to clip Foley's helmet with his hurley.
By the time Dooley hit their second goal with the second last puck of the game they were down to 12 men. Substitute Ronan Hughes was shown a straight red in the 68th minute after striking Wexford goalkeeper Mark Fanning. By then the fans were pouring towards the exits.
Scorers - Wexford: R O'Connor 0-7 (4f, 1 65); L Chin 1-4 (0-4f); J O'Connor 1-3; C McDonald 1-2; A Nolan 1-1; M Fanning 1-0 (pen); H Kehoe 0-3 (f); P Morris 0-2; D Reck, D O'Keeffe, K Foley. Offaly: S Dooley 1-5; O Kelly 1-1; J Bergin, T Geraghty, K Dunne 0-1 each.
Wexford: M Fanning; D Reck, L Ryan, S Donohoe; P Foley, M O'Hanlon, D O'Keeffe; A Nolan, S Murphy; L Chin, K Foley, J O'Connor; P Morris, R O'Connor, C McDonald. Subs: C Firman for Donohoe (46); H Kehoe for Morris (51); Liam Óg McGovern for R O'Connor (51); W Devereux for P Foley (57); D Dunne for Chin (65).
Offaly: E Cahill; P Delaney, S Gardiner, B Conneely; D Egan, P Camon, D O'Toole-Greene; S Kinsella, D King; O Kelly, C Mahon, B Murphy; S Dooley, J Bergin, K Dunne. Subs: C Egan for Mahon (h-t); T Geraghty for Murphy (h-t); D Currams for Kinsella (43); P Rigney for Conneely (48); R Hughes for Bergin (53).
Referee: James McGrath (Westmeath).
Sunday Indo Sport