Ross Banville downs Offaly to keep Wexford's treble hopes alive
Bord Gáis Energy Leinster U-20HC semi-final: Wexford 2-20 Offaly 1-18
Wexford's hopes of a Leinster clean sweep are still alive after Ross Banville fired 10 points to see the Model men past a game Offaly in O’Connor Park last night.
Just three days after securing senior and minor honours, their U-20s kept up their end of the bargain to bring Wexford one step closer to a famous provincial hat-trick, their first since 1970.
Banville’s accuracy from placed balls – as well as three from play – proved crucial along with a first-half goal from Conall Clancy.
However, MJ Reck’s side were forced to sweat as John Murphy’s 53rd-minute goal breathed new life into the Faithful challenge.
It wasn’t until Diarmuid Doyle raised a green flag deep into injury-time that Wexford hearts could settle, but Offaly lost little in defeat and offered optimism going forward after a disastrous year for their senior side, who slipped to hurling’s third tier with relegation from the Joe McDonagh Cup.
There was plenty of action before the throw-in – which was delayed by 15 minutes due to crowd congestion – as the two sides squared up and got to know each other with a brief shemozzle.
It was tit-for-tat in the early exchanges, but it was clear from the outset that Wexford had lots of scoring power, with centre-forward Banville firing two points to help the visitors into a 0-4 to 0-2 lead.
Worse was to come for the Faithful in the 13th minute when Clancy collected a sideline delivery from Jack Reck and made a beeline for the goal before firing a rocket to the Offaly net.
The Faithful response was positive, however, as they fired the next three points through two Cathal Kiely frees and another effort from Brian Duignan, son of Faithful legend Michael, kept Gary Cahill’s charges alive.
Wing-back Niall Murphy strode forward to fire over for the Model men, quickly followed by a Kiely free at the other end, but Banville was causing serious damage and three points saw his side into a four-point lead at the break, 1-8 to 0-7.
Were it not for nine first-half wides, a Wexford side playing a similar running game to Davy Fitzgerald’s seniors could have been out of sight, but they made no mistake on the resumption, hitting five of the first seven points.
Conor Langton was defiant for Offaly, however, and three quick-fire points – along with the brilliance of skipper David Nally – kept them hanging on to Wexford’s coat tails as they trailed 1-14 to 0-13 at the three-quarter mark.
A fortuitous long-range effort from Murphy sent the Offaly contingent among the 5,172 in attendance wild and produced a grandstand finish, but Doyle had the final say.
Scorers – Wexford: R Banville 0-10 (6f, 0-1 ‘65), C Clancy 1-1, D Doyle 1-0, S Keane Carroll 0-3, N Murphy, C Scallan, E Murphy, C McGuckin, S O’Connor, J Reck 0-1 each. Offaly: C Kiely 0-5 (5f), J Murphy 1-1, D Nally (2f), C Langton 0-4 each, B Kealey, B Duignan, C Ryan, K Sampson 0-1 each.
Wexford: James Lawlor; E O’Leary, E Molloy, C O’Connor; N Murphy, M Kelly, C Scallan; E Murphy, C McGuckin; S Keane Carroll, R Banville, J Reck; D Doyle, C Clancy, S O’Connor. Subs: C Fitzhenry for Murphy (45), O Carty for O’Connor (59).
Offaly: E Cleary; D Maher, C Butler, C Burke; K Sampson, R Ravenhill, R Hogan; D Nally, J Keenaghan; B Duignan, B Kealey, C Ryan; J Murphy, C Kiely, C Langton. Subs: C Quinn for Kealey (36), L Kavanagh for Ryan (48), S Beatty for Maher inj (58).
Referee: D Hughes (Carlow)