Model comeback sees off Deise
Wexford 2-12 Waterford 3-8
Wexford bounded out of Walsh Park yesterday with a pep in their step and hope in their hearts after launching their Allianz League Div 1A season with a well-constructed win over Waterford.
It was all so different from a year ago when Waterford demolished Wexford in the corresponding tie to begin their march towards winning the League title for the first time in 44 years. Despite yesterday's setback, Waterford will still be major contenders at the business end of the season and, on the basis of yesterday's gritty performance, Wexford are feeding off enough positives to nudge their season towards the interesting zone too.
They were hit for three goals in the opening 27 minutes yesterday and had conceded 3-4 by half-time but as the flow of scores dropped to a trickle in the second half they out-pointed Waterford 6-4.
Both sides missed several chances in the second-half as early season rust rose to the surface but, in the end, Wexford deserved to take both points as a reward for their dogged persistence.
Keith Rossiter, Paul Kehoe, Richie Kehoe, Willie Doran, Eoin Quigley and Rory Jacob were especially effective in a team which displayed a clear sense of purpose and never wavered in their determination to upset the odds.
They were well short of full strength but then so were Waterford, for whom Aidan Kearney, Brian Phelan, Shane O'Sullivan, Dan Shanahan, Shane Casey and sub John Mullane did best.
Nobody hurled more ball that Eoin Kelly but he had one of those frustrating days when his accuracy indicator crashed. He shot no fewer than eight wides (two from frees) and also dropped a few attempts into the hands of Wexford goalkeeper, Dermot Flynn. Kelly still managed to contribute generously to Waterford's effort, hurling lots of ball from a deep-lying position but players of his quality are judged by their scoring return.
He hit 1-1 from a penalty and a free but won't take many fond memories out of a game that produced no less than five goals in the first 27 minutes.
Wexford struck first when Stephen Nolan rattled a free to the net in the 8th minute only for Shane Casey to fire a spectacular equaliser just a minute later.
Kelly goaled from a penalty after Dan Shanahan had been fouled in the 12th minute but Wexford's Eoin Quigley replied 13 minutes later with a powerful shot that beat Clinton Hennessy. Shanahan, the goal ace of 2007, bagged his first of the season in the 27th minute to edge Waterford towards an interval lead of 3-4 to 2-6.
While the Walsh Park pitch held up well on a dry, overcast afternoon, it was still quite heavy so it was in no way surprising that the scoring rate dropped after half-time. In fact, it became quite a slog but both sides were happy to expend every last ounce of energy in pursuit of the points.
They were level four times in a highly competitive contest before Wexford made a decisive break in the final five minutes when Nolan pointed a free, quickly followed by Rory Jacob's fourth point. Shane Casey cut the margin back to a point in injury time and Waterford had a very late chance to earn a draw but Shane O'Sullivan's long-range free drifted wide.
It wasn't an easy chance but O'Sullivan would have expected to hit the target but then it typified Waterford's general looseness in attack.
"We had enough chances to win two games but just didn't take them.
"We haven't much work done, to be honest, and while it's always disappointing to lose, I won't be losing too much sleep over it," said Waterford manager, Justin McCarthy.
After last year's heavy defeat by Waterford, it was important for Wexford to make a bold statement of intent on opening day and, in fairness, they rose to the challenge.
They worked extremely hard all over the pitch, especially once they sensed in the second half that victory was achievable.
Eoin Quigley and Rory Jacob were especially lively in an attack which featured 'Doc' O'Connor at full-forward initially and later at left half-forward.
Manager John Meyler obviously believes that the former defender can develop into a ball-winning full-forward but the Wexford supporters in the 6,000 still remain to be convinced.
'Doc' worked hard but made little progress so it remains to be seen if this particular experiment yields anything in the longer term.
For now though, Wexford were delighted to have pilfered two precious points from their close neighbours, prior to heading up to Antrim for the second game next Sunday.
"Compared to last year when Waterford had the game won after 15 minutes, this was a great day," said Wexford centre-back Willie Doran, who could be well pleased with his afternoon's work. It summed up the general mood in a satisfied Wexford camp.
Scorers -- Wexford: S Nolan 1-3 (1-2f), E Quigley 1-2, R Jacob 0-4, R Kehoe, J O'Connor, J Breen 0-1 each. Waterford: S Casey, D Shanahan, E Kelly (1-0 pen, 1f) 1-1 each, J Mullane 0-2, S O'Sullivan (f), S Prendergast, S Walsh 0-1 each.
Waterford -- C Hennessy; E Murphy, R Foley, A Kearney; B Phelan, D Prendergast, J Kennedy; M Walsh, S O'Sullivan; S Prendergast, D Shanahan, E Kelly, S Walsh, B Farrell, S Casey. Subs: J Mullane for Farrell (40), J Nagle for S Walsh (47), K Moran for D Prendergast (55).
Wexford -- D Flynn; M Travers, K Rossiter, P Roche; R Kehoe, W Doran, D Lyng; M Jacob, J O'Connor; S Nolan, E Quigley, J Breen; MJ Furlong, D O'Connor, R Jacob. Subs: T Dwyer for J O'Connor (58), D Redmond for Breen (59), D Morton for Roche (62), P White for Furlong (71).
Ref -- J Sexton (Cork).