Laois edge past wasteful Wexford
Laois booked their place in next week’s final qualifying round against the beaten Ulster champions after a dogged win against Wexford in Wexford Park.
Although they scored two goals, a dreadful wide count hampered their efforts and they visibly tired against Justin McNulty’s physical side.
Wexford won the toss and took advantage of a fairly strong off-shore breeze but their shot selection into the Clonard end left much to be desired as they ended the first-half with an unflattering total of 12 wides.
However, their eye for goal adequately compensated as they struck for two decisive three-pointers to ensure that their profligacy wasn’t even more severely punished in the opening act.
After the sides exchanged four points in the opening six minutes, Laois seemed to be getting the upper hand in the midfield exchanges and their sturdy half-forwards were pressing hard on Wexford’s playmakers.
However, from a sweeping move from their half-back line, Wexford pounced for the opening goal in the 14th minute to delight the more than 6,000 sun-kissed faithful.
Redmond Barry chose to by-pass the half-back line with a searing diagonal ball from which Ciaran Lyng streaked toards goal, before unselfishly off-loadinig to PJ Banville who had the easiest of tap-ins from a yard.
Two minutes later, Colm Begley was harried by Conor Carty as he ran from defence and Redmond Barry arrowed the turnover ball into the grateful arms of Adrian Flynn, who finished neatly with a lef-footed drive.
Two Ciaran Lyng points pushed Wexford into a five point lead but they failed to score in the last 12 minutes of the half.
Laois, aided by the accurate free-taking of Ross Munnelly, who tacked on four frees to his point from play, chipped away at the deficit which was reduced to the minimum at the break.
Although they opened the scoring in the second-half, Wexford visibly wilted in the second-half as the exertions of last week’s gruelling extra-time win in Longford gradually took their toll.
However, they did have three clear goal-scoring opportunities that could have put some daylight between the sides, with Paddy Byrne’s the best opportunity but Eoin Culliton made a fine save.
Redmond Barry also had a goal-bound shot blocked by Laois full-back Mark Timmons while PJ Banville dithered before softly lobbing the ball into Culliton’s hands with the goal begging.
Laois, who did not kick a wide until the 51st minute, made their strength in the middle third tell in the searing evening heat as Munnelly’s frees kept the scoreboard ticking over and Wexford struggled for inspiration.
Munnelly’s free-taking kept the scoreboard ticking over and, despite the fact that their lead never went beyond two points, they grimly hung on to reach next week’s final qualifying round.
Scorers: Wexford – PJ Banville 1-1, A Flynn 1-0, C Lyng 0-4 (0-2f). A Doyle, C Carty, R Barry, S Roche 0-1 each. Laois – R Munnelly 0-8 (0-4f), D Conway 0-4 (0-3f), C Begley 0-4, E O’Carroll, C Kelly 0-1 each.
Wexford: A Masterson; M Furlong, G Molloy, R Tierney (J Holmes 50); B Malone, D Murphy, A Flynn; D Waters, R Quinlivan; C Carty, R Barry, A Doyle (B Brosnan 40); C Lyng, P Byrne (K Gore 65 (S Culleton 67)), PJ Banville (S Roche (61).
Laois: E Culliton; P Begley, M Timmons (S Attride 50), P O'Leary; D Strong, K Lillis (D Booth 65), P McMahon; P Clancy (C Boyle 43), J O'Loughlin; R Munnelly, E O’Carroll (C Kelly 62), C Begley; B Sheehan, C Meredith, D Conway (D Kingston 50).
Referee: C Branagan (Down)