By John Kenny

Wexford advanced to a Leinster Football semi-final meeting with Laois on Sunday 1 July after an unconvincing two-point victory over Louth at Croke Park.

After their first round win over Wicklow, Louth came into the game with a fair degree of optimism and confidence but were hit with a late injury blow when midfielder Ronan Carroll was ruled out after a late fitness test, his place taken by Nicky McDonnell.

Mattie Forde, back after a recent ankle injury, put Wexford into an early one point lead, but Louth hit back with a well worked goal finished to the net by John O'Brien.

However, Wexford settled and put over eight unanswered points to Louth's one over the next 18 minutes with Forde scoring twice along with two from debutant Ciaran Lyng and Adrian Flynn, while Eric Bradley and captain Ciaran Deely contributed one point each.

Louth, however, cut the gap with their second goal of the game on 28 minutes. O'Brien was hauled down in the large square and Mark Stanfield's penalty hit both posts before JP Rooney followed up and slammed the ball to the net.

Two late points from Wexford by Bradley and Forde to a Paddy Keenan reply for Louth meant that the Model County went into the break leading by 0-12 to 2-02.

The second half was a stop-start affair, scrappy throughout and Louth took over 20 minutes before they registered a score.

Substitute Darren Clarke put over three points and, helped by scores from Stanfield, Keenan and Shane Lennon, Louth pulled to within two of Wexford as the game reached injury-time.

The Wee County needed a goal and with just seconds remaining Clarke tried to play in Stanfield from a 13 metre free, but the full-forward sliced his attempt at goal badly wide before referee Paddy Russell blew the final whistle seconds later.

Wexford advanced to their fourth Leinster semi-final in a row, but on this display will need to up their game if they are to beat Laois in the last four.

Louth: S Reynolds; A Page, C Goss, J Carr; R Finnegan, P McGinnity (Capt), D Finnegan; P Keenan, N McDonnell; M Farrelly, M Brennan, J O'Brien; A Hoey, M Stanfield, JP Rooney.

Wexford: J Cooper; C Morris, P Wallace, B Malone; A Morrissey, D Murphy, N Murphy; R Stafford, E Bradley; C Deely (Capt), R Barry, A Flynn; C Lyng, P Colfer, M Forde. 

Referee: Paddy Russell (Tipperary).