Offaly 2-21Wexford 3-11
By Brendan Furlong
Eamonn Kelly hailed Offaly’s character after they stunned Wexford with their most impressive display under his stewardship, raising their hopes of qualification for the quarter-finals with a comprehensive seven point victory in their Allianz Division 1B clash at Innovate Wexford Park.
Wexford had a stunning start with two goals inside the opening four minutes but on an ideal day for hurling it was Offaly who went on to control the remainder of the game, leaving the home supporters stunned as their side surrendered without any real fight or purpose to their game.
"Coming to Wexford Park was always going to be a difficult assignment for us, it’s so long since we beat Wexford at home. But today the team showed character, particularly after the concession of those two early goals. The manner in which they did it, I’m proud of them.
"We have put in a fierce effort over the past number of the weeks, the fitness levels have improved along with the hurling and first touch. We can attribute this to Conor (Gleeson) who has put in a huge amount of work. The lads have fed into Conor’s coaching and work and it showed today.
"Our hurling today was definitely a big factor. We fought for every ball, showed a very good first touch, while the ability to pick off long points also stood to us. We can now look forward to our final game and possibly a quarter-final. It can only be good for Offaly hurling," he added.
As could be expected, Kelly’s counterpart, Liam Dunne, was clearly unhappy with his side.
"We simply collapsed after such a bright start. It was important to build on that but instead who allowed Offaly back in and control the game."
Wexford will have nightmares about this game for it has left them with just two points with one game still to play.
“I don’t know really what went wrong. We trained very well but we just failed to deliver. We lacked passion but I need look now at what really went wrong. It was hugely disappointing in front of our own supporters,’ said Dunne.
Wexford galloped into a two goal inside four minutes, with Conor McDonald goaling a penalty after being fouled after just three minutes, while one minute later Aidan Nolan had the ball in the net giving his side a 2-0 to 0-0 lead.
But the scoreline did not faze Offaly who responded with a Paddy Murphy goal in the ninth minute.
With Shane Dooley and Joe Bergin showing tremendous accuracy from all over the pitch the Faithful railed in Wexford, with Bergin sending a ground shot to the net approaching the break leaving his side leading 2-12 to 2-4 at the interval.
Wexford made three changes in personnel at the break but they still looked a rattled side as the Offaly dominance continued, with Dooley sending over superb pointed frees from a variety of angles, leaving his side leading 2-20 to 2-11 with ten minutes remaining.
Offaly were putting in a hugely energetic performance and their flowing hurling was causing Wexford all kinds of problems as they continued to dominate the game restricting Wexford to a second McDonald goal from a penalty, reducing the deficit to 2-20 to 3-11, but it was Shane Dooley who closed out the game with a pointed free.
To add to Wexford woes they had their best player, Liam Ryan, sent off on a second yellow card one minute from the end, but for the home supporters this was a pathetic display from their side.
Wexford: C O’Leary; L Ryan, M O’Hanlon, A Kenny; E Moore, P Foley, E Conroy; L Chin, H Kehoe; S Tomkins, A Shore, A Nolan; L Og McGovern, C McDonald, P Doran. Subs: D O’Keeffe for Kehoe (29); I Byrne for Doran (ht), J O’Connor for Conroy (ht); D Dunne for Tomkins (ht), P Morris for Shore (inj. 50).
Scorers: C McDonald (2-0 pens, 0-7 frees) 2-8, A Nolan 1-0, A Shore, D O’Keeffe, J O’Connor 0-1 each.
Offaly: J Dempsey; S Gardiner, C McDonald, P Rigney; P Camon, C Doughan, D Shortt; S Kinsella, S Ryan; P Murphy, C Egan, J Mulrooney; S Dooley, J Bergin, J Gorman. Subs: P Guinan for Mulrooney (43); J Sampson for Gorman (49); C Kiely for Kinsella (Blood Sub. 55), D Kelleher for Shortt (59); Kinsella for Kelleher (59), C Kiely for Murphy (62), B Murphy for Gardiner (65).
Scorers: S Dooley (0-11 frees, 0-1, 65) 0-15, P Murphy, J Bergin (1-2 each), S Ryan, J Mulrooney 0-1 each.
Referee: J Ryan (Tipperary).