By Kieran Murphy
WEXFORD turned around a Leinster minor football championship group-stage defeat against the same opposition to run out winners in this shield semi-final in Netwatch Cullen Park on Saturday.
Darragh Nolan opened the scoring for Carlow at the O’Hanrahan’s end of the ground when he made contact with a high ball to punch over with a goal chance on.
Jack O’Leary, the Wexford full-forward, was the big playmaker for the visitors and he equalised with a point from play. Minutes later Rory O’Connor nudged Wexford in front. When the Model County were awarded a penalty O’Leary showed no fear when finding the net with a low shot to the left-hand side of Cian Kavanagh, the Carlow goalkeeper.
It is a bit simplistic to say Wexford wanted it more but they had an edge both in attack and in their ability to dispossess the Carlow attackers.
At one point Wexford’s corner forward, Ruairi O’Brien seemed to run up a blind alley but his determination saw him win a 45 which O’Leary converted. The home side registered six wides in the first half but there were mitigating circumstances as the shooters were under pressure from a hungrier defence who worked harder when not on the ball.
Just before half-time Dylan Doyle scored a point from play and converted a free to give Carlow something to aim for going into the second half.
With the aid of the wind which blew down towards the tunnel end Carlow went about trying to rescue a 1-9 to 0-5 half-time deficit. The home side were given a bit more to do when Rory O’Connor annexed his fourth point of the game to extend the Wexford lead immediately after the break.
From there Carlow had most of the possession. Doyle scored another free and sheer Carlow persistence saw Patrick McDonnell score a close-range goal.
The shoe was on the other foot now as Carlow won the 50-50 ball. At times they gave it back cheaply but slowly but surely they ate into the deficit. McDonnell was hauled down going through with the tackler not even picking up a yellow card. There were legitimate appeals for a penalty when Anthony Keating was taken out with the ball in mid-air.
In the end Carlow undid themselves against a defence who stood up when the forwards had all the ball and couldn’t force an equaliser. Unlucky yes, but Wexford defended doggedly to the end.
Carlow: Cian Kavanagh: Adam Smith, Shane Buggy, Jamie Doyle; Dan Brennan (0-1), Dylan Gorman Comerford, Padhraic Byrne; Billy Lawlor, Jack McCullagh (0-1); Fiachra Fitzpatrick, Patrick Regan, Patrick McDonnell (1-0); Dylan Doyle (0-7, 0-5 frees), Darragh Nolan (0-2), Anthony Keating. Subs: Ben Crotty for Brennan (49 mins), Conor O’Neill for Doyle (58 mins)
Wexford: Rory Tubritt; Leigh Newport, Brian Cushe, Eamon Doyle; Ryan Connolly, Paddy Darcy, Shane Kehoe; Leigh Whelan, Tom Kavanagh; Liam Crowley, Rory O’Connor (0-4), Liam Doyle (0-1); Ruairi O’Brien, Jack O’Leary (1-7, 1-0 pen, 0-2 45s, 0-4 frees), Tiarnan Malone. Subs: Paul Deeney for Whelan (38 mins), Jason Murphy for Crowley (47 mins)
Referee: Marius Stones (Offaly)