JACK GUINEY came to the rescue of the Wexford minor hurlers with an absolute master-class in dead-ball shooting, as he notched a personal tally of 2-7 to help them get through an unconvincing showing against Offaly in last Saturday afternoon’s Leinster championship quarter-final at sun-drenched Wexford Park.
Some obvious problems in the Wexford full-back line were exposed in the opening stages by Offaly as they carved open a 1-2 to 0-1 lead after seven minutes. In fact, the margin could have been greater had they not had a second goal effort cleared only moments after Jason Sampson tapped to the Wexford net from a rebound on four minutes. The Geraghty twins, Thomas and Peter notched the early Offaly points from placed-balls.
Guiney had the Wexford opener, and they eventually lifted the siege, although there was a lengthy stoppage after full-forward Gary Moore was floored by a fair albeit strong challenge. He eventually had to be stretchered off, but remarkably he was re-introduced in the closing stages.
His replacement, Conor McDonald really did well, and he made his mark after getting loose on the left to gather from Rhys Clarke before blasting to the town-end net in the 16th-minute to help level matters on 1-2 apiece after Guiney had put over an earlier free.
Guiney then rifled a 21-yard free to the net after Colm Heffernan was impeded. However, Offaly responded with three of the next four points to stay right in the mix thanks to Darragh Cleary (2) and Thomas Geraghty (free).
Wexford seemed to be taking control though between the 24th and 27th minutes when hitting 1-2 without reply, with another free from Guiney just about breaking through a wall of defenders and to the net to help Wexford stretch clear by 3-5 to 1-5.
However, they lost some momentum in the closing stages of the half as the Geraghtys each pegged back pointed frees to cut the gap to only four points at half-time. And the margin was down to the minimum after only 15 seconds of the restart when mid-fielder Joe O’Connor powered through to rock the locals with a goal.
In fairness, Wexford almost responded with a goal, but Conor McDonald’s shot was parried at the expense of a ‘65. It led to two quick points from Guiney which steadied things somewhat after 36 minutes (3-7 to 2-7). While the Geraghtys responded in kind, Wexford stretched ahead by 3-11 to 2-9 after 49 minutes thanks to Rhys Clarke (2), Conor Hughes and Conor McDonald and they seemed to be easing home now.
But, after Peter Geraghty hit back with a pointed free, he was the benefactor of a lack of alertness in the Wexford defence as his harmless strike from a free was allowed sail to the town-end net. It cut the margin to 3-11 to 3-10 and added great vigour to the closing exchanges. Thanks to the likes of Andrew Kenny and Shane O’Gorman in the half-backs Wexford held out, while Guiney (free) and sub David Dunne hit late points to help Wexford creep over the ‘line.
WEXFORD: Conor O’Leary; Seán Murphy, Nicholas Cullen, Garret Foley; Walter Furlong, Andrew Kenny, Shane O’Gorman; Conor Hughes (0-2), Kevin Foley; Paddy O’Connor, Jack Guiney (2-7, 2-4 frees, 0-1 ‘65), Colm Heffernan; Pádraig Doyle, Gary Moore (capt.), Rhys Clarke (0-2, 1 free). Subs: Conor McDonald (1-1) for G Moore inj, Pádraig Roche for C Heffernan, David Dunne (0-1) for P Doyle, Gary Moore for R Clarke.
OFFALY: Conor Clancy; Stephen Connolly, Seán Gardiner, Enda Grogan; Eoin Hayes, Dan Kelleher, Simon Óg Lyons (capt.); Joseph O’Connor (1-0), Ethan Mannion; Andrew Connolly, Niall Wynne, Peter Geraghty (1-4, 1-2 frees, 0-2 ‘65s); Thomas Geraghty (0-4 frees), Jason Sampson (1-0), Darragh Cleary (0-2). Subs: Alan Kelly for A Connolly, Colm Mulrooney for E Mannion, K Dunne for T Geraghty.
REFEREE: Gary McGrath, Dublin.