It was looking good for Offaly when they led by a point entering the last five minutes, but three Wexford points sealed the deal for the Slaneysiders and earned the visitors a two-points win.
Played at sunny breezy O’Connor Park last Saturday, Wexford got off to a flying start, despite hurling into the strong wind. Andrew Kenny opened the scoring with a pointed free after 63 seconds, Tony French followed up a minute later with another pointed free and when Kenny converted another long free Wexford led 0-3 to 0-1 after nine minutes and it looked bleak for Offaly. The home side were buoyed a minute later when the lively Dylan Murray got Offaly off the mark, sublimely pointing under some pressure wide on the left.
Then Conor McDonald gained possession behind the Offaly defence and when it seemed he must goal, Offaly corner-back Rían Kelly came from nowhere to brilliantly block the attempted shot. Half a minute later Offaly full-forward Kevin Dunne was through on goal but on the run and under some pressure shot wide. By then Emmet Nolan and Conor Doughan were gaining good possession in the Offaly half-back line while Rian Kelly and Damien Murphy were cutting out the low ball.
It was Nolan’s brilliant delivery which found Dylan Murray and the corner-forward picked his spot for a timely goal and the sides were level, 1-1 to 0-4 with 15 minutes gone. Offaly were further boosted when Alan Spain capitalised on hesitancy in the Wexford full-back line to gather and fire a fine goal and open a 2-1 to 0-4 lead.
With their defence now under pressure Wexford withdrew an attacker into defence in a bid to cut down Offaly’s scoring chances. Offaly’s full-forward line was causing trouble, Spain and Murray’s sprightliness complementing the doughty Kevin Dunne, and Seán Doyle was substituted, replaced by Anthony Roche.
Yet the Wexford half-back line of Liam Ryan, Andrew Kenny and Colm Heffernan dominated their sector, as did midfield pair James Cash and Seán Kenny. The pace of Kevin Foley and Tony French also caused concern and while Wexford had more ball-winners and gained more possession, mainly through Jack O’Connor and Conor McDonald, Offaly generally effected a good block or hook to deny Wexford a scoring chance.
Another twist after 24 minutes; Jordan Broaders finishing a loose ball to the net after Conor Clancy elected to pull on the ball when he might have gathered, for a goal that made it 2-3 to 1-5. Offaly led 2-5 to 1-6 at half-time, a lead that hardly seemed sufficient given the strength of the breeze. Yet, Wexford had scored a mere 1-1 from play, having pointed five of the six frees awarded to them.
Offaly were further boosted shortly after the break with Cillian Kiely’s introduction. Unable to start due to injury, Kiely took up station at centre half-forward. At the time Wexford were on the front foot, driving through the Offaly puckout and creating scoring chances, though Offaly’s resolute defending saw scoring chances kept to the minimum as Rian Kelly, Emmet Nolan and Conor Doughan continued to do well.
Kiely’s first effort for a point rebounded from the post and Kevin Dunne was on hand to finish to the net for an opportunist goal just after Wexford had reduced the gap to the minimum. Wexford kept the pressure on, and after Kenny pointed a free from halfway Wexford were awarded a 20m free. It should have been a penalty as Andrew Browne held Conor McDonald inside the square, yet only four Offaly defenders faced Andrew Kenny who blasted the ball low to the net and they were level again with 18 minutes remaining.
Still on the front foot Wexford were unable to break down the Offaly defence who hooked and blocked relentlessly and five minutes after the goal, Dylan Murray edged Offaly back in front following which Seán Kenny equalised, just Wexford’s second point from play. Cillian Kiely again edged Offaly in front, pointing after being placed by a sublime Nolan stickpass.
Late points by Broaders and McDonald saw Wexford finish with a flourish as Offaly wilted and ultimately it was Wexford’s superior pace and stamina that saw them prevail.
Wexford: Andrew Kenny (1-6f), Jordan Broaders 1-1, Tony French 0-4 (0-3f). Seán Kenny 0-1, Conor McDonald 0-1.
Offaly: Dylan Murray 1-6 (0-2f), Alan Spain 1-1, Kevin Dunne 1-0, Cillian Kiely 0-1.
Wexford: 8 (1 1st half)
Offaly 6 (5 1st half).
Wexford 14 (6 1st half)
Offaly 14 (4 1st half)
Red; none. Yellow: (8) - Ger Crowe (23 mins), Conor Devitt (40 mins), Séamus O’Connor (41 mins), Andrew Browne (42 mins), Rian Kelly (48 mins), Colm Heffernan (51 mins), Conor Doughan (56 mins), James Cash (61 mins).
Wexford: Oliver O’Leary; Seán Doyle, Seán Murphy, Eoin Conroy; Liam Ryan, Andrew Kenny (capt.), Colm Heffernan; James Cash, Seán Kenny; Kevin Foley, Jack O’Connor, Conor Devitt; Jordan Broaders, Conor McDonald, Tony French. Subs: Anthony Roche for S Doyle (22 mins), Dónal Shanley for J O’Connor (43 mins).
Offaly: Conor Clancy; Damien Murphy, Andrew Browne, Rían Kelly; Emmet Nolan, Conor Doughan (capt.), Eoin Pilkington; Séamus O’Connor, James Nally; Seán T O’Connor, Keith Bergin, Ger Crowe; Alan Spain, Kevin Dunne, Dylan Murray. Subs: Andrew Connolly for J Nally (half time), Cillian Kiely for Bergin (34 mins), Matthew Moloney for Pilkington (57 mins).
Referee: Patrick Murphy, Carlow.