Wins do not come any more dramatic than today’s win by the Wexford hurlers over Offaly. Wexford came into the game on the back of an opening round defeat away to Antrim, pride and league progress demanded a result today. The team saw a number of positional and injury enforced personnel changes with Harry Kehoe and David Redmond both coming into mid-field other changes included John Lacey moving to centre back and Eoin Quigley into centre forward.
In the opening minutes Wexford and Offaly traded scores but soon the game was ominously slipping from the home side and two quick-fire goals from Brendan Murphy and Colin Egan meant that Offaly took a 2-09 to 0-10 interval lead. Wexford had hit 9 wides in the opening 35 minutes and would have to both tighten up at the back and improve their accuracy if they were to have any chance of getting a result in the second half.
In half time changes Jack Guiney and James Tonks came on for Bobby Kenny and Garrett Sinnott and Rory Jacob came in for Tomás O’Leary. Wexford as expected fought back in the opening minutes of the second half but once again were wasteful hitting a number of bad wides. Wexford closed the gap to 4 but then seemed to run out of steam allowing Offaly extend their lead. Then following the near concession of goal and good stop by Wexford keeper Eanna Martin, Offaly widened the gap to 8 points. It seemed like game over for Wexford when the defence meekly allowed Offaly to tap over again to leave the score Wexford 0-17 to Offaly 2-20.
With 7 minutes left Wexford trailed by 9 points, it looked like they were going to suffer their second league defeat on the trot. However it was then that this team showed it mettle and began one of the most incredible come backs seen in Wexford Park!
D O’Keeffe scored what seemed like a consolation goal from a Jack Guiney rebound. The gap was down to 6. Then from a Wexford 65, with 3 mins left, Gary Moore goaled again, it was now Wexford 2-17 to Offaly 2-20. Moore followed up with another point to leave 2 points in as the game ticked into time added on. Next in the crucial sequence of the game, David Redmond was fouled resulting in a straight red for his assailant. From the resulting free, Jack Guiney stepped up and rifled the ball to the net, (although some observers said it was a rebound.) Queue the full time whistle and a famous victory for Wexford 3-18 to Offaly 2-20.
No doubt, not unlike Wexford in ’98 and Limerick in ’95, Offaly will be left wondering how they lost this game but Wexford despite some failings showed tremendous mental strength, perseverance and the importance of the panel when things are not going well. The players will undoubtedly have learned something about themselves and management much about this squad of players. Young guns like Moore, Guiney and O’Keffee came of age today and showed that the management were right to allow youth its opportunity.
There remains much to work upon, this was an Offaly side minus the Coolderry players and so we should keep our feet on the ground but the character shown by the team was admirable and certainly gives supporters cause for hope. Patience is still required, there will be set backs along the way but this team deserve our support and faith. This was a great win and now is the time to get behind the team and management and drive forward together, next up, Limerick for what we all hope will be another successful doubleheader in Wexford Park.
So come ‘set the Heather Blazing’ next Sunday – Loc Garman abú.
Scorers for Wexford: D O’Keeffe, G Moore 1-1 each, J Guiney 1-0 free, H Kehoe 0-7 (5fs), D Redmond, E Quigley, PJ Nolan 0-2 each, R Kehoe, T O’Leary, R Jacob 0-1 each.
Scorers for Offaly: S Dooley 0-9 (8fs), B Murphy 1-2, C Egan 1-1, J Bergin, D Molloy 0-2 each, D Morkham (1f), S Ryan, T Carroll, D Mooney 0-1 each.
WEXFORD: E Martin; B Kenny, M O’Hanlon, B Kehoe; K Rossiter, J Leacy, C Kenny; D Redmond, H Kehoe; R Kehoe, E Quigley, PJ Nolan; T O’Leary, G Sinnott, D O’Keeffe.
Subs: R Jacob for O’Leary (ht), J Guiney for Sinnott (ht), J Tonks for B Kenny (ht), G Moore for R Kehoe (47), E Moore for Leacy (60).
OFFALY: J Dempsey; C McDonald, D Kenny, S Wynne; D Morkham, R Hanniffy, D Horan; J Rigney, C Mahon; S Dooley, J Bergin, B Murphy; S Ryan, C Egan, D Molloy.
Subs: D Mooney for Mahon (46), T Carroll for Ryan (60).
Referee: A Stapleton (Laois).