Wexford 2-29, Carlow 1-11
Wexford certainly held up their end of the bargain, but Clare’s decisive victory over Dublin means that Davy Fitzgerald’s men are denied direct passage to the Allianz NHL semi-finals despite Sunday’s facile closing-round Division 1 Group B derby win over 14-man Carlow at sunny but chilly Chadwicks Wexford Park.
Wexford were assured of at least a spot in the quarter-finals. But victory over the Barrowsiders and a Dublin success in Clare would have squeezed the purple-and-gold straight through to the last-four.
Instead, Davy Fitzgerald’s men finish second behind semi-finalists Clare, while Kilkenny and Wexford must wait to discover their opponents in the quarter-finals as Limerick-Waterford and Galway-Tipperary are scheduled to play their postponed Group A games next weekend.
The purple-and-gold opened with intent against Carlow as they breezed into a 0-7 to 0-0 lead inside 13 minutes as Liam Óg McGovern, Rory O’Connor (3), Harry Kehoe, Jack O’Connor and Aidan Nolan rose cheers amongst the 3,212 attendance.
Carlow clawed back within 0-7 to 1-3 when Diarmuid Byrne forced the ball to the net from a long delivery by David English in the 19th-minute for what was actually the Barrowsiders’ first major of the season.
Wexford re-asserted by 0-11 to 1-3 as Diarmuid O’Keeffe (2) led the way, before a mass scuffle saw Antrim referee Colum Cunning dish out yellow-cards to two Wexford and three Carlow men.
Things had descended to quite a pedestrian pace at this stage, but Wexford dug their heels in when Rory O’Connor lashed a free low to the net in the 35th-minute to open-up a 1-13 to 1-6 half-time lead.
Wexford coasted clear by 1-17 to 1-7 before an already routine exercise for the Model County became even less taxing after Carlow were reduced to 14-men on 47 minutes when Edward Byrne picked up a second yellow-card.
Substitute Paul Morris certainly made an impact as he reeled-off six unanswered points between the 44th and 54th minutes to stretch the margin to 1-22 to 1-8.
And Wexford put the tin-hat on it in rather comical style, as although Carlow defender Ger Coady blocked an initial goal-bound drive by Cathal Dunbar, Coady was unfortunate to see his attempted flicked clearance blocked into the net by Diarmuid O’Keeffe on 70 minutes.
Wexford – James Lawlor; Shane Reck, Liam Ryan, Simon Donohoe (0-1); Conal Flood (0-2), Pádraig Foley, Matthew O’Hanlon; Diarmuid O’Keeffe (1-2), Aidan Nolan (0-2); Jack O’Connor (0-3), Conor McDonald (0-1), Liam Óg McGovern (0-1); Mikey Dwyer (0-1), Harry Kehoe (0-2), Rory O’Connor (1-6, 0-5 frees).
Subs: Paul Morris (0-7, 4 frees) for R O’Connor (41); Shaun Murphy for Foley (44); Cathal Dunbar (0-1) for Kehoe (55); Seamus Casey for J O’Connor (62); Gary Molloy for McDonald (67).
Carlow – Damien Jordan; Michael Malone, Paul Doyle, Michael Doyle; Alan Corcoran, David English, Gary Bennett; Seán Whelan, Aaron Amond; Jack Kavanagh, Diarmuid Byrne (1-1), Jon Nolan; Ted Joyce (0-1), Edward Byrne, Chris Nolan (0-8, 6 frees).
Subs: John Michael Nolan (0-1) for J Kavanagh (35+2); Ciarán Whelan for D Byrne (HT); Kevin McDonald for S Whelan (46); Cathal Tracey for J Nolan (49); Ger Coady for Corcoran (52); Jason O’Neill for English (61).
Referee: Colum Cunning (Antrim).