Wexford force draw with injury-time goal

 

Cork 2-20 Wexford 3-17

An injury-time goal from Wexford's Rory McCarthy crushed Cork's hopes of reaching the All-Ireland final - for today at least - and forced a remarkable draw in an epic senior hurling semi-final at Croke Park.

Played in brilliant sunshine, both sets of players gave their all in a tremendous display of passion and determination that yielded five goals and a total of 42 scores.

Wexford commanded the first half as Cork struggled to apply a pattern on their game. The Leinster side's game plan of direct, no frills hurling paid dividends and they always looked a team capable of springing a shock.

John Conran's side cancelled out Joe Deane's match opening score and led the game until the 52nd minute when Cork suddenly kicked into gear and turned the game on its head.

Paul Codd's goal after just six minutes spurred Wexford on and they maintained a constant three point margin over their rivals up to half-time. Deane, Timmy McCarthy and captain Alan Browne kept Cork in touch but the Munster champions were always kept at arms length as Michael and Rory Jacob, Mitch Jordan and Codd kept Wexford's lead intact with a number of inspirational scores.

Wexford's fluent hurling, twined with their ability to attack and defend as a pack, rumbled Cork and in particular their full back line. Full-back Pat Mulcahy endured a torrid afternoon marking Codd and it was the defender's poor positioning that allowed the Wexford captain sneak in behind him for the goal.

Despite their difficulties, Cork resisted change at the break - Wexford led 1-11 to 0-10 at half-time - but the players who failed to shine in the opening period transformed their game and set about rescuing Cork's bid for an All-Ireland final date early next month.

While Wexford started the second half superbly - Adrian Fenlon, Michael Jacob and Larry Murphy all finding their range - Cork soon found their stride and set about reducing the six point deficit.

Mickey O'Connell and John Gardiner were first on the mark but when Setanta Ó hAilpín goaled with a kicked effort after 47 minutes there was just one between the sides. Points were then traded before Deane equalised with his seventh score 18 minutes from time.

The ascendancy had swapped colours and it was Cork playing the slick passes and getting the silky scores but credit must go to Wexford for not losing confidence, even when Deane netted Cork's second goal on 56 minutes to put Wexford five points in arrears.

With the game ticking into the final 10 minutes, Jordan stepped up and at the second time of asking batted the ball past Donal Óg Cusack for his side's second goal.

Wexford trailed by the minimum when Codd slotted over a minute after later and hope suddenly resurfaced for the beaten Leinster finalists. But the belief took a beating as Gardiner and Browne tapped over late points to establish a three point lead.

Cork were just seconds from an All-Ireland final date with either Kilkenny or Tipperary when straight from a Damien Fitzhenry puck-out, McCarthy collected in the top left corner and fired to the roof of the Cork net from an acute angle to force a sensational draw.