Doran's late strike saves Wexford from dreaded drop


ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION ONE: Tipperary 0-17 Wexford 1-14:THE LAST twist to Wexford’s league season was the sweetest. Willie Doran’s 71st-minute goal gave the county – whose exit from Division One was deemed a certainty from their opening day hammering against Galway – the most dramatic reprieve. So Wexford, after all the griping, survive and so consign Offaly to the drop.

Only the concession of a 65 which Pa Bourke knocked over prevented a famous win for the visitors. Paired with their win a fortnight ago against Cork, it marked a wonderful reversal of fortune for Colm Bonner’s team, who had been the subject of bleak diagnoses early in the campaign.

Afterwards, the Wexford team celebrated with something like championship fervour while Tipperary did not seem overly worried that their outside chance of appearing in this year’s league final had disappeared. The most pressing concern for Declan Ryan was the health of Shane McGrath. The Ballinahinch man was carried off the field after receiving a crack of a hurley across his shin during the throw-in for the second half. But for the crowd of 4,180, the day belonged to Wexford.

“As the game went on, our lads wanted it more because the prize was staying in Division One,” said a thrilled Bonner afterwards. “They have had two horrible years in Division Two so they really worked their socks off. They have had a lot of criticism over the past five games. The players themselves turned it around and it is great. You could sense something could happen and we moved Stevie Banville into the square and he is a disruptive forward. We left a few points behind us too but we got our belief and got our just rewards in the end.”

Wexford trailed by 0-6 to 0-1 after 14 minutes and 0-10 to 0-4 after 28 minutes: there was little in the first half to suggest anything other than a predictable conclusion. The dominance of Padraic Maher (a late replacement for Paul Curran at full-back), four excellent points from play for John O’Brien and a prolific half-hour from James Woodlock were the most pleasing aspects for Tipperary. But their intensity seemed to evaporate even as Wexford came with a last surge.

Jim Berry had been a thorn in the Tipperary defence all afternoon and he kick-started the rebellion, winning and scoring a free after half-time and then whipping over another point after a great catch. When Rory Jacob, whose creativity became more evident as the game developed, hit a third successive point for Wexford, it was clear they weren’t going to disappear without a fight.

For the next half hour, Tipperary kept their noses in front but their attack lost all shape while Paul Roche, Matthew O’Hanlon Lar Prendergast and Keith Rossiter were outstanding in the Wexford rearguard.

But Wexford still trailed by four points going into the last 10 minutes and had blown enough chances to have been closer. Then Stephen Banville, full-hearted all day, knocked over a point and moved into the edge of the square. One long ball was all he needed.

“Stephen just got the ball, shook off Pauric Maher and Rory (Jacob) got a great shot – it was a magnificent save (from Brendan Cummins), I don’t know how he got to it,” Willie Doran said afterwards.

“You are always told about sprinting in and the ball came to me. It barely went in to the corner – I don’t know how but it went in anyway.” And just like that, Wexford were saved.

TIPPERARY:B Cummins; E Connolly, P Maher, P Stapleton; D Young, C O’Mahony, J Coghlan; J Woodlock (0-3), S McGrath; B Dunne, N McGrath; B Dunne, N McGrath (0-2), S Carey (0-1); M Heffernan (0-1), P Bourke (0-6, 0-3 frees, 0-1 65), J O’Brien (0-4). Subs: G Ryan for S McGrath (36 mins inj.), J O’Keeffe for S Carey (57 mins), J O’Neill for M Heffernan (62 mins).

WEXFORD:N Breen; P Roche, M O’Hanlon, K Rossiter; L Prendergast, D Stamp, C Kenny; D Redmond, D Stamp, C Kenny; R Redmond, E Quigley; PJ Nolan (0-1), H Kehoe (0-1), S Banville (0-1); R Jacob (0-4), G Sinnott (0-1), J Berry (0-5, 0-3 frees). Subs: C Farrell (0-1) for E Quigley (50 mins inj), B Doyle for G Sinnott (54 mins), W Doran (1-0) for H Kehoe (68 mins), N Kirwan for J Berry (71 mins), M Jacob for PJ Nolan (72 mins).

Referee: D Kirwan (Cork).