Wexford belie their lowly status as they shock Division One Down
Rossiter brothers grab two goals within a minute to pave way to a five-point victory
Down’s Kevin McKernan collides with Syl Byrne of Wexford during the All-Ireland SFC Round 1B Qualifier at Wexford Park. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Wexford 2-16 Down 2-11
Wexford produced an impressive display to end Down’s championship hopes in an excellent round one qualifier at Wexford Park on Saturday evening.
Buoyed by a Leinster junior championship final success 48 hours earlier, Wexford supporters mixed with their Down counterparts more in anticipation than hope but it did not take long for the home supporters to realise their young side were on a mission.
Two goals from the Rossiter brothers in a one-minute second-half spell capped a marvellous display from Wexford.
Shellshocked Down bowed out of the title race without a single championship victory to their credit, despite hopes having been raised following promotion to Division One.
In stark contrast, Wexford entered the championship following a dismal league and relegation to the lower reaches of Division Four. Having collapsed during the closing nine minutes against Westmeath, there was to be no repeat as the Model County fronted up and met the Down challenge head on.
“It was a super display from start to finish. The lads played with great heart and passion, they were simply outstanding,” said Wexford manager David Power.
“It was a massive performance. We had been trying to get the players to believe, to believe in their own ability. . ..
“This is a big day for Wexford football but we will be keeping our feet on the ground. We wont get carried away. We will return to training on Tuesday night in preparation for the second round.”
Down Manager Jim McCorry accepted his side hadn’t adequately met the challenge. .
“We have no excuses for we were beaten in most sectors. We knew all about the Wexford forwards, Lyng (Ciarán) and Brosnan (Ben) but we did not close them down. If you look at it in hindsight, we kicked some terrible wides in the second half, but they also could have had a few more scores, a few more goals. In the end we just failed to meet the challenge.”
Wexford opened the scoring after two minutes through a Lyng pointed free, after Kevin O’Grady had been fouled.
Down responded with points from a Donal O’Hare free and Mark Poland to lead 0-2 to 0-1 after eight minutes.
There was a real spark about the football of both sides as a Ben Brosnan free levelled the sides, while at the opposite end it took superb defending from Graeme Molloy to deny Paul Devlin a goal. Brosnan and Devlin exchanged points, before Adrian Flynn got on the end of a sweeping move only to see his effort rebound off the bottom of the post before being cleared to safety after just 14 minutes.
Down showed their experience around the middle of the park winning clean kick-out possession culminating in a fine move ending with Jerome Johnston shooting low to the net from an acute angle to give his side a 1-3 to 0-3 lead after 16 minutes. A minute later Wexford had defender Adrian Flynn, who was having an outstanding game, black carded.
It was evident that both sides looked capable of picking off points with Lyng (two) , and Michael O’Regan responding for the home side. After Conor Laverty had bounced back with a Down point, Wexford finished the half impressively with three unanswered points through Graeme Molloy, Kieran Butler and Tiernan Rossiter, to lead 0-9 to 1-4 at the interval.
In a dramatic second half Wexford refused to be rattled as they absorbed the Down pressure while counterattacking at speed resulting in the visitors’ defence being stretched.
Lyng stretched Wexford’s lead with two pointed frees while Kevin O’Grady followed with a further point, before Down managed their opening second-half score a Paul Devlin pointed 43rd minute free.
Wexford were keeping Down at arms length with some brilliant defending from Neamhan Rossiter, Graeme Molloy and Simon Donohoe. Leading 0-15 to 1-10, Wexford got the crucial breakthrough when a Neamhan Rossiter shot was deflected to the net by his brother Tiernan, leaving Dowin with a huge challenge. That grew further when this time Neamhan Rossiter found the net giving his side a 2-15 to 1-10 lead after 58 minutes.
Nine minutes from the end, Down gave themselves a real chance when sub Arthur McConville goaled after a Mark Roland shot had been saved by sub keeper Anthony Masterson.
But Wexford continued to take the game to Down who lost Conor Garvey to a red card three minutes from the end of normal time.
WEXFORD: S Roche; R Tierney, N Rossiter (1-0), J Wadding; S Donohoe, G Molloy (0-1), A Flynn; S Byrne, B Malone; T Rossiter (1-1), B Brosnan (0-3, one free), K Butler (0-1); C Lyng (0-6, five frees), M O’Regan (0-3), K O’Grady (0-1).
Subs: E Nolan for Flynn (17 mins, black card), A Masterson for Roche (30 mins, inj), J Tubritt for Butler (39 mins), J Breen for N Rossiter (64 mins), P Byrne for Regan (70 mins).
DOWN: S Kane; D O’Hagan, L Howard, D Turley; C Garvey, K McKernan, R Boyle; P Fitzpatrick, C Mooney (0-2); P Devlin (0-2, one free), M Poland (0-1), C Maginn; D O’Hare (0-4, three frees), C Laverty (0-2), J Johnston (1-0).
Subs: R Johnston for Maginn (43 mins), P Downey for Fitzpatrick (47 mins), A McConville (1-0) for O’Hare (58 mins), R McGarvey for Poland (59 mins).
Referee: C Reilly (Meath).