Byrne helps Wexford clear tricky Westmeath hurdle

Formidable champions Kilkenny next up for Liam Dunne’s men

Wexford’s Jack Guiney’s shot is blocked by Westmeath’s Liam Varley at Cusack Park. Photograph: Tommy Greally/Inpho

Wexford’s Jack Guiney’s shot is blocked by Westmeath’s Liam Varley at Cusack Park. Photograph: Tommy Greally/Inpho

 

Wexford 1-24 Westmeath 1-16

A goal from the game’s top scorer, Ian Byrne, in the third minute of the second half gave overwhelming favourites Wexford the cushion they needed to defeat a plucky Westmeath side with a bit to spare in glorious conditions in Mullingar yesterday afternoon.

The win sees Liam Dunne’s charges book a very difficult Leinster semi-final clash with old rivals Kilkenny on June 21st.

Already short the services of two suspended players and missing another through an injury sustained in a local club football match the previous weekend, Westmeath suffered a major blow before the throw-in when selected corner back Shane Power picked up a facial injury in the warm-up.

Wind-assisted Wexford took some time to get into their stride and the sides were still tied at 0-2 each after 10 minutes. However, a brace of converted frees from Byrne and a point apiece from play by Paul Morris and Jack Guiney put them into a lead they never remotely looked like relinquishing.

Full value

At the other end, Wexford continued to fire over some well-worked points and were full value for their nine-point interval lead (0-15 to 0-6).

When Byrne blasted the ball to the net within three minutes of the resumption, it looked like the home side was in for a heavy beating. However, Michael Ryan’s troops battled on bravely, despite enduring yet another setback when McNicholas was stretchered off in the 65th minute after being treated on the pitch for a shoulder injury for nine minutes. This resulted in a very subdued atmosphere during the time remaining.

At that stage, Westmeath trailed by 15 points (1-19 to 0-7), but with former Leinster player Brendan Murtagh hitting form they outscored the visitors by 1-9 to 0-5 in the closing quarter.

His goal in the 70th minute (including the long injury delay) was a quality strike.

Westmeath also scored five unanswered points during the 12 minutes of added time, before Paul Morris wrapped up a comfortable but far from convincing win for the visitors by converting a free with the last puck of the match.

WEXFORD: M Fanning; E Moore, M O’Hanlon, L Ryan; A Shore (0-1), L Chin, D O’Keeffe; D Redmond (0-3), H Kehoe (0-1); J Guiney (0-1), D Waters (0-2), I Byrne (1-7, six frees, one ‘65’); P Morris (0-5, one free), C McDonald (0-3), L Óg McGovern (0-1). Subs: K Foley for Guiney (46 mins), R Jacob for McGovern (48 mins), G Sinnott for Kehoe (55 mins), S Tomkins for McDonald (70 +6 mins), P Doran for Byrne (70 +12 mins).

WESTMEATH: S McGovern; K Duncan, T Doyle, L Varley; A Craig, A Clarke (0-1), A McGrath; E Price, C Boyle (0-1); A Devine (0-1), D McNicholas (0-5, four frees, one ‘65’), J Clarke (0-1); N Dowdall (0-2), B Murtagh (1-4, 0-1 a free), D Clinton. Subs: E Corrigan for Price (51 mins), K Murphy (0-1) for McNicholas (inj., 65 mins).

Referee: J Ryan (Tipperary).

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