Wexford 3-18 Antrim 0-17: Ten points separated the sides but that margin could have been greater as Wexford fashioned a comfortable victory over Antrim in this All-Ireland championship Preliminary Round Qualifier at Wexford Park this afternoon.
It was an all to familar feeling for these two sides looking to the qualifiers for championship salvation. Wexford were looking to bounce back from their replay defeat to Dublin, while Antrim were seeking a positive result having lost by six points to Laois, following an earlier round victory over Westmeath.
This was a game Wexford were expected to win on home soil but with it brought its own problems for manager Liam Dunne who felt his side were given scant justice for the challenge thrown down against Dublin, particularly in the drawn game. Antrim, who received a dreadful battering to Limerick in last year's qualifiers, were seeking redemption as they tried to remain among hurling elite.
Wexford were determined to forget the defeat to Dublin last week and the criticism that went with it. A further defeat would sow the seeds of doubt much deeper regards the future of model county hurling, while Antrim have become accustomed to a continuous struggle, with a defeat not carrying the same burden on the shoulders of their players.
Antrim, playing with the stiff breeze, banged over two early points through Shane McNaughton frees with Wexford having to wait until the sixth minute for their opening score a Paul Morris point. With centre back Neil McManus leading by example, striking over four superb long range points, one a seventy metre free, the Glensmen led 0-5 to 0-3 after fifteen minutes.
The home side had made a rather leisurely start, but their game was lifted one minute later, when after keeper Chris O’Connell had beaten out a Paul Morris shot it was full forward Podge Doran who forced the ball to the net from a few metres giving his side a 1-3 to 0-5 lead.
Antrim were concentrating on shooting for long range points, but had a great chance of a goal after Karl Stewart created space but saw his kicked attempt go across the face of the goal and wide.
With the sides continuing to trade points it was Wexford who got a crucial breakthrough after 35 minutes. A Garett Sinnott point attempt came back off the upright but it was Rory Jacob who reacted quickest to fire a low ground shot to the net giving the home side a 2-5 to 0-9 advantage at the interval.
Entering the second half it was going to take something extra special from Antrim to fashion a result, but that failed to materialise, as Wexford extended their lead through three early points from Guiney (free), Jacob and Morris, to lead 2-8 to 0-9. Antrim needed a goal but they could only manage a Jackson McGreevey point. Jacob and Sinnott struck over further Wexford points before Neil McManus, free, Conor Carson and a Shane McNaughton free, left just three points separating the sides, 2-10 to 0-13, after 49 minutes.
Wexford kept extending their lead before Jacob with a deft hand pass put Paul Morris in the clear and he finished to the net superbly with 14 minutes remaining and there was to be no way back for the visitors as Wexford closed out the game.
Wexford: M Fanning; E Moore, T Waters, B Kenny; R Kehoe, M O’Regan, C Kenny (S Murphy 0-1, 65 mins); D Redmond (E Quigley 56 mins), L Chin (E Martin 0-1 free, 67 mins); J Guiney (0-8, 3f, 265s, 1 sideline cut), G Sinnott (0-4), H Kehoe ( J Tonks 60 mins); P Morris (1-2), P Doran 1-0 (C O’Shaughnessy 48 mins) R Jacob (1-2).
Antrim: C O’Connell; B McFall (O McFadden 43 mins), A Graffin, C McKinley; S McCrory, N McManus (0-6, 0-2 frees), P Shiels; J McGreevey (0-2), N McAuley; S McNaughton (0-5, 0-3 frees), C Carson 0-1 (K McKernan 60 mins), T McCloskey; C McGuinness 0-1 (C Clarke 60), K Stewart (0-2, 0-1 free), D Hamill.
Referee: J Sexton (Cork).