Wexford get their winning mojo working again against Clare
Davy Fitzgerald got one over on old team with an impressive performance from Wexford
Wexford’s Paudie Foley and Michael O’Malley of Clare battle for the ball during their Allianz Hurling League Division 1A clash at Nowlan Park. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Wexford 0-20 Clare 1-13
Assuming there wasn’t some old loyalty at play here this was a handy one for Davy Fitzgerald. After mixing the rough and then the smooth his Wexford team got their winning mojo working again, and are thus poised for the league quarter-finals.
At the same time Fitzgerald handed his former Clare team their first defeat of the league, and there were times in the game when it appeared like they actually might be doing him some sort of favour, such was their paltry return in the second half especially.
It wasn’t all one direction as Wexford actually found themselves a point down at half-time, their poor shooting – 11 wides in that period – the main reason for that. Once their radars were working again they out-scored Clare 13 points to five over the next 35 minutes, before Peter Duggan’s injury-time goal from a free skewed the final score.
Better still Wexford did it with a range or scorers and none better than teenager Rory O’Connor – introduced at half-time to replace Lee Chin, who is nursing a hamstring strain: O’Connor shot three brilliant points from play and added a 65 for good measure. Not long back from a knee injury O’Connor brings further motion to an already dynamic Wexford attack, and his confidence on the field appears to be infectious. Paudie Foley and Conor McDonald were among those to feed off it, Chin by the way hitting four placed balls before leaving the field.
The Wexford support in the 7,800 attendance certainly appreciated O’Connor’s impact and Fitzgerald acknowledged that on both counts.
“Lee Chin has a hamstring injury, we’ve a lot of games coming up to think of, and I couldn’t just leave him out there for the sake of it,” said Fitzgerald. “But Rory O’Connor did okay when he came in, though, didn’t he?
Even after his injury layoff, Fitzgerald had no hesitation in bringing the young St Martin’s player – who clearly has the physicality for this level. Doubts? “The only doubt I had is that he was four months off, and this was only his second time coming on.
“Overall I thought our work rate and tackling were incredible. I did think we were the better team by quite a bit. It was a big game. We want to stay in Division One, and be around the top of the table again. And again the supporters are unreal. They’re enjoying the games, and that definitely spills onto the field.”
Having beaten Tipperary, Kilkenny and Cork, the in-form team coming here were Clare, although they didn’t play that way. Their shot selection, which was as poor as Wexford’s in the first half, got even worse in the second, with the likes of Shane O’Donnell and Podge Collins certainly enjoying better days.
Peter Duggan’s free-taking is best described as erratic, and while his late 20-minute free was perfectly directed into the goal, some of his other efforts went AWOL.
John Conlon threw his usual weight around, but even allowing for the absence of Tony Kelly and Conor McGrath, their attack had slim pickings. David McInerney and Conor Cleary held the fort well in the first half, but could do little to control O’Connor in the second.
Fitzgerald had lots of nice things to say about his former team afterwards, but it helps that Wexford are playing with a level of consistency not seen by the county in a long time: “I know all those Clare guys, they won’t be far away. It’s a hard thing to stand on the line, when you managed that team for five years, to play against them. I still have massive time and respect for them.”
“We knew this was a different type of game, and we consciously decided not to go for goals, and take our scores when we could get. We’d 10 or 11 wides in the first half which was too many. This is massive for our progression, to stay in Division One. Kilkenny will be fighting with us the next day but we’ll take it as it comes.”
For Clare joint-manager Gerry O’Connor there was disappointment at the way his side failed to build on their half-time advantage: “Bit disheartened with the result, yeah. I thought our first touch and handling let us down slightly, partly because of the pressure Wexford were putting us under, but ultimately they were the better team. Being honest the four-point margin wasn’t reflective of the game.”
“The bright thing is we were missing a few guys too with the Fitzgibbon Cup, so we got a few new lads on the field, young Ryan Taylor, Diarmuid Ryan, Mikey O’Neill.”
Wexford: M Fanning (0-3, all frees); D Reck, L Ryan, C Firman; P Foley (0-2), M O’Hanlon (j/capt), D O’Keeffe; K Foley (0-2), S Murphy; A Nolan, D Dunne, J O’Connor (0-1); P Morris (0-1), L Chin (0-4, three frees, one 65), C McDonald (0-2).
Subs: R O’Connor (0-4, one 65) for Chin (half-time, inj), C Dunbar (0-1) for Morris (56 mins), H Kehoe for Dunne (59 mins), A Maddock for Murphy (65 mins).
Clare: D Tuohy; J Browne, C Cleart, J McCarthy; M O’Malley, D McInerney (0-1), S Morey; C Galvin, C Malone; N Deasy, J Conlon (0-4), D Reidy; S O’Donnell (0-1), P Duggan (1-7, six frees, one 65), P Collins.
Subs: R Taylor for Galvin (35 mins, inj), D Corry for Deasy (half-time, inj), G O’Connelly for McCarthy (55 mins), D Ryan for Morey (70 mins).
Referee: Colm Lyons (Cork)