Wexford 1-21 Offaly 1-13
The GAA avoided another major embarrassment as the penalty goal that never was became the main talking point of Wexford’s eventual eight point victory over Offaly in the All-Ireland round one Senior Hurling championship Qualifier at Innovate Wexford Park on Saturday afternoon.
Wexford goalkeeper Mark Fanning made the long trek forward in the twenty-first minute to send a stinging shot beyond keeper James Dempsey from the penalty. The ball appeared to rebound back into play from the stanchion at the back of the net with television replays confirming that it was a goal but referee Johnny Ryan and his two umpires, seemed oblivious to the ball entering the net. One of the two linesmen was Tipperary man John O'Brien - who refereed the controversial Meath/Antrim Christy Ring Cup final that ended up in the boardroom after the man in black admitted he had got the final scoreline wrong, resulting in the game being replayed.
A narrow defeat for Wexford could have resulted in more boardroom wrangling, a scenario Croke Park chiefs are desperate to avoid following the Christy Ring Cup final saga. Incidentally, O’Brien was the linesman standing closer to the penalty taker and had a clear view of the goal.
The penalty arose when Diarmuid O'Keeffe was fouled by corner-back Paddy Rigney but Wexford Manager Liam Dunne says it was never mentioned in the dressing room at half-time.
He said: “To be honest with you, it was never mentioned. We didn’t even tell the players and none of the players mentioned it. I didn’t know myself until half-time until someone said we’d scored a goal and then I just saw some of the supporters getting on to Johnny Ryan coming in there now, but we just go on with it
“I was well pleased with the fact that we were just two points down at the break. Wexford Park, when the wind is blowing there, is really, really strong. I felt we were well in the game and needed to be at half-time
“I’m delighted for the team, it’s been a long couple of weeks. We didn’t put in a performance against Dublin after the first twenty minutes. Today Offaly took advantage of the wind as well but look, I’m delighted with the performance. The objective today was to get into the second round of Qualifiers, put in a performance and beat Offaly, and that’s what we did. We can, now, look forward to another championship game next weekend.”
But Offaly Manager Eamonn Kelly was disappointed with his sides performance.
He said: “We were 7-2 up after 15 minutes (18 minutes) and we didn’t score again until after 30. You can’t do that with a huge breeze. We were disappointed with our own performance. I don’t like losing but I hate not performing. That was a bad performance. Wexford, from the throw-in, were up for this today.”
Offaly had a promising start leading 0-7 to 0-2 after eighteen minutes when assisted by a stiff wind, with Shane Dooley pointing the way from placed balls. He shot four points during that opening spell, with two from frees. Wexford responded positively through Conor McDonald pointed frees while Podge Doran was also on target, reducing the deficit, as Offaly could only manage a two point interval lead, 0-9 to 0-7.
The difference in class was striking in the second half. Liam Og McGovern opened with a fine point, which was followed by a 37th minute Paul Morris goal as he crashed home a ground shot after Conor McDonald broke down a high Jack O'Connor delivery leaving Wexford leading 1-8 to 0-9.
Following this the Offaly challenge faded as Wexford never deviated from their attacking play applying almost continuous pressure picking off some delightful points through McDonald and Doran, while young David Dunne caught the eye with some sparkling runs through the defence that led to numerous scores both from frees and play, as he continuously ripped open the midlander's defence.
Offaly had wing-back David King sent off on a second yellow card in the seventieth minutes having brought down the flying Dunne, while their goal arrived in the fifth minute of additional time from sub Oisin Kelly.
Wexford: M Fanning; E Moore, M O'Hanlon, J Breen; D O'Keeffe (0-2), P Foley, E Martin; J O'Connor, E Conroy; L Og McGovern (0-1), L Chin (0-2, 0-1 free), P Doran (0-4); P Morris (1-0), C McDonald (0-11, 0-7 frees), D Dune (0-1). Subs: H Kehoe for Conroy (54); A Kenny for Foley (66); C Dunbar for Dunne (67).
Offaly: J Dempsey; N Wynne, C McDonald, P Rigney; D Mooney, S Gardiner, D King; P Murphy (0-1), S Ryan (0-1); J Mulrooney, J Bergin (0-1), S Kinsella (0-2); S Dooley (0-7, 0-6 frees), S Cleary, K Conolly. Subs: B Conneely for Mooney (28); E Nolan for Clery (29); O Kelly (1-0) for Connolly (29); D O'Toole for McDonald (52); P Guinan (0-1) for Dooley (59).
Referee: J Ryan (Tipperary).