Wexford take care of 13-man Laois to set up date with Kilkenny
Davy Fitzgerald’s absence not felt as Wexford push home advantage in second half
Laois’s Charles Dwyer, Wexford’s John Tubritt and Laois’s Ross King become involved in an off the ball tussle during the Leinster senior hurling championship quarter-final at O’Moore Park, Portlaoise. Photograph: Tommy Grealy/Inpho
Wexford’s Ciaran Lyng with Lee Cleere of Laois during the Leinster senior hurling championship quarter-final at O’Moore Park, Portlaoise. Photograph: Tommy Grealy/Inpho
Laois 1-17 Wexford 3-25
Sometimes it’s better to know some of the questions than all of the answers, such as why only three goals? In the now 13 days before Wexford get to play Kilkenny that’s at least something for Davy Fitzgerald to ponder.
Not that we’ll see or hear from the Wexford hurling manager in the meantime. Fitzgerald was sitting at the back of the stand to witness his team gently dismantle the occasionally dangerous Laois challenge, then happily posed for photographs with Wexford supporters afterwards. He remains suspended up to and including that Leinster semi-final date with Kilkenny on Saturday week, down at Wexford Park.
“Which means I’m not allowed to talk to you at all until after that, seemingly,” said Fitzgerald, looking none the worse whatsoever for that suspension dished out for his mini pitch invasion during last month’s league defeat to Tipperary. Nor indeed does his team, defiantly intent, it seemed, to hit Laois where it hurt and put an early to this contest, which is essentially what they did.
In the end Wexford produced three goals and another five full-on goal chances, which were either saved by the excellent Enda Rowland or jettisoned marginally wide. That might have spared their opponents a greater than 14-point trimming but there was no disguising Wexford’s superiority, an ultimately frustrating afternoon for Laois reflected in the fact they finished with 13 men, losing Charles O’Dwyer to two bookings on 57 minutes, Willie Dunphy to a straight red four minutes from the end.
It wasn’t that Laois lacked substance, but certainly a little style. No such worries for Wexford as all six starting forwards scored, from play, inside the opening 30 minutes: up 1-11 to 0-9 at half-time, they promptly kicked on from there thanks to goals from Aidan Nolan and substitute Jack Guiney, who looked in robust health and might well have helped himself to two more.
Conor McDonald grew into the game and finished with 0-9, four from play, and Harry Kehoe shot 1-2, his goal on six minutes, set up by David Redmond, the first sign of what was to come. Jack O’Connor’s pure athleticism was another visible difference, as was Paul Morris, who hit five points all from play, and Lee Chin - although guilty of missing one of those goal chances - was again central to their repeated attacking play.
Exactly what Fitzgerald made of this only he knows, although Wexford selector JJ Doyle, who also sat in the stand alongside him, suggested that Kilkenny will certainly pose a few more questions.
It just won’t be good enough to give Kilkenny a game, but we are where we want to be, Leinster semi-final in two weeks, looking forward to it.
“Pleased to get the win,” said Doyle, who was linked up by radio to the rest of the management team on the sideline. “We had a lot of goal-scoring chances, unfortunately didn’t take them, but thankfully still got the scores at the start of second-half. In fairness, Enda Rowland is one of the top keepers in the game and we gave him a chance with a few of them.
“The guys on the field know what we want, but there is a lot of stuff we need to work on. It just won’t be good enough to give Kilkenny a game, but we are where we want to be, Leinster semi-final in two weeks, looking forward to it.”
Fitzgerald’s continued absence, added Doyle, won’t be used as any excuse either: “People on the outside think it is a bigger deal than it is for us. We have been together now since November, played a lot of games, we all know our roles. It’s not ideal but we know how it is going to work and it will be the same again for the Kilkenny game. We’ve put a lot of planning into it, and again it is very much given over to the lads on the field.”
Laois at least stood up for the first half hour, Ross King and Paddy Purcell driving much of the possession through midfield, with Stephen Maher and Ciaran Collier also adding impressive points from play to keep them in for that opening quarter: Wexford’s defence, swarming like bees, weren’t giving much away however, especially not many frees.
Wexford then out-scored them 1-6 to two points in the first 10 minutes of the second half, Guiney also having a goal disallowed, and after that it was mostly one-way traffic. Purcell got one goal back on 54 minutes, aided by some slack goalkeeping, perhaps explained by Oliver O’Leary’s late call up for the injured Mark Fanning.
Reason to be optimistic
Laois manager Eamonn Kelly, while lamenting Dunphy’s red card in particular (for a whack on Eoin Moore, on 66 minutes), still found reason to be optimistic: “Not the result we wanted, but Wexford are a bit further down the road than us,” he said.
“We felt maybe the few championship games we had would have stood to us better but certainly a step up from where we were. We’re disappointed with the score line but I’m happy with the effort we made. We have a very young squad here, 15 under-21 years of age, a lot of them will be playing Wednesday night in the under-21 championship. We are making progress, we have a lot of positives to take from it. The wheels aren’t off the wagon or anything like that.
“And I have to give great credit to Wexford, they’re an exceptionally physical side, physical and fair, and they used the ball very well. But we’ll stick with this thing. We’re learning every day and I think we learned more today than we did this year to date.”
Leaving Wexford perfectly positioned to learn something similar about themselves come their hour with Kilkenny.
WEXFORD: 16 O O’Leary; 2 S Donoghue, 3 L Ryan, 4, J Breen; 5 S Murphy (0-1), 6 M O’Hanlon (co-capt), 7 D O’Keeffe (0-1); 8 A Nolan (1-1); 10 J O’Connor (0-2), 14 L Chin (co-capt) (0-3, one free), 12 H Kehoe (1-2); 13 C McDonald (0-9, four frees, one 65), 11 R Redmond (0-1), 15 P Morris (0-5).
Subs: 20 J Guiney (1-0) for Redmond (half-time), 23 B Carton for O’Connor (37 mins), 17 E Moore for Breen (42 mins), 22 D Dunne for Nolan (52 mins), 24 L Óg McGovern for Morris (65 mins).
LAOIS: 1 E Rowland; 2 L Cleere, 3 L Bergin, 4 D Palmer; 5 C Collier (0-1), 6 C Dwyer (0-1), 7 M Whelan; 8 R King (capt) (0-7, five frees), 9 P Purcell (1-1); 10 S Downey (0-1), 11 J Lennon (0-1), 12 W Dunphy (0-1); 19 J Kelly, 14 N Foyle, 15 S Maher (0-1).
Subs: 18 C Taylor (0-1) for Kelly (half time), 13 A Dunphy (0-2) for Cleere (42 mins), 17 M Kavanagh for Lennon (49 mins), 21 A Corby for Downey (58 mins).
Referee: Cathal McAllister (Cork).