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GAA Roundup: Wexford win respect as Cats prevail

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Even the most die-hard of Wexford supporters travelled to Croke Park with trepidation last Sunday. Respectability, not silverware, was the apparent goal, and yet, this final turned out to be a compelling contest.
Admittedly, Kilkenny confirmed their status as the province’s number one county with a clinical burst of scoring in the closing minutes. However, they were pushed all the way by an energized Wexford team. No-hopers Seamus Murphy’s players most certainly were not.
In fact, for much of a fluent first half, Wexford were by some margin the dominant side. They were quick, skilful and positive, and for a while Kilkenny’s status as overwhelming favorites was making the bookmakers look foolish.
The Wexford attack, superbly led by Mitch Jordan, had the opposition defenders on the back foot, and if Jordan himself was not able to score at will, the frees he won were fired over the bar by the accurate Rory Jacob.
At the other end, Doc O’Connor, Diarmuid Lyng and Darragh Ryan were coping impressively with the threat of Henry Shefflin, so much so that just over 20 minutes into the match, Wexford were in front by 1-7 to 0-3. Des Mythen’s goal was cleverly engineered by Jordan, and there were further celebrations from the ranks of the purple and gold when Eoin Quigley added a magnificent long-range point.
But prompted by their half-backs, Tommy Walsh and Derek Lyng, Kilkenny gradually awoke from their slumber. “I actually thought there was only a couple of points in it,” said the winning captain Peter Barry, “but then I looked at the scoreboard and couldn’t believe it. But I knew it was early enough and we’d plenty of time to get back.”
Soon a few gaps began to open up for Eoin Larkin, and Richie Power and Martin Comerford managed to make their presence felt, and if O’Connor continued to keep Shefflin under wraps, Kilkenny were now eating into Wexford’s advantage. They hit seven unanswered points and that was enough to leave the scores level, 1-8 to 0-11, at the break.
Although Murphy insisted that his team remained positive about their performance in defeat, he accepted that the players found it difficult to sustain that scorching early pace.
“Yes, if we did slip up anywhere it might have been the last 15 minutes of the first half. We’d done so well before that. I thought the referee made some dubious decisions during that period, and if we’d had a cushion of two or three points at half time, I think we really would’ve been in pole position.”
When Walsh put Kilkenny in front early in the second half, it seemed that Wexford might be swept away, but even though they had lost Adrian
Fenlon with an ankle injury, they continued to offer stubborn resistance. So much so, that when Fenlon’s replacement, Redmond Barry, along with Rory McCarthy and Mythen had a run of points, Wexford had grabbed the lead once more.
“The one thing about us is that we don’t tend to panic,” explained Kilkenny’s Barry. “Maybe some day that will be our downfall, but even though we were being run ragged for a while, at some stage you’ll get your periods on top. When that happened, we took our scores and got back into the game.”
In truth, Kilkenny’s passage into the All Ireland semi-final would have been more straightforward had it not been for some brilliant goalkeeping by Seamus Fitzhenry who saved first from Comerford and then again from a marauding Shefflin. As it was, the winners took that closing 20 minutes by five points to two to regain the title.
“I knew this Wexford team was up for it,” added Murphy. “Everyone approached the game with great confidence and self belief. We can look for a bit more consistency, but we can still take a lot from this performance.”

On the theme of taking a lot from a performance, the Dublin minors put hurling back on the map in the county with a first provincial victory since former Ireland international soccer star Niall Quinn led the charge in 1983.
With the senior section in such disarray, the youngsters deservedly got the better of Wexford in the decider by 0-17 to 0-12 at Croke Park to lay down a marker for the future.
Meanwhile, there were three games in the All Ireland hurling qualifier series last weekend with Clare securing a spot in the last eight thanks to a narrow 1-12 to 1-11 victory over Offaly at Portlaoise. Recently crushed by Kilkenny, Offaly were out to restore their reputations and when they led by six points at the start of the second half, redemption appeared to be in sight.
However, they could inexplicably only manage a single point from Brian
Carroll in the entire second half, and to their supporters’ anguish, Clare edged closer and closer to give Seanie McMahon an opportunity to win the game with a free in the dying minutes.
Waterford joined their Munster rivals in the quarter-finals with a comprehensive 4-17 to 1-3 win over Dublin at Walsh Park. Dublin started as if they meant to make a contest out of it, but their challenge soon petered out and Waterford had little trouble in a one-sided second half.
There was also a place for Galway in the last eight following an easy 3-29 to 0-10 over Antrim at Pearse Stadium. Ger Farragher helped himself to 12 points including seven frees, while David Tierney scored two goals.

Westmeath 0-12 Clare 0-9
The route through the All Ireland football qualifiers remains as demanding as ever, and for Westmeath, on a high following last year’s breakthrough as Leinster champions, as unforgiving as ever. As if failing to mount a meaningful defense of their provincial title wasn’t bad enough, they were unceremoniously dumped out by Clare in the second round of the series in Ennis last Sunday.
A 0-12 to 0-9 defeat wasn’t all the Westmeath faithful had to ponder either as manager Pa

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