Allianz Hurling League Division 1A
Wexford 1-22 Offaly 2-12
By Ronan Fagan at Chadwicks Wexford Park (from gaa.ie website)
A storming finish persevered Wexford’s 100% run in Division 1 Group A of the Allianz National Hurling League at the expense of Offaly at Chadwicks Wexford Park.
The midlanders had suffered trimmings against Galway, Cork and Clare, but they competed with real purpose against Wexford and certainly were not out of the reckoning when Luke O’Connor netted a 48th minute penalty to blast them ahead by 2-9 to 1-10.
However, Wexford overcame a rather frustrating display with a powerful closing surge – notching ten of the closing 12 points – to heighten their hopes of making the league semi-finals in manager Darragh Egan’s debut campaign.
Offaly, meanwhile, must travel to Limerick in a fortnight requiring victory to have any chance of extending their stay in the top-flight.
Offaly survived an early scare when a long-range Jack O’Connor free sparked pandemonium as it crashed off the woodwork and into the square.
The visitors settled best, and after an opening exchange, Luke O’Connor and ‘keeper Stephen Corcoran the wind-assisted midlanders ahead by 0-3 to 0-1 inside ten minutes.
Offaly were lifted further three minutes later when a lengthy clearance found Paddy Clancy to the left of goal from where he located O’Connor unmarked to net a 1-3 to 0-2 advantage.
Wexford recovered to tie on 0-6 to 1-3 after 21 minutes as Diarmuid O’Keeffe bridged the gap following a series of frees from Rory O’Connor.
Offaly midfielder Adrian Cleary had earned a yellow-card for an offence in the build up to the O’Keeffe equaliser. But Cleary demonstrated character when pointing the midlanders back in front as they reasserted by 1-6 to 0-6.
Conor McDonald was unfortunate to fire into the side-netting before Wexford mined an equalising goal in the 35th minute.
Shane Reck turned-over an Offaly attack and fed Conor Hearne who located Rory O’Connor on the extreme left, from where O’Connor dashed in to fire home (1-7 apiece), with a couple of challengers earning yellow cards in their desperate efforts to halt his charge.
A sixth free from O’Connor eventually earned Wexford a hard earned 1-8 to 1-7 interval advantage.
But Luke O’Connor pounced with a quick double on the restart to transform matters by 1-9 to 1-8 within four minutes, and Offaly responded to Wexford clawing in front by 1-10 to 1-9 when O’Connor hammered home a 48th minute penalty forced by Eoghan Parlon to transform matters by 2-9 to 1-10.
Substitute Connal Flood and Rory O’Connor (free) re-established parity for a fifth time after 52 minutes (1-12 to 2-9), before O’Connor edged Offaly back in front.
However, Wexford eventually found their groove in an otherwise erratic showing, and defender Connal Flood emerged with two inspirational points as defender Conor Devitt also helped turned the tide.
Teenage substitute Corey Byrne-Dunbar also hit the target on his league debut in the home-side’s closing surge to victory in the counties first competitive encounter since the Leinster championship of 2018.
Scorers for Wexford: Rory O’Connor (1-11, 0-9 frees), Connal Flood, Conor McDonald, Kevin Foley (0-2 each), Diarmuid O’Keeffe, Liam Óg McGovern, Conor Devitt, Jack O’Connor, Corey Byrne-Dunbar (0-1 each).
Scorers for Offaly: Luke O’Connor (2-6, 1-0 penalty, 0-4 frees), Adrian Cleary, Joey Keenaghan (0-2 each), Paddy Clancy, Stephen Corcoran (0-1 free).
WEXFORD: James Lawlor; Shane Reck, Matthew O’Hanlon, Conor Devitt; Gavin Bailey, Damien Reck, Diarmuid O’Keeffe; Conor Hearne, Jack O’Connor; Charlie McGuckin, Oisín Foley, Kevin Foley (capt.); Rory Higgins, Conor McDonald, Rory O’Connor.
Subs: Liam Óg McGovern for McGuckin (42), Corey Byrne-Dunbar for Higgins (42), Connal Flood (0-2) for Bailey (44), Pádraig Foley for McDonald (62), Cian Byrne for Hearne (66).
OFFALY: Stephen Corcoran; Paddy Delaney, Ben Conneely (capt.), Jack Screeney; Killian Sampson, David King, Ciarán Burke; Joey Keenaghan, Adrian Cleary; Brian Duignan, Jason Sampson, Eoghan Parlon; Luke O’Connor, Paddy Clancy, Liam Langton.
Subs: Eimhin Kelly for Delaney (HT), John Murphy for Duignan (48), David Nally for Langton (62), Pádraig Cantwell for Clancy (67), Morgan Watkins for Parlon (70).
Referee: Nathan Wall (Cork).