A HARSH LES­SON

McDon­ald on fire as Wex­ford dish out hid­ing to Wick­low

Wicklow People (Arklow) - - SPORT - RICHARD CLUNE at Ash­ford

WEX­FORD taught Wick­low a harsh hurl­ing les­son on Sun­day, school­ing them in the art of play nec­es­sary to reach a Le­in­ster fi­nal and the All-Ire­land quar­ter-fi­nal.

Full-for­ward Conor McDon­ald was in ex­cep­tional form, treat­ing Michael Ver­ney to an aw­ful af­ter­noon be­fore he was called ashore by Davy Fitzger­ald in the se­cond half. Two of his four points from play could have been goals, only the de­spair­ing dives of de­fend­ers de­flected the ball over rather than un­der the bar. He also had a hand in an­other 1-03 scored by team­mates.

If the ball came in high, he won it. It came in low, he won it. If the de­fender got pos­ses­sion, he won it back. He caused con­ster­na­tion in the Wick­low back­line and forced them to put Enda Dono­hoe back as a sweeper, a move that robbed Peter to pay Paul.

It left Shaun Mur­phy free at the other end to cut out the sup­ply to Andy O’Brien and the Wex­ford half back line and mid­field had lots of space and time to pick out their pass of choice, if in­deed they did not take a shot them­selves. Garry Molloy and Diar­muid O’Ke­effe chose the lat­ter, knock­ing over three points each. Wick­low were al­ways clear­ing the ball un­der pres­sure, hitting it any­where whereas Wex­ford al­ways had a spare man avail­able to take a short pass be­fore sur­vey­ing his op­tions for a pass.

There was a huge gulf in skill level and abil­ity be­tween the two teams, Wex­ford’s pass­ing was crisp and their first touch was sharp. They would put up a hand amidst a for­est of swing­ing hurls and come down with the ball.

How­ever, per­haps the big­gest dif­fer­ence be­tween the coun­ties was on the side line. There were prob­a­bly more Wex­ford sup­port­ers there than Wick­low sup­port­ers. Ev­ery Wex­ford young­ster seemed to have a hurl with them. At half time they went in on the field and the evo­lu­tion of a Wex­ford hurler was on show.

At one end were the small­est chil­dren with hurls that were nearly big­ger than them. Then came the ten-year-olds hitting the ball over and back. Then came the teenagers leather­ing the slio­tar at each other. Then came the Wex­ford subs, the only dif­fer­ence be­tween them and the chil­dren was their phys­i­cal size and the fact they were fur­ther away from each other.

How could there be any­thing other than a gulf in hurl­ing abil­ity be­tween Wex­ford and Wick­low?

Wex­ford al­most got a per­fect start to the match. The Wick­low de­fence parted like the Red Sea from the throw in and Conal Flood raced through be­fore a Wick­low de­fender in­ter­cepted his pass to­wards McDon­ald on the edge of the square. Their next two at­tacks yielded two points how­ever, McDon­ald and Jack Guiney open­ing their ac­counts.

Andy O’Brien re­sponded with a goal and Wick­low led for a brief mo­ment. Ev­ery full-back in the county knows what he can do when he gath­ers pos­ses­sion around the square and Wex­ford’s Darren Byrne was given a nice in­tro­duc­tion to O’Brien’s tal­ents in the third minute.

Byrne wasn’t in for a bad af­ter­noon though as the sup­ply of ball into O’Brien be­came al­most non-ex­is­tent, he barely touched the ball for the rest of the half. By the time Wick­low scored again, a Seanie Ger­maine point, Wex­ford had seven on the score­board.

Any time Wick­low scored Wex­ford replied with two or three points, never giv­ing the home side a chance to gain a foothold in the match and of­fer any sense of re­sis­tance.

They also added two goals late in the half, cor­ner-for­wards Liam Rochford and Jake Fir­man hitting the back of the net. It was 2-21 to 1-06 at half-time and hard for any en­thu­si­asm to seep into the crowd or the play­ers, other than a few Wex­ford subs look­ing to im­press Davy Fitzger­ald.

Three of them, Jack O’Con­nor, Damien Reck and Ai­dan Nolan, tagged on goals in the last ten min­utes to add a lit­tle flour­ish to the score line.

Most of the Wick­low team will now have a cou­ple of weeks off be­fore they launch an at­tack on the Na­tional League and at­tempt to go one step fur­ther than last year when they lost in the fi­nal to Meath.

Scor­ers – Wex­ford: Jack Guiney (7f) 0-11; Jake Fir­man 2-03; Conor McDon­ald (2f) 0-06; Liam Rochford 1-04; Jack O’Con­nor 1-01; Damien Reck, Ai­dan Nolan 1-00 each; Garry Molloy, Diar­muid O’Ke­effe 0-03 each; Paudie Fo­ley, Conal Flood 0-02 each; Cathal Dun­bar 0-01.

Wick­low: Andy O’Brien (5f) 1-06; Garry Byrne, War­ren Ka­vanagh, Ro­nan Keddy, Seanie Ger­maine, Anto Byrne, Garry Hughes 0-01 each.

Wex­ford: Conor O’Leary; Darren Byrne, Eoin Molloy, Shaun Mur­phy; Garry Molloy, Paudie Fo­ley, Eanna Martin; Aaron Mad­dock, Diar­muid O’Ke­effe; Michael O’Re­gan, Conor McDon­ald, Conal Flood; Liam Rochford, Jack Guiney, Jake Fir­man. Subs: Lee Chin for Diar­muid O’Ke­effe (Blood 17-24 mins); Cathal Dun­bar for Conor McDon­ald, Jack O’Con­nor for Diar­muid O’Ke­effe (both 43 mins); Damien Reck for Paudie Fo­ley (55 mins, inj.); Ai­dan Nolan for Conal Flood (57 mins).

Wick­low: Robert Fitzger­ald; Em­met Byrne, Michael Ver­ney, Martin O’Brien; G Byrne, W Ka­vanagh, E Dono­hoe; Ro­nan Keddy, Christy Moore­house Jnr; Seanie Ger­maine, Anto Byrne, Jamie Byrne; Padraig Doyle, Andy O’Brien, Garry Hughes. Subs: Eoin Keddy for Garry Hughes (55 mins, inj.); Jonathan Tal­lon for Enda Dono­hoe (58 mins); Cian Staunton for Robert Fitzger­ald (60 mins); James O’Brien for Padraig Doyle (61 mins).

Ref­eree: David Hughes (Car­low)

Wick­low Se­nior hurl­ing coach Michael Neary and se­lec­tor Timmy Collins can only watch as Wex­ford run amok in Ash­ford.

Wex­ford’s Liam Rochford con­nects with the hand of Wick­low cap­tain War­ren Ka­vanagh.

Wex­ford’s Liam Rochford and Gar­rett Fo­ley compete with Wick­low’s Ro­nan Keddy.

Anto Byrne and Christy Moore­house leave the field in Ash­ford.

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