An­other dis­missal as Wex­ford lose fifth game on trot

Enniscorthy Guardian - - FRONT PAGE - ALAN AH­ERNE

OF­FALY 1-13 WEX­FORD 1-10

WEX­FORD’S LOS­ING streak in the Al­lianz Foot­ball League has now stretched to eight games on the trot strad­dling two cam­paigns af­ter they went down to fel­low rel­e­ga­tion strug­glers Of­faly by three points in this dour Divi­sion 3 bat­tle in St. Pa­trick’s Park, En­nis­cor­thy, on Satur­day.

The county’s last vic­tory was se­cured al­most one year to the day of next week­end’s dif­fi­cult visit to Derry, on March 19 twelve months ago when pro­mo­tion was sealed with a six-point home suc­cess against Lon­don.

And while the cur­rent squad haven’t been out­classed in any of their five out­ings thus far, their cause cer­tainly hasn’t been helped by the red mist de­scend­ing on all of their most ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers.

Team cap­tain Daithí Wa­ters was an im­mense loss from the mid­field en­gine room on Satur­day af­ter his ap­peal against a one-match ban failed, while Brian Malone, Michael Fur­long and Conor Carty had all served sus­pen­sions be­fore­hand.

And re­mark­ably, the team’s long­est-serv­ing for­ward, Ben Bros­nan, was the lat­est can­di­date for an early shower af­ter an off-the-ball in­ci­dent on the stroke of half-time.

Bros­nan ended up on the ground af­ter a com­ing to­gether with Of­faly full-back Paul McCon­way near the mid­dle of the field.

Ref­eree John Hickey sought ad­vice from two of his um­pires be­fore book­ing the de­fender, but the in­ter­ven­tion of lines­man Alan Kis­sane from Water­ford then sealed Bros­nan’s fate as the cen­tre-for­ward was is­sued with a straight red card.

Wex­ford were behind by 1-5 to 0-3 at that stage af­ter play­ing against the wind, and clearly the nu­mer­i­cal dis­ad­van­tage added con­sid­er­ably to an al­ready dif­fi­cult task.

And the other key fac­tor in the outcome was the sur­pris­ing trans­for­ma­tion in fin­ish­ing by a pre­vi­ously waste­ful Of­faly at­tack af­ter the break.

The vis­i­tors had been very sloppy with their first-half shoot­ing, amass­ing eleven wides, but they got their act to­gether in stun­ning fash­ion in the sec­ond pe­riod.

Eight points were added to their tally, some of them sweet ef­forts with the out­side of the boot, and there wasn’t even one at­tempt that went left or right of the posts.

Wex­ford did make them sweat when a fa­mil­iar route one tac­tic yielded a goal from Nick Doyle to nar­row the gap to 1-11 to 1-9 in the 64th minute.

How­ever, Of­faly re­gained a grip swiftly with two points and went on to se­cure their first win of the cam­paign, fol­low­ing up on their O’Byrne Cup suc­cess ver­sus the same op­po­si­tion in Tul­lam­ore on De­cem­ber 30.

Wex­ford made five changes from the loss to Long­ford, with Conor Swaine re­plac­ing Matt Doyle to be­come the third goal­keeper used in the league to date.

Conor Carty was back af­ter serv­ing his one-match ban while Daithí Wa­ters was out through sus­pen­sion, and a po­si­tional switch saw Brian Malone move up from de­fence to part­ner Nick Doyle at mid­field.

The Long­ford full-for­ward line of Paul Cur­tis, Donal Shan­ley and Cathal Dev­ereux was re­placed by Craig McCabe, Eoghan Nolan and John Tubritt, with the lat­ter fea­tur­ing for the first time this year af­ter his ex­tended club hurl­ing ex­ploits with Fethard.

Nolan’s re­cov­ery from a ham­string prob­lem added spark to the at­tack, and he kicked the first point af­ter good work by Nick Doyle and James Stafford in the sec­ond minute.

The Shel­maliers speed­ster drifted out from full-for­ward to leave a two-man in­side line of McCabe and Tubritt, and Wex­ford were at their most threat­en­ing when the likes of Nolan, Brian Malone and Michael Fur­long ran di­rectly at the Of­faly de­fence.

Too of­ten, though, the ball was played back­wards when the home side had pos­ses­sion against the wind, and they cre­ated trou­ble for them­selves more than once with some way­ward pass­ing.

Still, their start was rea­son­ably bright as Tubritt kicked the first of their ten wides af­ter that Nolan point be­fore Ben Bros­nan dou­bled the lead fol­low­ing a foul on Robert Frayne in the sixth minute.

Of­faly cor­ner-for­ward Bernard Allen won all of the balls that came his way in the first quar­ter, and he opened their ac­count from a Nigel Dunne pass be­fore the vis­i­tors’ squan­der­ma­nia in front of the posts got un­der way in earnest.

Wex­ford had a let-off when team cap­tain An­ton Sul­li­van fired a goal shot wide in the eleventh minute. A hit and hope kick from Conor Car­roll bounced close to the posts and, although Tiar­nan Ros­siter se­cured pos­ses­sion, he lost it un­der pres­sure but Sul­li­van couldn’t take full ad­van­tage.

A need­less give­away of the ball in de­fence re­sulted in an Of­faly free and the equaliser from Nigel Dunne in the twelfth minute.

They struck three wides, while Wex­ford had one from James Stafford, be­fore in­flu­en­tial mid­fielder Michael Brazil ex­changed passes with Cian Dono­hue and gave the vis­i­tors the lead for the first time in the 17th minute (0-3 to 0-2).

Conor Swaine made a fine save to keep out a Conor McNamee shot af­ter Niall Darby claimed a mark and fed Brazil who made a pierc­ing run.

And while Of­faly con­tin­ued to waste handy chances, an­other lay-off by Brazil re­sulted in a point for their most ac­cu­rate at­tacker, Nigel Dunne, who fin­ished with five from play and seven in to­tal.

The one thing Wex­ford couldn’t af­ford to do was con­cede a goal be­fore half-time, but that’s ex­actly what tran­spired in the 29th minute.

An­ton Sul­li­van fed wing-back David Dempsey whose surg­ing run down the right flank opened up the de­fence, and he popped the ball to Cian Dono­hue who fired left-footed to the net (1-4 to 0-2).

Niall Darby widened the gap af­ter Bernard Allen did well to keep the ball in play, but there was some respite for Wex­ford when Naomhan Ros­siter ended their 27-minute score­less spell with a fine point from the right af­ter a lay-off from James Stafford, who had moved from wing-for­ward to wing-back in a di­rect swap with Tiar­nan Ros­siter.

The loss of Bros­nan was a sig­nif­i­cant blow, although Of­faly dan­ger­man Bernard Allen de­parted on a black card early in the sec­ond-half af­ter loudly ques­tion­ing the ref­eree’s fail­ure to award him a free.

Brian Malone picked out his younger brother, Glen, for an early Wex­ford point, but it was can­celled by Nigel Dunne af­ter a line ball from the left broke off Conor Car­roll into his path.

Barry O’Con­nor and Mark O’Neill came in for Tiar­nan Ros­siter and James Stafford re­spec­tively, and a force­ful run by Nick Doyle ended with a point af­ter a pass from Eoghan Nolan (1-6 to 0-5).

Nolan then nar­rowed the gap to three from a Robert Frayne lay-off, but Of­faly’s new-found ef­fi­ciency when tak­ing aim for a score con­tin­ued as An­ton Sul­li­van fin­ished good work by Conor McNamee and Michael Brazil.

Wex­ford were en­joy­ing more of the play all the same, and Barry O’Con­nor pointed from a Nick Doyle pass be­fore Jim Ros­siter won hard-earned pos­ses­sion and fed John Tubritt to make it 1-7 to 0-8.

With 20 min­utes left the game was far from wrapped up. Nick Doyle and Craig McCabe (’45) had kicked wides on ei­ther side of those two points, and Of­faly earned a lit­tle bit of breath­ing space with a brace of neat break­away scores from Nigel Dunne and Peter Cun­ning­ham.

John Tubritt earned and con­verted a free, only for Dunne to reg­is­ter an­other from play and then add one from a placed ball to stretch the mar­gin to 1-11 to 0-9 with just over ten min­utes left.

The vis­i­tors had a great chance to make sure of the points when an at­tempted Brian Malone pass to Eoghan Nolan was in­ter­cepted and led to a de­fence-split­ting move.

Wex­ford were lucky that it was a de­fender in James Lalor who bore down on goal rather than an at­tacker, be­cause he took the wrong op­tion with a hand­pass and the op­por­tu­nity was lost.

It was sur­pris­ing that the men­tors waited so long be­fore mov­ing Nick Doyle to full-for­ward, and he pounced for a 68th-minute goal to liven up the clos­ing stages.

And, given the op­po­si­tion, it was en­tirely ap­pro­pri­ate that the Starlights lad should get away with a Sea­mus Darby-style ‘nudge’ in the lead-up, as he caught Barry O’Con­nor’s de­liv­ery close to goal and couldn’t miss from that range (1-11 to 1-9).

Wex­ford needed an­other quick score to ramp up the pres­sure, but in­stead it was sup­plied at the other end by the very ac­cu­rate Nigel Dunne.

And when sub­sti­tute Shane Tier­ney added an­other af­ter a give­away of the ball out the field, the task was too great even though John Tubritt won and knocked over an­other free just be­fore the game moved into its five added min­utes.

Wex­ford couldn’t cre­ate any­thing of note in that pe­riod, and now they travel to Derry next Sun­day with the odds stacked against them.

Ini­tially, the County Board had sought, and were granted, a free week­end since Ciarán Lyng is get­ting mar­ried, and they were orig­i­nally meant to travel north on the 11th while the other three Divi­sion 3 games were fixed for the 18th.

How­ever, the one-week post­pone­ment of the Of­faly game has scup­pered those plans.

There’s still four points to be played for, and a Wex­ford win in Derry would po­ten­tially give them a head-to-head ad­van­tage if the coun­ties were to fin­ish level af­ter the seven rounds.

There­fore, some hope still ex­ists, how­ever slim, of avoid­ing an im­me­di­ate re­turn to Divi­sion 4, but it would dis­ap­pear com­pletely with de­feat on Sun­day.

In­ci­den­tally, the Of­faly game was the first league clash to be played in St. Pa­trick’s Park since the one-point loss to Mayo in a Divi­sion 2 game on Oc­to­ber 9, 1983.

Wex­ford kicked ten wides to Of­faly’s eleven, and were awarded 23 of the game’s 39 frees.

Apart from Bros­nan’s red and Allen’s black, yel­low cards were is­sued to Nick Doyle plus Of­faly quar­tet Paul McCon­way, Michael Brazil, Nigel Dunne and Peter Cun­ning­ham.

Wex­ford: Conor Swaine; Conor Carty, Michael Fur­long (capt.), Jim Ros­siter; Glen Malone (0-1), Naomhan Ros­siter (0-1), Tiar­nan Ros­siter; Nick Doyle (1-1), Brian Malone; James Stafford, Ben Bros­nan (0-1 free), Robert Frayne; Craig McCabe, Eoghan Nolan (0-2), John Tubritt (0-3, 2 frees). Subs. - Barry O’Con­nor (0-1) for T. Ros­siter (42), Mark O’Neill for Stafford (42), Cathal Dev­ereux for McCabe (52), Barry O’Gorman for Frayne (55).

Of­faly: Pa­trick Du­ni­can; De­clan Ho­gan, Paul McCon­way, James Lalor; David Dempsey, Seán Pen­der, Niall Darby (0-1); Peter Cun­ning­ham (0-1), Michael Brazil (0-1); Conor Car­roll, Conor McNamee, Cian Dono­hue (10); An­ton Sul­li­van (capt., 0-1), Nigel Dunne (0-7, 2 frees), Bernard Allen (0-1). Subs. - Shane Tier­ney (0-1) for Allen, black card (38), David Brady for Brazil (50), Craig Dunne for McNamee, inj. (57), Seán Doyle for Pen­der, inj. (66), Shane Nally for Dono­hue (70).

Ref­eree: John Hickey (Car­low).

Glen Malone of Wex­ford un­der pres­sure from Of­faly mid­fielder Peter Cun­ning­ham.

Nick Doyle shoots as Of­faly de­fender Paul McCon­way tries to block.

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