Ram­pant Cork saunter to ru­n­away win

Le­in­ster fi­nal hero­ics a dis­tant mem­ory as as Wex­ford crushed by 22-point mar­gin

Enniscorthy Guardian - - SPORT - ALAN AHERNE

THE WARM glow that fol­lowed Wex­ford’s epic Le­in­ster Un­der-21 fi­nal marathon with even­tual win­ners Gal­way was only a fond dis­tant mem­ory in Nowlan Park, Kilkenny, on Sat­ur­day when a classy Cork side in­flicted a crush­ing 22-point de­feat on the un­der­dogs in a com­plete mis-match.

Pro­vin­cial run­ners-up were granted a sec­ond chance to reach the All-Ire­land de­cider for the first time this year, but the losers never looked like avail­ing of that op­por­tu­nity as the pol­ished Mun­ster cham­pi­ons were su­pe­rior to them in ev­ery line of the field.

Of course, the Wex­ford prospects had been dealt a con­sid­er­able blow be­fore­hand when con­fir­ma­tion came that the O’Con­nor cousins, Rory and Joe, were un­able to line out ow­ing to in­jury.

Rory’s ex­ploits as one of the finest young for­wards in the game are well known at this stage, but in my view the loss of Joe was ev­ery bit as sig­nif­i­cant to this team.

Even star play­ers have off nights, and that was the case with Rory in the Le­in­ster semi-fi­nal against Dublin. Joe stepped up to de­liver a match-win­ning per­for­mance on that par­tic­u­lar evening and, with­out his dis­play in Par­nell Park, the Wex­ford cam­paign would have ended af­ter one game.

Eoin Mol­loy, Oisín Fo­ley and Mikie Dwyer all came into the start­ing team, with Stephen O’Gor­man drop­ping to the bench. And the most no­table of the po­si­tional changes saw Damien Reck de­ployed at cen­tre-for­ward, pre­sum­ably in a bid to in­ject some drive into that depart­ment in the ab­sence of the O’Con­nors.

How­ever, it was a clas­sic case of rob­bing Peter to pay Paul, as Reck was moved first to mid­field and then to left half-back af­ter Cork surged into an unas­sail­able 2-7 to 0-5 lead by the 19th minute.

On the night of that Le­in­ster fi­nal epic in Port­laoise, af­ter jour­ney­ing home I watched the de­mo­li­tion of Tip­per­ary in the Mun­ster de­cider by the Leesiders.

They looked an ac­com­plished out­fit, and fur­ther ev­i­dence was pro­vided on Sat­ur­day as they in­flicted this un­mer­ci­ful ham­mer­ing on a Wex­ford side with no an­swers to their dom­i­nance.

The qual­ity of the Cork puck-outs proved very im­pres­sive, with Ger Collins ar­row­ing inch-per­fect de­liv­er­ies to their ball-win­ners in the half-for­ward line as Wex­ford strug­gled to cope.

Mid­field­ers Mark Cole­man and Dar­ragh Fitzgib­bon did more than enough to keep their side in the driv­ing seat with­out hav­ing to de­ploy their high­est gears at any stage, while their in­side for­ward trio of Liam Healy, Tim O’Ma­hony and Jack O’Con­nor ran riot and picked off 3-7 from play be­tween them.

That was three points more than the en­tire Wex­ford tally, with four of the start­ing for­wards fail­ing to make the score­sheet. Rarely, if ever, has a team gone from such hero­ics to this abysmal low in the space of one game, and it was dif­fi­cult to de­rive any­thing of a pos­i­tive na­ture from this de­feat as the losers were given such a les­son.

They looked like they couldn’t wait for the fi­nal whis­tle in a sec­ond-half that was lack­ing in in­ten­sity to such a de­gree that only five frees were awarded, three to Cork. That pe­riod in­cluded a four-minute de­lay when their cen­tre-for­ward, De­clan Dal­ton, was treated on the field for a knee in­jury that must make him a doubt­ful starter for the All-Ire­land fi­nal against Gal­way or Tip­per­ary on the last week­end of the month.

Wex­ford led twice early on, with a Sea­mus Casey free and Aaron Maddock’s opener from play, af­ter a lovely Casey hand­pass, ar­riv­ing on ei­ther side of Dal­ton’s first suc­cess­ful placed ball for the Rebels.

The ini­tial big blow ar­rived in the sixth minute, and there was very lit­tle that net­min­der Jack Cushe could do about it.

John Cash­man sent the ball into the right cor­ner where Tim O’Ma­hony was out­num­bered by Ian Carty and di­rect op­po­nent Darren Byrne, but he still won pos­ses­sion and took off on a solo run be­fore strik­ing for goal. Cushe made the save, but the re­bound was swept un­der his body and into the net by the in­rush­ing full-for­ward (1-1 to 0-2).

An ex­cel­lent in­ter­cep­tion by Mark Cole­man ruled out a pos­si­ble in­stant re­ply as Mikie Dwyer looked to find Rory Hig­gins with a hand­pass, and Cork quickly piled on the scores.

Wex­ford found it next to im­pos­si­ble to han­dle the op­po­si­tion puck-outs, with Conor Fir­man foul­ing Shane Kingston af­ter Liam Stafford struck a wide, and Dal­ton on tar­get from the free.

Jack Cushe’s re-start was latched on to by Kingston who bolted for­ward be­fore find­ing Dal­ton with a pass. He in turn popped the ball to Dar­ragh Fit­gib­bon whose shot was saved by the net­min­der, but it sat up invit­ingly and Tim O’Ma­hony first-timed it to the net (2-2 to 0-2).

Aaron Maddock man­aged a point in re­ply from a good pass out­field by Rory Hig­gins, but it was look­ing grim for Wex­ford even at that early stage be­cause Cork were ca­pa­ble of grab­bing scores with such ease.

By the time Damien Reck moved out of the at­tack, the score stood at 2-7 to 0-5 af­ter Dal­ton (free and play), Kingston (two) and Jack O’Con­nor added Cork points, with Sea­mus Casey re­spond­ing from a free plus an ex­quis­ite line ball on the right.

A su­per score from tight to the left side­line by O’Con­nor was fol­lowed by a swift re­sponse from Casey af­ter a short Oisín Fo­ley pass, but Cork’s power and poise saw them surge into a 2-14 to 0-9 half-time lead with­out ever look­ing un­der any sort of pres­sure.

Dal­ton tacked on two frees on ei­ther side of a Damien Reck point, and the lead­ers al­most added a third goal from an au­da­cious at­tempt by Liam Healy in the 25th minute.

Jack Cushe lost pos­ses­sion a long way from goal, and he was re­lieved to see the cor­ner-for­ward strik­ing the ball mere inches over rather than un­der the bar.

Wex­ford also lost Shane Reck to a back in­jury, with Stephen O’Gor­man com­ing on at cen­tre-for­ward.

Conor Fir­man dropped into the right cor­ner, with Gary Mol­loy and Damien Reck now flank­ing Ian Carty in the half-back line, while Rowan White part­nered Aaron Maddock at mid­field.

When White and Casey (free) pointed in the 27th and 30th min­utes, it was the only time in the en­tire game that Wex­ford man­aged two scores in suc­ces­sion.

And with O’Ma­hony, O’Con­nor and Dal­ton (free) con­tin­u­ing to look dan­ger­ous, there was eleven points be­tween the sides at half-time and ef­fec­tively

Wing-for­wards Oisín Stafford were re­placed and Darren Codd at the py Wex­ford line ball al­most Cork goal in­side 40 sec­onds

Thank­fully, a rare O’Ma­hony put paid

Cork showed they were ease off as Kingston, again added the first half (2-17 to 0-9).

Damien Reck pulled Conor Hearne hand­pass, lit­tle at that stage, and did claim that third goal

Shane Kingston sent the di­rec­tion of Tim O’Ma­hony his duel with Darren Byrne up Liam Healy for a close-

Sea­mus Casey struck from play in the 44th minute, lost the last quar­ter ac­cu­rately summed be­tween the teams.

Conor Hearne and those points in the 53rd re­spec­tively, but Cork Ca­ha­lane had an ab­so­lute Wex­ford had given up an ex­tent that he was around the pitch with­out ently mark­ing him, pick­ing in the process.

It brought back un­happy of our last visit to Nowlan Un­der-21 game, the 2017 when Kilkenny 0-30 to 1-14.

The grade is no more which is an ab­so­lute

ef­fec­tively no way back. Oisín Fo­ley and Liam re­placed by Conor Hearne the break, and a slopal­most led to an­other sec­onds of the re-start. rare han­dling er­ror by to that chance, but were in no mood to Dal­ton and Kingston first three points of the

pulled one back from a hand­pass, but it mat­tered and even less af­ter Cork goal in the 39th minute. sent a cross­field ball in O’Ma­hony who won Byrne be­fore setting close-range fin­ish. struck his sec­ond point minute, and Wex­ford by 0-9 to 0-2 which up the gulf in abil­ity

and Rowan White scored 53rd and 66th min­utes Cork sub­sti­tute Conor ab­so­lute field day. up the ghost to such was al­lowed to roam with­out any­one ap­parpick­ing off four points

un­happy mem­o­ries Nowlan Park for an the Le­in­ster fi­nal of Kilkenny eased home by

more af­ter this year, ab­so­lute shame in my view, as it will fall into line with football and be­come an Un­der-20 com­pe­ti­tion from 2019 on­wards. It means that a lot of Sat­ur­day’s side will be de­nied one last year at this level, and it was un­for­tu­nate to bow out on such a low note af­ter those Le­in­ster fi­nal ex­ploits - al­beit in de­feat - had gained such ap­proval among the Wex­ford fan­base.

Wex­ford: Jack Cushe (Naomh Eanna); Shane Reck (Oyle­gate-Glenbrien), Darren Byrne (Black­wa­ter), Eoin Mol­loy (Naomh Eanna); Conor Fir­man (St. Martin’s, capt.), Ian Carty (Tagh­mon-Cam­ross), Rowan White (Glynn-Barn­town, 0-2); Gary Mol­loy (Naomh Eanna), Aaron Maddock (St. Martin’s, 0-2); Oisín Fo­ley (Cross­abeg-Bal­ly­murn), Damien Reck (Oyle­gate-Glenbrien, 0-2), Liam Stafford (Adamstown); Sea­mus Casey (Oyle­gate-Glenbrien, 0-6, 3 frees, 1 line ball), Mikie Dwyer (Fethard), Rory Hig­gins (Rath­nure). Subs. - Stephen O’Gor­man (Tagh­mon-Cam­ross) for S. Reck, inj. (25), Darren Codd (St. Martin’s) for Stafford (HT), Conor Hearne (Shel­maliers, 0-1) for Fo­ley (HT), Eoin Kelly (HWH-Bun­clody) for Hig­gins (41), Jody Dono­hoe (Shel­maliers) for Byrne, inj. (46), also James Henebery (Faythe Har­ri­ers), Quinn Saun­ders (Our Lady’s Is­land), Murtha Doyle (Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh), Daire Bol­ger (Rath­garogue-Cushin­stown).

Cork: Ger Collins; Eoghan Mur­phy, Niall O’Leary, David Lowney; John Cash­man, Ger Mel­l­er­ick, Billy Hen­nessy; Mark Cole­man, Dar­ragh Fitzgib­bon; Rob­bie O’Flynn, De­clan Dal­ton (0-8, 6 frees), Shane Kingston (capt., 0-4); Liam Healy (1-1), Tim O’Ma­hony (2-2), Jack O’Con­nor (0-4). Subs. - Conor Ca­ha­lane (0-4) for Mel­l­er­ick (36), Aaron My­ers (0-2 frees) for Dal­ton, inj. (52), Daire Con­nery for Fitzgib­bon (55), Chris O’Leary (0-1) for Kingston (59), Conor O’Cal­laghan for Cole­man (60).

Ref­eree: Alan Kelly (Gal­way).

Wex­ford de­fender Ian Carty hold­ing off De­clan Dal­ton of Cork dur­ing Sat­ur­day’s heavy de­feat in Nowlan Park,Kilkenny.

Shane Reck un­der pres­sure in the early stages from Cork’s Jack O’Con­nor.

Cork’s two-goal hero, Tim O’Ma­hony, tak­ing on Wex­ford cap­tain Conor Fir­man.

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