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Latest Laois News: Wasteful Laois see Wexford pull away in final quarter
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Latest Laois News: Wasteful Laois see Wexford pull away in final quarter

Wexford 4-17 Laois 0-10

Shot shy O’ Moore men second best to Wexford

By John Hayes

Twenty minutes in and Laois had hit seven wides. Indeed the visitors to Wexford Park had any amount of possession. With Fiachra Fennell dominating and mopping up a lot of loose ball Laois had the ammunition to damage the Slaneysiders. However poor shot selection, even allowing for the strong, swirling wind, meant the O’ Moore men’s share of the possession was never reflected on the scoreboard.

On occasion Laois drove the ball into the corner forward positions only to realise too late they had, in dropping deep to defend, vacated the corners. It was child’s play for the hosts as the Wexford men could come out with the ball unchallenged.

Indeed the Laois men were breaking even in the possession stakes in the opening quarter. It was no coincidence that Wexford’s brace of goals followed soon after a patched-up Fiachra Fennell had come back on after his departure to have a blood injury seen to. His absence even for such a short period seemed to discombobulate his team mates

That period immediately after a patched-up Fennell came back on saw Wexford in for two quickfire Mikey Dwyer goals. Conor Hearne fed an average hand pass that Dwyer turned into a great one when he doubled on it to the net. Less than two minutes later and the ‘Yellowbellies’ were celebrating a second goal when a long Jack O’ Connor free from way out on the far sideline wasn’t dealt with in the heart of the Laois defence and Dwyer, taking up a position just outside the large square, made no mistake when the ball broke out to him.

Wexford panel Credit Official Wexford GAA

That two-goal salvo aside Laois did well in the second quarter. That pattern continued immediately after the half-time break as well. Indeed it was honours even during a third quarter that saw both sides chalk up a three-point tally apiece. However Laois were now sending wide after wide to the right of the Wexford goals just as in the opening half where shot after shot went astray to the left of the host’s goals.

It was in the fourth quarter that Wexford pulled clear of the Laois men.

It was in the fourth quarter that Wexford pulled clear of the Laois men. Entering their fifth year of strength and conditioning work under Davy Fitzgerald the home side were able break tackles and carve up Laois for another two-goal haul at the death.

Right from the off Mikey Dwyer looked sharp for Wexford. Equally Fennell and Cleere shone for Laois as they repulsed those early Wexford charges before a long Enda Rowland clearance found Ross King out on the left wing and the Rathdowney-Errill ace made no mistake from sixty yards out. Wexford got their equaliser when a poor Laois clearance put Harry Kehoe back in possession and the Cloughbawn man fired over off his left-hand side.

The wasteful nature of Laois’ performance soon emerged when PJ Scully fired the first of his many wides. Wexford, in response, tried to work the ball out of defence but a thunderous Cha Dwyer challenge saw Laois end up with a free which was duly pointed. Wexford came rampaging for the equaliser but wonderful defending from Fennell thwarted Jack O’ Connor. In response Paddy Purcell fired wide from long distance for Laois when other options were available. That saw a pattern emerge of electing to shoot when it was better advised to work the ball into better positions.

When Wexford broke forward they were stopped by the rock that was Fennell.

Wondrous skill from Conor McDonald saw the home side win a free which Kehoe slotted over for the equaliser. Scully fired well wide from a sideline ball and when Wexford broke forward they were stopped by the rock that was Fennell. Indeed the Rosenallis man soon after had to depart to have a blood injury seen to.

With Fennell absent temporarily and then back on the park Wexford pounced. A long free in saw McDonald drift across in front of goals, swoop and flick his point over. A patched-up Fennell and Lee Cleere stood tall as wave after wave of attacks bore down on them. Panicked clearances from the O’ Moore men in this period, most notably by Ciaran Collier, handed possession back to Wexford. When Laois were on the ball their shooting failed them in particular Aaron Dunphy who soon went on to shoot a very poor wide from open play.

Laois panel Credit Official Wexford GAA

Another feature of the play were the rampaging runs by Podge Delaney from out of the Laois defence. However with no-one running off his shoulder the Harps’ hurler either lost possession, ran into contact or gave away a free here and there. This heaped even more pressure on the O’ Moore men. Wexford took full advantage when, fed by a clever O’ Connor pass, Conor Hearne pointed. Indeed the Shemaliers’ midfielder was getting on more and more ball. That, in turn, turned the screw on the visitor’s defence. Indeed it was Hearne’s hand pass that allowed Dwyer to double on the sliothar for the game’s opening goal.

Calamity was to strike again soon after for a pressurised Laois defence

Calamity was to strike again soon after for a pressurised Laois defence. A long Wexford free wasn’t dealt with by the Laois rearguard and Dwyer pulled on the loose ball for his second goal of the afternoon. Laois responded well from this blow however. With Fennell back on the park and Cha Dwyer coming more into the game Laois came back at the hosts. Cha was fouled and that allowed PJ Scully to fire over the resulting free. Great blocks by Fennell and Downey stopped Wexford’s response.

Wexford v Laois AHL 2021 online Programme by John Hayes on Scribd

Match Programme Credit Official Wexford GAA

In attack Laois, however, did not take their chances. A long-range Enda Rowland free drifted wide in the strong, swirling wind. Wexford broke forward and edged further ahead with a peach of a point from play by the razor-sharp Gavin Bailey. With the Wexford half-back line and midfield on top Aaron Dunphy paid the price and was replaced by Rathdowney-Errill’s James Ryan.

The Laois attack was still spluttering however

The Laois attack was still spluttering however. Paddy Purcell fed a great ball to Podge Delaney but his shot tailed off harmlessly to the left and wide. PJ Scully fired over a free however as the Laois side found their feet again. A thunderous Cha Dwyer shoulder saw Laois break forward but Ross King’s rasper of a shot was well saved by Wexford custodian Seamus Casey. Indeed that was as close as Laois came to scoring a goal.

Turning around at the interval trailing by 2-05 to 0-04 Laois went on to carve out their best period of play. With Ciaran Comerford’s shot blocked out for a ’65’ PJ Scully stood up and fired over the resulting placed ball to have the deficit reduced again. Laois were now hitting their stride and their best move upfield was, alas, undone by a very poor Ryan Mullaney hand pass. Then Jack Kelly added to the wide count for Laois as the visitors failed to capitalise on the purple spell. That Kelly effort sent the wide count into double figures.

A losing start in the Allianz National Hurling League for the Laois men.๐Ÿ“ท Paul Dargan Photography

Wexford were much more clinical and Diarmuid O’ Keefe duly pointed whereas Cha Dwyer fired badly wide at the other end. Laois’ bright, enterprising play was finally rewarded with a point after Paddy Purcell rounded off a great Laois attack. Bailey popped up again to restore Wexford’s lead however. A Jack O’ Connor ’65’ soon saw the ‘Model County’ extend their advantage.

Laois responded well however to this setback. First Ross King fired over a wonderful point from play. Then Cha struck a bad wide after a flowing Laois move upfield. A coruscating run forward by Podge Delaney should have been capped off with a point. However another wide saw Laois’ momentum stalled. Then uncharacteristically Fennell lost possession to allow Wexford’s running game click into gear. Cleere had to foul and take the yellow card to protect his goals. Chin took the resulting penalty but Rowland made a great save to keep Laois in the hunt at the second water break.

A losing start in the Allianz National Hurling League for the Laois men.๐Ÿ“ท Paul Dargan Photography

That was Wexford’s first score in all of nine minutes which was telling about the Laois display in the third quarter.

On the resumption of play Scully shot another free wide and Wexford’s response was quick in coming. Simon Donohue got on the ball from 100 yards out and landed a monster. That was Wexford’s first score in all of nine minutes which was telling about the Laois display in the third quarter. Laois’ response saw Casey do well to hold onto the ball under his crossbar. Another pair of wides from Delaney and Scully seemed to suck some of the fight out of the Laois men. At the other end James Ryan should have cut out a ball that saw Donohue fire over. Scully pointed to reduce the deficit but it was only a speedbump for the hosts. Jack Kelly angled over a great point from distance but it was now Wexford that was hunting in packs. Clearly showing they were into a fifth season of strength and conditioning under Davy Fitzgerald the Wexford players were now able to more easily break tackles and work through the lines.

With Cleere back on and Scully firing over the free when Cha was fouled Laois had grounds for optimism. However that was Laois’ last score. Wexford went up through the gears for the remaining thirteen minutes. Wides from Kelly and Scully did little to stem the tide which was running in Wexford’s favour. Quick-fire points from Casey, Devitt and O’ Keeffe soon extended the home side’s advantage. Rory O’ Connor then goaled and with time running out the powerful midfield pairing of O’ Keeffe and Hearne played ducks and drakes with a tiring Laois defence before tacking on their side’s fourth goal.

Midfield pairing of O’ Keeffe and Hearne played ducks and drakes with a tiring Laois defence before tacking on their side’s fourth goal.

For the losing side Lee Cleere and Enda Rowland shone throughout. The best performer for the O’ Moore men was Fiachra Fennell. He was badly missed when he had to retire early on to get patched up. For the victors the midfield pairing of O’Keeffe and Hearne were at times unplayable. Mikie Dwyer shone until taken off late on. Gavin Bailey was a colossus for Wexford during the encounter. While he won the TG4 ‘Player of the Match’ award one could have made an argument for Fennell as well.

Laois

Scorers: PJ Scully 0-6 (0-4 (f) & 0-1 (’65’)), Ross King 0-2, Paddy Purcell and Jack Kelly 0-1 each

Team: Enda Rowland; Lee Cleere, Sean Downey, Donnacha Hartnett; Podge Delaney, Jack Kelly, Ryan Mullaney; Fiachra Fennell, Aaron Dunphy; Paddy Purcell, Ciaran Comerford, Ciaran Collier; Charlie Dwyer, Ross King, PJ Scully.

Subs: James Ryan for Fiachra Fennell (blood injury 13-17m), James Ryan for Aaron Dunphy (30m), Diarmuid Conway for Ciaran Comerford (52m), James Keyes for Paddy Purcell (62m), Colm Stapleton for Ciaran Collier (67m), Conor Phelan for Fiachra Fennell (69m), Ciaran McEvoy for Ryan Mullaney (70m)