LIAM DUNNE insists that his Wexford hurlers are "not out of this by a long shot" after coming within one blocked 20-metre free of completing a stunning comeback against Offaly on Saturday night.
The Faithful, who surrendered a late nine-point lead when losing in Wexford Park during the league, must have feared their own version of 'Groundhog Day' when a dead-and-buried Wexford came storming back in O'Connor Park.
But this time another nine-point lead was whittled down to two before Jack Guiney's late deadball stab at glory was repelled on the line by defender Derek Morkan.
Offaly now face Galway in a Portlaoise Leinster semi-final on June 17, having banished their recent championship hex against Wexford with this fraught 2-12 to 1-13 win, whereas the new-look Slaneysiders face Westmeath in a June 23 qualifier.
But Dunne, while conceding that Offaly deserved it, remains upbeat. "We have a young team and we just have to learn from it. I'm looking forward to maybe getting another 10 months under our belts," the Wexford boss said.
"We'll take a lot more positives out of it than negatives. We have another game now and we are not out of this by a long shot."
Meanwhile, counterpart Ollie Baker will now hope his Offaly charges can be liberated by their underdog status against Galway on Sunday week.
"Offaly and Wexford haven't been in contention for Leinster or All-Ireland honours in seven or eight years, but these are the kind of games you train for. It's brilliant to be in a Leinster semi-final," the Clareman declared.
Saturday's game, affected by poor conditions and even poorer refereeing, was full of wild oscillations. Wexford led by four points after a dominant first quarter; Offaly then took over completely and goals either side of half-time by Shane Dooley (a brilliant catch and finish) and Joe Bergin propelled them nine clear, 2-12 to 0-9.
But then the visitors lorded the last quarter against the wind: they scored an unanswered 1-4, the goal from an earlier 20-metre Guiney free.
Afterwards, both Dunne and Offaly saviour Morkan backed the teenager's decision to seek a second goal from that pivotal late free. "He had to go for it, we were two points up," Morkan pointed out, while Dunne declared: "He has just turned 19, he had the balls to go for it. He'd have been a hero if it went in."