Classy Lyng runs rampant as on-fire Wexford rout poor Lakesmen
ON A night of mixed emotions for Wexford, when the county hurlers were crying out for their absent former skipper Diarmuid Lyng, Gizzy's younger brother proved his priceless value to the Slaneyside footballers.
Ever since their roller-coaster journey of summer 2008, Ciarán Lyng (pictured right) has been recognised as a special talent.
Yet he has rarely been better than last Saturday evening, when he tormented a succession of Westmeath backs en route to a 10-point haul (seven from play). He took his bow after 65 minutes to a rousing ovation from the packed Wexford Park faithful… and doubtless a sigh of relief from his hapless opponents.
There is only one caveat when assessing the electric movement and marvellous execution of Lyng, Redmond Barry (1-3) and Ben Brosnan (whose 0-7 salvo included two from play and a couple of thumping deadball strikes).
Here goes: the Westmeath defence was so obligingly porous, and it can't all be excused on the basis of stage fright prompted by the concession of Barry's goal within 23 seconds of the throw-in. Still, you can only beat what's put in front of you and this Wexford have done to quite stunning effect on their way to a Leinster semi-final date with rank outsiders Carlow, shock conquerors of Louth.
They have now beaten Offaly and Westmeath by a combined margin of 26 points; the scoreboard gap on Saturday was marginally less, the performance superior. They have tallied a prodigious 3-40 in the process. Did someone just say “Matty Who?” No wonder, then, that they now appear a red-hot prospect for emulating that '08 run to a provincial final, whatever about the unlikely All-Ireland semi-final appearance that followed.
“The Leinster championship is what we've our eyes set on,” Lyng later confirmed.
Their location on the easier half of the draw certainly helps. Asked if Wexford had been inspired by this, their diminutive
No 11 admitted: “That's a cynical enough way of looking at it, but it's right.
“By the same token, Westmeath saw it the same way and they'd a game less. Louth and Carlow will have seen it the same way. Offaly did too, so you're getting the best out of those teams while you are avoiding the bigger ones.”
It's a moot point, though, whether this is the best Westmeath can offer. If you took out the enduring class of Dessie Dolan, the menacing threat of skipper Denis Glennon and a valiant cameo from substitute John Heslin, they were horribly exposed.
Dolan's 0-7 tally included five points from play, four alone in the first quarter. Glennon struck four. By our count Heslin won seven second-half kickouts, three cleanly, as well as scoring a wonderful solo point. By then, however, it was a mere exercise in damage limitation. Afterwards, Westmeath boss Pat Flanagan cited their age profile (10 panellists under 22) and a comparative gulf in physique.
“Everything was going for Wexford,” he suggested. “They had home advantage, the game over Offaly … but they still had to go out and produce the football that they produced, and we had no answer to it.
“We didn't have the physical strength to stop a number of their attackers when they tried to go by us. That's something we just need to look at, but that's not something that is going to come overnight. Westmeath is in a rebuilding process.”