Thursday 18 January 2018

Rebels set up rematch with Dublin

Patrick Horgan, Cork, in action against Eoin Conroy, Wexford
Patrick Horgan, Cork, in action against Eoin Conroy, Wexford

You wouldn’t have given Wexford any chance at Pairc Ui Rinn if you were told beforehand that they would shoot 18 wides but, remarkably, they were still in contention to the end despite such wayward accuracy.

However, Cork did enough in the end to book a league semi-final encounter with Dublin by 0-18 to 0-14  in three weeks despite they, too, failing to master the swirling wind which spoiled this contest.

Wexford’s tally of a solitary point for the entire second-half, and even that came from a free, told its own story but they also hit nine wides, four of them from placed balls, in that period.

Cork were also guilty of some wayward striking in the difficult conditions and hit 15 wides, but they managed 0-7 against the wind.

The testing conditions was illustrated by the fact that Pat Horgan (pictured) hit five wides, four of them frees, but he still returned 0-10 and that was sufficient to get Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s men across the line and set up a rematch with a Dublin side they took apart by 0-34 to 1-20 in Croke Park few weeks ago.

Barry-Murphy, needless to say, believes that match will have no bearing on the league semi-final, other than a possible backlash from a Dublin side with something to prove.

“They are a very good team and it will be a different game completely. We know that match was no reflection of Dublin’s ability. We saw them against Limerick, we all saw them against Galway,” he said.

Barry-Murphy reckoned his men have plenty of room for improvement, not least by getting their accuracy level and shot selection back to a higher level.

“We made it hard for ourselves at times, some of our play. I thought in the first-half we had a couple of goal chances which we didn’t take that made it difficult for us. In the end fought very, very hard and got some good scores to win it. I am very pleased with the win.

“I am very pleased with the win I have to say. Wexford are a good team, they are difficult opponents and I think down here they are a better team than people might realise,” he added.

Wexford and Liam Dunne could have badly done with at least another match before turning their attention to the championship, not least as there was a lot to admire in their hurling in the opening half, with corner-back Liam Ryan setting the tone with a great display.

But even with the wind, Wexford were throwing away chances and their shooting after the restart into the wind left a lot to be desired, with the frustration added to by the fact that Cork never really pulled away.

“It is all about taking your chances at this level, being more clinical and we definitely were no clinical today. We were six up at half-time having scored 13 points, but we probably should have had 17, 18 points on the board,” said Dunne.

“It is not as if we didn’t have chances. We had a lot of chances, particularly in front of goal, but just didn’t take them. One point from a free in the second-half is hugely disappointing.”

They enjoyed their best spell after the sides twice exchanged points in the opening seven minutes, with Wexford shooting half a dozen in a row to open up a commanding 0-8 to 0-2 lead after 17 minutes.

Ian Byrne landed a couple of frees and efforts from Conor McDonald, Diarmuid O’Keeffe, Daithi Waters and Garrett Sinnott left them in a good position.

But Cork never lost touch and a couple of with two frees from Pat Horgan before the break reduced the margin to 0-13 to 0-7 at the interval.

That lead was trimmed with early second-half points from Conor Lehane and Horgan before Jack Guiney pointed for Wexford, but that free turned out to be their only score of the half.

Horgan, who finished with 0-10 but who also shot five wides, helped Cork keep chipping away at the lead and two efforts from him and one apiece from Lehane and Ron O’Shea left just one between them going into the final quarter.

Horgan levelled the match from play on the left-wing with 17 minutes left and while it took Cork another seven minutes to forge ahead, they never looked back once Daniel Kearney pointed.

Horgan doubled the lead in the dying moments as both sides missed chances and Paudie O’Sullivan put a goal between them before Seamus Harnedy sealed the issue with his second point in stoppage time to give the Rebels the chance of a first league crown since 1998.

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