Wexford Hurlers secured first place in Division 1A by making it five out of five with an impressive win over previously undefeated Cork at Chadwick’s Wexford Park.
It was very much the Rory O’Connor show, the man from St Martins who left to a standing ovation when he was substituted in the 67th Minute with a wonderful personal post from 1-12.
The game was effectively a dead rubber, both teams already safely reached the semi-finals. Therefore, the only prize up for grabs was the distinction of finishing first in Group A, thereby securing a round of 16 against runners-up in Group B.
For both, it was a luxury little expected at the start of this campaign in a group heavily studded with the likes of Limerick and Galway.
The result means Waterford will be Wexford’s semi-final opponents next weekend and Kilkenny will take on Cork.
Aided by a usual Wexford Park wind blowing off the Clonard end, the home side rose to a flyer and stretched clearly 1-3, 0-0 within the opening four minutes.
Rory O’Connor stepped up on goal, made a great pickup from Damien Reck’s high performance despite losing his hurley, and duly rounded Niall O’Leary and goalie Ger Collins for a finish worthy of David Clifford or Con O’Callaghan would have been proud of.
O’Connor was the real point of contact for Wexford, giving O’Leary a torrid time throughout and going into half-time with a personal record of 1-7 (four frees).
By then the home side had established a 1-13 to 0-8 lead, their trick going straight to their inside line of scrimmage where O’Connor, Conor McDonald and Corey Byrne-Dunbar were all on fire, yielding an obvious dividend .
Cork struggled to get a foothold from an attack without Patrick Horgan and an attack where only Conor Lehane seemed to have a real appetite for the fight.
True, they could have scored in the eighth minute when Alan Connolly put Lehane behind cover only for goalkeeper Mark Fanning to brilliantly deflect the shot to a ’65’ that Shane Kingston duly missed.
The Douglas man was guilty of four wides in the first 11 minutes alone, with Wexford leading the way with good performances throughout the field.
In fact, that half-time lead should really have been more than eight points, as Wexford amassed ten wides on top of his opponent’s seven in the first half.
Cork manager Kieran Kingston duly expressed his displeasure at three half-time changes. He also switched Damien Cahalane to the rampant O’Connor.
It worked to a point when the St Martins man finally left the field where he was being pursued by Cork substitute Sam Quirke.
And after scoring six unanswered points, Cork were just a goal behind with fifteen minutes to go. But that was best for the visitors, Wexford rallied again to go home with five points and Alan Connolly struck a late consolation goal for the Rebels.
Scorers: Wexford – R O’Connor 1-12 (0-6 clear), C McDonald and O Foley 0-2 each, D O’Keeffe, J O’Connor, L Og McGovern, K Foley and C Byrne-Dunbar 0 -each 1st P Foley 0-1 free.
Cork – C Lehane 0-6 (0-3 clear), A Connolly 1-1, S Kingston 0-3 clear, R Downey 0-2, C Joyce 0-2 (0-1 clear), L. Meade, JO’ Connor and M. Keane each 0-1.
WEXFORD: M Fanning, S Donohoe, L Ryan, C Devitt, P Foley, D Reck, J O’Connor, D O’Keeffe, C Dunbar, L Og McGovern, O Foley , K Foley, R O’Connor, C McDonald , C Byrne Dunbar. Subs – M Dwyer for Byrne-Dunbar (49 mins), C McGuckin for J O’Connor (55 mins), O Pepper for Dunbar (60 mins), C Flood for Devitt (60 mins), C Hearne for R O’Connor (67 minutes)
CORK: G Collins, D Cahalane, D O’Leary, N O’Leary, S O’Leary-Hayes, C Joyce, R Downey, B Roche, L Meade, S Harnedy, Barrett S, Twomey S, Kingston S, Connolly A, Lehane C. Subs – S Quirke for Roche, M Keane for Harnedy and C Cahalane for Twomey (all halftime). J O’Connor for Kingston (45 mins),
Referee – F Horgan (Tipperary).
https://www.independent.ie/sport/gaelic-games/hurling/rory-oconnor-hits-1-12-as-wexford-make-it-five-wins-from-five-against-cork-41468164.html Rory O’Connor scores 1-12 while Wexford have five wins in five against Cork