Allianz HL D1: Wexford too strong for Laois
Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group B
WEXFORD 2-27 LAOIS 2-16
By Rory Delaney at MW Hire OMoore Park
Wexford got off to winning start in Allianz NHL Division 1 as they saw off a battling Laois side.
Davy Fitzgeralds men didnt have it as easy as the scoreline would suggest, as they only pulled away from Laois in the closing quarter after a hard-fought battle up to then.
Laois, missing eight of the team which shocked Dublin last summer, started the brighter of the teams thanks to a free from Ross King. Jack OConnor replied for Wexford before Rory OConnor then put them ahead, but it was short lived thanks to an Aaron Bergin point for Laois.
That more or less set the tone for the first half, with neither side really dominating. A couple of Jack OConnor frees coupled with a point from Liam g McGovern saw Wexford open up a narrow lead, but it was quickly snuffed out when Willie Dunphy got the opening goal of the game. He was set up by Stephen Bergin, who intercepted the ball as Wexford tried to run it out of defence, as he fed Dunphy who drilled home from 21 yards out.
The next six points were shared evenly, Jack OConnor and Ross King providing the bulk of the scores during this period. It took a wonderfully worked point from Jack Kelly to edge Laois ahead for the first time since the second minute, as the industry of the home team was getting its reward.
All that good work looked to have been undone, however, late in the half. Laois had managed to deny them any real goal chance until first half injury time, when the visitors duly scored two in three minutes.
The first came through Conor McDonald when he slipped away from Ryan Mullaney and finished football-style past Enda Rowland. A little over a minute later, Aidan Nolan raced onto the ball on the right side of the Laois penalty area, and despite being forced wide, managed to squeeze a shot into the bottom corner from a tight angle.
Those scores looked to have scuppered Laois, but they soon found themselves thrown a lifeline. After Enda Rowland played a short puck out to Ryan Mullaney, he took the return ball and from his own 21 yard line, boomed the sliotar towards the Wexford penalty area. Mark Fanning saw it all the way, but somehow managed to let it slip through his grasp as he stood on the line, and the ball rolled into the net. That left Wexford just two ahead at the break, 2-10 to 2-8.
That lead was halved on the restart through a Ross King free, but Wexford slowly started to turn the screw. A run of six points with just one in response from Laois saw them go six clear, 2-16 to 2-10, and with the wind at their backs they were well set to push on for the win. Indeed, they should have been further ahead, as they hit six wides during that period as well.
Laois, as has been their hallmark since Eddie Brennan took over, showed an incredible work rate to force errors from Wexford and keep themselves in the hunt, but they tired as the game wore on. Ross King missed a couple of scoreable frees 10 minutes into the second half that could have left them in a better position, but it mattered little in the end.
Paul Morris, Cathal Dunbar and Rory OConnor all hit the target to see Wexford safely to victory, as they opened their campaign with a well-deserved win.
Scorers for Wexford: Jack OConnor 0-6 6fs, Conor McDonald 1-3, Paul Morris 0-4, Rory OConnor, Paudie Foley 3fs 0-3 each, Aidan Nolan 1-0, Kevin Foley, Liam g McGovern, Cathal Dunbar 0-2 each, Shaun Murphy, Seamus Casey f 0-1 each.
Scorers for Laois: Ross King 0-11 7fs, Enda Rowland 1-1 1f, Willie Dunphy 1-0, Jack Kelly, Aaron Bergin, James Keyes, Eoin Gaughan 0-1 each.
WEXFORD: Mark Fanning; Simon Donohoe, Liam Ryan, Joe OConnor; Damien Reck, Paudie Foley, Shaun Murphy; Aidan Nolan, Liam g McGovern; Kevin Foley, Rory OConnor, Aidan Rochford; Jack OConnor, Conor McDonald, Paul Morris.
Subs: Cathal Dunbar for Nolan 49 mins, Harry Kehoe for J OConnor 63 mins, Shane Reck for Donohoe 65 mins, Seamus Casey for R OConnor 67 mins, Jack Cullen for D Reck 68 mins.
LAOIS: Enda Rowland; Liam Senior, Ryan Mullaney, Donncha Hartnett; Jack Kelly, Padraig Dunne, Ciaran McEvoy; Fiachra C Fennell, Ciaran Comerford; Willie Dunphy, Aaron Bergin, James Ryan; Paddy Purcell, Ross King, Stephen Bergin.
Subs: Frank Flanagan for Comerford 39 mins, James Keyes for Dunphy 52 mins, Aaron Gaughan for Bergin 52 mins, Allan Connolly for Senior 65, Colm Stapleton for Kelly 68 mins.
REFEREE: Fergal Horgan Tipperary.