Lee Chin celebrated slotting his first-ever competitive goal for the Wexford senior hurlers in Saturday evening’s runaway Leinster championship round-robin victory over 12-man Offaly at Bord na Móna O’Connor Park, Tullamore.
Whatever encouragement Offaly gained from their commendable efforts against Galway and Kilkenny evaporated within 13 minutes of this tie as Wexford exploded clear by 2-5 to 0-2 en route to the county’s biggest win in championship since against Westmeath in 1995.
Conor McDonald made it 1-0 to 0-1 in the second-minute when fastening onto a long-range Paudie Foley free crashing off the crossbar, while Aidan Nolan produced a deft finish from a cross by the much advanced Simon Donohoe to send Wexford soaring nine points clear.
Wexford’s enterprise off the ball was enormously noteworthy, and while Jack O’Connor was denied by a fine save on 26 minutes, the toll of the enormous energy being exerted by Davy Fitzgerald’s charges yielded two late first-half penalties.
The first was saved after a fine drive from Aidan Nolan. But after Offaly no.3 Seán Gardiner conceded a second penalty – and dismissal on a second yellow-card for his troubles – Mark Fanning unleashed a stinging drive to the net on 34 minutes.
That contributed towards a 3-12 to 0-6 interval advantage, meaning it was effectively game, set and match to the purple-and-gold.
Indeed, the only remaining curiosity was how would Wexford hold their focus given such a comfortable cushion.
But they remained lively, and Paudie Foley paved the way for Lee Chin, in his 75th appearance for the hurlers (22nd championship), to finally open his goal-scoring account for them with a tidy finish on 41 minutes for a 4-13 to 0-7 supremacy.
And Chin was involved as Jack O’Connor determinedly found the net on 44 minutes to make it 5-13 to 0-8 and help further enhance Wexford’s score-difference, which might prove crucial in determining what teams make the provincial-final.
The welcome sight of Liam Óg McGovern gaining his first involvement since last year’s Leinster quarter-final against Laois was greeted warmly on 51 minutes after his latest comeback from serious injury.
Offaly frustrations, meanwhile, were added to by no.10 Oisín Kelly (on 50 minutes) and substitute Ronan Hughes (67 minutes) both incurring straight red-cards as Wexford eased to back-to-back victories.
But a tally of 19 wides is something which will help sharpen their focus as they face into what represents an undoubted step up in class against defending provincial and All-Ireland champions Galway next Saturday (5p.m.) at Innovate Wexford Park.
Wexford – Mark Fanning (1-0 penalty); Simon Donohoe, Liam Ryan, Damien Reck (0-1); Pádraig Foley, Matthew O’Hanlon (joint-capt.), Diarmuid O’Keeffe (0-1); Kevin Foley (0-1), Aidan Nolan (1-1); Jack O’Connor (1-3), Lee Chin (joint-capt., 1-4, 0-4 frees), Shaun Murphy; Conor McDonald (1-1), Rory O’Connor (0-7, 4 frees, 1 ’65), Paul Morris (0-2).
Subs: Conor Firman for Simon Donohoe (46); Liam Óg McGovern for Paul Morris (51); Harry Kehoe (0-3, 2 frees) for Rory O’Connor (51); Willie Devereux for Pádraig Foley (54); David Dunne for Lee Chin (64).
Offaly – Eoghan Cahill; Paddy Delaney, Seán Gardiner, Ben Conneely; David O’Toole-Greene, Damien Egan, Pat Camon; Shane Kinsella, David King; Brendan Murphy, Conor Mahon, Oisín Kelly (1-1); Shane Dooley (1-5, 0-5 frees), Joe Bergin (0-1), Kevin Dunne (0-1).
Subs: Colin Egan for Conor Mahon (ht); Thomas Geraghty (0-1) for Brendan Murphy (ht); Dan Currams for Shane Kinsella (42); Paddy Rigney for Ben Conneely (48); Ronan Hughes for Joe Bergin (54).
Referee – James McGrath (Westmeath).
PHOTOS: Noel Reddy Wexford GAA