Frustration governed Wexford emotions after the county’s first-ever excursion into the new Leinster under-20 football championship saw them come up just shy of Westmeath in Monday’s round-robin opener at gloriously sunny Cusack Park, Mullingar.
Having trailed by 1-10 to 1-2 at half-time, and by 2-12 to 1-6 after 48 minutes, Wexford mounted a fine fight-back only be left to rue a missed second-half penalty as they fell just short in the end.
There was a number of additional scoring opportunities which, if capitalised upon, might actually have yielded a Wexford victory in advance of their remaining round-robin games – both at home – to Longford next Monday and Dublin a week later.
Dublin hammered Longford 2-12 to 0-11 in Monday’s other group tie.
Wexford manager Brendan Kehoe and fellow selectors PJ Banville, Eric Bradley and Kevin Reilly, together with recent Republic of Ireland international Kevin Doyle as advisor, certainly felt this was an opportunity missed. But they are also encouraged for the squad’s prospects going forward after their sterling fight-back.
Wexford struggled for much of the first-half, although having shipped the first six scores without reply before falling 0-9 to 0-2 adrift after 24 minutes, they were handed a lifeline when Darragh Lyons powered to the net from a penalty on 26 minutes to cut the gap to 0-9 to 1-2 after Mikey Dwyer was impeded.
However, Westmeath full-forward Seán Pettitt struck back with a 30th-minute goal to boost his personal salvo for the half to 1-6 as the home-side forged clear by 1-10 to 1-2 at half-time.
Wexford were rocked again 72 seconds after the resumption when Westmeath pounced for their second goal to make it 2-10 to 1-2.
The purple-and-gold then demonstrated real character as they pegged back pointed frees through Darragh Lyons, Jamie Meyler and goalie Ivan Meegan (2) to be back within 2-12 to 1-7 on 49 minutes before seeing a penalty saved. They refused to be disheartened as instead Wexford offered increasing encouragement for their prospects of salvaging something from the tie when closing to within 2-12 to 1-12 with further contributions from Seán Nolan (2) and Jamie Meyler (3).
Alas though, time ran out on their spirited endeavours.
Wexford – Ivan Meegan (Ferns St. Aidan’s, 0-2 frees); David O’Keeffe (Taghmon-Camross), Mark O’Neill (Gusserane), Martin O’Connor (HWH-Bunclody); Quinn Saunders (Our Lady’s Island), Darragh Lyons (St. James’, 1-1, 1-0 penalty, 0-1 free), Gavin Sheehan (Gusserane, 0-1); Richie Waters (Fethard), Ronan Devereux (Crossabeg-Ballymurn); Jamie Meyler (Horeswood, 0-4, 2 frees), Mikey Dwyer (Fethard), Dylan Furlong (Sarsfields); Cathal Devereux (Our Lady’s Island), Robbie Brooks (Castletown), Seán Nolan (Horeswood, 0-4, 1 free).
Subs: Peter Barry (St. Martin’s) for Richie Waters (half-time); Kyle Firman (St. Martin’s) for Quinn Saunders (half-time); Frank Roche (Castletown) for David O’Keeffe (36); Sam Wall (Gusserane) for Dylan Furlong (48); Luke Sinnott (Taghmon-Camross) for Cathal Devereux; Cathal Walshe (Monageer-Boolavogue) for Seán Nolan (60); also, Darragh Brooks (Castletown), John Dunne and Josh Martin (both HWH-Bunclody).