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Bord Gais Energy Leinster Under 20 Hurling Championship Semi-Final WEXFORD 2-20 OFFALY 1-18

Another Leinster Final on the cards

A stunning score from Barry Kealey from out on the touchline suggested that Offaly might carry the momentum from their win in Donnycarney into this game, but instead it was Wexford who seemed to find their feet first, despite the fact that they were coming in cold against an Offaly side that had beaten Westmeath, Carlow and the Dubs to get this far.

The electric pace of Seán Keane Carroll and Ross Banville in the Wexford half forward line was the trump card for MJ Reck’s side and they fired in two points each in the opening ten minutes, and were followed in by a goal from Conall Clancy, blasted into the roof of the net from a tight angle in the right corner.

Offaly kept themselves in the game, largely on the back of a solid defensive showing, and two Cathal Kiely frees either side of a good score from Brian Duignan pulled the lead back to two, but they were working off scraps while doing so. Wexford’s half back line was imperious under the long Offaly puckout, while the style of play employed by the visitors was very similar to that of Davy Fitzgerald’s seniors and they worked the ball through the lines very well, picking off some superb team scores to build a 1-8 to 0-7 interval lead.

Again Offaly started off with a point in the first 30 seconds after the throw in, again Wexford fought fire with a hotter blaze still. Charlie McGuckin, Wexford captain and son of Offaly All-Ireland medallist Shane McGuckin, restored their four-point lead and by the 36th minute that gap was out to seven with Conor Scallan and Eoin Murphy tacking on further long-range points from deep positions.

However one thing that this Wexford team didn’t have in common with their senior counterparts was their accuracy. An incredible degree of efficiency was crucial in Croke Park last Sunday with just three wides posted by the winners, tonight Wexford shot 15 and left Offaly in with a slim chance.

That was all this Faithful group needed, as first Conor Langton and then substitute Conor Quinn led the comeback charge. Langton shot four points, all fantastic scores, and while Quinn didn’t get on the scoreboard himself he got out in front and won a lot of ball, using it to set up his colleagues.

Offaly still needed a lucky break and they got it with eight minutes to go when John Murphy sent in a high ball from the right wing and Wexford Goalkeeper James Lawlor – who had been in the running for man of the match honours up to this point – misjudged it, allowing it to creep into the net off the post.

Now the pressure was really on and Offaly turned the screw with further scores to get within one, but that was as close as they got. Sean Keane Carroll fired over an inspirational point on the run, Diarmuid Doyle hit the net with a daisy cutter of a shot deep into injury time, and Wexford had survived.

Scorers for Wexford: Ross Banville 0-10 (6fs, 1 65), Conall Clancy 1-1, Diarmuid Doyle 1-0, Seán Keane Carroll 0-3, Niall Murphy, Charlie McGuckin, Conor Scallan, Sean O’Connor, Eoin Murphy, J Reck 0-1 each.

WEXFORD: James Lawlor; Eoin O’Leary, Eoin Molloy, Cathal O’Connor; Niall Murphy, Mike Kelly, Conor Scallan; Eoin Murphy, Charlie McGuckin; Seán Keane Carroll, Ross Banville, Cian Fitzhenry; Diarmuid Doyle, Conall Clancy, Seán O’Connor

Subs: Cian Fitzhenry for Murphy (44), Oran Carthy for O’Connor (58).

REFEREE: David Hughes (Carlow).

By Kevin Egan www.gaa.ie