Wexford footballers face a must-win clash with Carlow next weekend after being edged out by Waterford in Saturday’s Allianz National League Division 4 South derby at Chadwicks Wexford Park.
Waterford had suffered against Carlow a week earlier. But Waterford will now qualify along with Carlow unless Wexford can prove victorious on the road against Carlow next Saturday evening.
A Wexford victory would see qualification come down to score-difference, and right now Carlow are +15, Waterford -14, and Wexford -1.
Wexford appeared to be gaining control in Saturday’s game when leading 0-14 to 1-9 before a 55th-minute goal from Waterford defender Brian Looby sparked a determined fight-back by the visitors who withstood a strong onslaught.
Wides scarred the early stages before Wexford opened-up a 0-3 to 0-0 after 13 minutes as Robbie Brooks’ fifth-minute opener was supplemented by Kevin O’Grady and Mark Rossiter.
But Waterford gained real encouragement either side of the water-break when transforming matters by 0-7 to 0-5 after 25 minutes.
Captain Conor Murray led by example with a hat-trick of points as Darragh Corcoran and the Curry cousins, Jason (two dead-balls) and Stephen also chipped in.
A further Jason Curry free stretched Waterford’s uninterrupted run of scores to five (0-8 to 0-5) before Wexford arrested the slide.
Substitute Tom Byrne and free-taker Mark Rossiter had points sandwiched by two from wing-back Michael Furlong, although Furlong was gutted after fluffing a gilt-edged goaling chance for his second which edged Wexford back in front (0-9 to 0-8).
And a late Robbie Brooks’ free added to the hosts’ relief as Wexford broke with a narrow 0-10 to 0-8 lead.
Another goaling chance eluded Wexford on the resumption when Tom Byrne blasted over after a flowing move.
But Waterford shook things up moments later when Stephen Curry forced a penalty which saw Wexford ‘keeper Darragh Brooks sin-binned.
The necessity to call upon substitute ‘keeper Conor Swaine meant the home-side were forced to replace centre-forward Seán Nolan.
And Swaine distinguished himself when blocking Darragh Corcoran’s penalty before Corcoran fastened onto the breaking ball to net a 40th-minute equaliser (1-8 to 0-11).
Although Wexford appeared to be regaining an edge through three Mark Rossiter scores (0-14 to 1-9), typically tenacious Waterford shot back in front by 2-10 to 0-14 at the last water-break when wing-back Brian Looby stabbed home a delivery from Jason Curry.
While Waterford were reduced to 14 men for the closing stages – including nine minutes of added time – Wexford were only able to muster four of the remaining seven points to leave themselves in danger of missing out on the semi-finals.
Waterford: Paudie Hunt; Seán Boyce, John Elsted, Darach Ó Cathasaigh; Brian Looby (1-0), Michael Curry, Dermot Ryan; Tommy Prendergast, Jason Curry (0-6, 4 frees, 1 ‘45); David Hallinan, Conor Murray (capt., 0-4), Mark Cummins; Darragh Corcoran (1-1), Dylan Guiry, Stephen Curry (0-1).
Subs: Michael Kiely for Cummins, temp. 33-35; Kiely for Cummins (HT); Jason Gleeson (0-1) for Hallinan (55); Tholom Guiry for D. Guiry (62); Donal Fitzgerald for Ryan (68); Caoimhín Maguire for J. Curry (70+5); Dave Meehan for Boyce (70+5).
Wexford: Darragh Brooks; Sam Audsley, Martin O’Connor, Conor Carty; Páraic Hughes, Gavin Sheehan, Michael Furlong (0-2); Liam Coleman, Brian Malone; Alan Tobin, Seán Nolan, Kevin O’Grady (0-1); Ben Brosnan (capt.), Robbie Brooks (0-3, 1 free), Mark Rossiter (0-8, 5 frees, 2 ‘45).
Subs: Tom Byrne (0-4) for Tobin (25); Conor Swaine for Nolan (39); D. Brooks for Swaine (50); Darragh Lyons for Brosnan (58); Eoin Porter for (63).
Referee: John Hickey (Carlow).