Allianz HL D1: O'Connor inspires Wexford to win over Cork
Allianz Hurling League Division 1A
WEXFORD 1-22 CORK 1-17
By Ronan Fagan at Chadwicks Wexford Park
A Rory O’Connor-inspired Wexford beat Cork to a top of the table finish in Division 1 Group A of the Allianz Hurling League following Sunday afternoon’s clash of the 100% teams at Chadwicks Wexford Park.
Hot attacking property O’Connor lit the fuse with a fifth-minute goal as Wexford stormed into this dead-rubber affair to forge clear by 1-13 to 0-8 at half-time.
And although Cork showed vast improvement subsequently, Wexford had plenty in reserve to finish top and land a semi-final against Waterford, while Cork meet Kilkenny.
Although both sides were already destined for the last-four, Wexford opened with real relish to blast 1-3 without reply inside five minutes.
Pádraig Foley (free), Rory O’Connor and Oisín Foley points alerted Cork to the looming danger before Wexford’s intent was amplified when O’Connor coolly kicked to the empty net after gathering a long delivery and outwitting defender Niall O’Leary and ‘keeper Ger Collins.
A couple of Shane Kingston frees settled Cork before they twice went agonisingly close to netting.
Alan Connolly combined with inside-forward colleague Conor Lehane before Lehane forced a fruitless ’65, and moments later Kingston flashed a gilt-edged opportunity across the face of goal and wide.
But Cork continued to labour otherwise as Wexford gathered themselves to reassert by 1-10 to 0-4 on 19 minutes through a string of scores from Rory O’Connor (3), Leaving Certificate student Corey Byrne-Dunbar, Conor McDonald and Oisín Foley.
Wexford fluffed four chances to extend the margin before Cork gained some satisfaction approaching the interval with points from Conor Lehane (2), defender Robert Downey and Kingston (free) to close to within 1-13 to 0-8 at half-time.
But the Cork management’s obvious dissatisfaction with their charges’ overall exploits was reflected in three personnel changes for the new half.
It certainly got a response as, with Wexford failing to maintain their thrust, Cork fought back with scores from Alan Connolly, Lehane (4) and Mark Keane to shave the margin to 1-14 to 0-14 after 55 minutes.
Wexford eventually sharpened up again, and a sensational point from deep inside his own half by Pádraig Foley was the highlight as the home-side burst clear by 1-22 to 0-16 after 65 minutes, with Rory O’Connor (4), McDonald and Liam Óg McGovern also weighing in.
Cork refused to be quelled as they tenaciously sought to pull the tie from out of the fire, and Conor Lehane’s quick free to Alan Connolly produced a smart finish for a 70th minute goal (1-22 to 1-16)
But despite a number of subsequent efforts by the Rebels, they couldn’t breach the net again as Wexford emerged tops of the group.
Scorers for Wexford: Rory O’Connor 1-12 (0-5 frees, 0-1 ‘65), Pádraig Foley (1 free), Oisín Foley, Conor McDonald 0-2 each, Diarmuid O’Keeffe, Corey Byrne-Dunbar, Jack O’Connor, Liam Óg McGovern 0-1 each.
Scorers for Cork: Conor Lehane 0-6 (3 frees), Alan Connolly 1-1, Shane Kingston 0-3 (frees), Ciarán Joyce (1 ‘65), Robert Downey 0-2 each, Luke Meade, Mark Keane, Jack O’Connor 0-1 each.
Wexford: Mark Fanning; Simon Donohoe, Liam Ryan, Conor Devitt; Pádraig Foley, Kevin Foley, Damien Reck; Diarmuid O’Keeffe, Cathal Dunbar; Liam Óg McGovern, Oisín Foley, Jack O’Connor; Rory O’Connor, Conor McDonald, Corey Byrne-Dunbar. Subs: Mikie Dwyer for Byrne-Dunbar (48), Charlie McGuckin J O’Connor (55), Oisín Pepper for Dunbar (60), Connal Flood for Devitt (65), Conor Hearne for R O’Connor (69).
Cork: Ger Collins; Damien Cahalane, Daire O’Leary, Niall O’Leary; Seán O’Leary-Hayes, Ciarán Joyce, Robert Downey; Brian Roche, Luke Meade; Seamus Harnedy, Shane Barrett, Seán Twomey; Shane Kingston, Alan Connolly, Conor Lehane. Subs: Sam Quirke for Roche (HT), Mark Keane for Harnedy (HT), Conor Cahalane for Twomey (HT), Jack O’Connor for Kingston (45), Robbie O’Flynn for Barrett (64).
Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary).