Cork were outmuscled by Wexford but missed goal chances proved costly

Cork were outmuscled by Wexford but missed goal chances proved costly
Michael Cahalane missed a late goal chance. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

IN the Páirc on the opening weekend, Cork only turned one of their three gilt-edged chances into a goal.

It was the same yesterday in Wexford but it proved far more costly. On a heavy pitch against a wired home side, Cork were always going to need a fistful of goals to get a result.

They only managed one and as a consequence had to make the long journey home reflecting on an avoidable loss. Not that they deserved to win, but they certainly could have.

While Conor Lehane burrowed through and finished powerfully to the net from an Alan Cadogan off-load for the Rebels’ opening score, he missed another straight after. He possibly should have clipped it over anyway, but given the brilliance of Seamus Harnedy’s assist you can understand why Lehane went for goal.

Conor Lehane. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
Conor Lehane. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Cork still led at the break – 1-9 to 0-10 – but turning against the strong breeze the two-point advantage didn’t look convincing. Lehane and Cadogan nailed a couple of lovely scores on the restart but there was a 22-minute drought before Cork raised a flag again.

During that sequence Wexford struck five points to edge 0-16 to 1-11 in front. They were more adept at hoovering up breaks and swarmed Cork in the middle third.

The Rebel slump was summed up when Patrick Horgan strangely opted to go short to try and create an opening for Cadogan, which ended in a wide, when he’d a very scoreable free.

John Meyler replaced Horgan straight after and a couple of Cork’s subs, Michael Cahalane and Shane Kingston, livened up the attack. Three quick points by Cork retook the lead – even if Kingston was going for goal – but then Wexford got the last five scores.

You couldn’t really deny the merit of the hosts’ victory, as they hit five more wides and dominated much of the second half. Yet by the same token Cork were left to rue a couple of key misses in the dying minutes.

Patrick Horgan with Liam Ryan. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
Patrick Horgan with Liam Ryan. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Brian Lawton was unfortunate when a soaring catch and shot on the right from a long Pa Collins’ puck-out tailed off. That would have nudged Cork one up. Instead Aidan Nolan scored at the other end straight away.

Fatally, Cahalane blazed an effort high and wide, admittedly from a tricky angle, in injury time. Kingston and Robbie O’Flynn used their pace devastatingly in that sequence, but it wasn’t really a day for Cork’s brand of high-tempo hurling.

Darragh Fitzgibbon did burst clear in the first half for a point and Lee Chin was electric on the front foot during the opening period, but the conditions didn’t suit trickery and pace. Chin is a powerhouse as much as a stick-man and he was able to get more quality possession than the Rebels’ marquee men.

Losing Seamus Harnedy at the break was a blow in that regard. His work-rate was noticeable in the opening period, where Daniel Kearney did his share of heavy lifting in terms of flicks and tackles too while Lehane always looked dangerous too.

Patrick Horgan, back from suspension, was peripheral early on and while he clipped a gem of a point from play Cork didn’t have an outlet for long ball up top. The surface at this time of year never suits Cadogan but he managed two points from play, 1-1 in assists, and should have earned a few frees.

The major positive for Meyler and his selectors was the excellence of Seán O’Donoghue in the full-back line. The Inniscarra prospect’s strength and confidence have allowed him to slot in smoothly to replace the departed Stephen McDonnell.

Wexford's Cathal Dunbar with Patrick Collins, Sean O'Donoghue and Eoin O'Cadogan. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
Wexford's Cathal Dunbar with Patrick Collins, Sean O'Donoghue and Eoin O'Cadogan. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

The last line of defence, accepting Wexford withdraw bodies outfield, was impressive overall. Eoin Cadogan again did little wrong at number three, while Conor O’Sullivan, back after injury issues, distributed the sliotar effectively and set up three points.

Wexford’s main inside threat Conor McDonald didn’t get much of a look-in and his team never looked like goaling. Of course Davy Fitz’s tactics are based around support play and long-range shooting, but Cork clearly have full-back line options now, when you add in Damien Cahalane and Colm Spillane.

Tim O’Mahony wasn’t as prominent at centre-back as he had been in the Kilkenny win, but the Wexford weren’t sending the same volume of long ball down the middle. Chris Joyce struggled with Chin for a while but was much more forceful in the second half.

Mark Coleman is due back from injury – and hopefully can start for UCC on Thursday in their Fitzgibbon Cup quarter-final in UL – and Darren Browne will be an option after a savage campaign with Kanturk.

No doubt Meyler was disappointed not to get the upper hand against his native county but you’d be surprised if a league title is part of his plan for the season. There’s a gap weekend coming up but then it’s a trip to Ennis against a Clare side motoring well.

The home game against Waterford on Sunday, February 25 will be vital to avoid any relegation play-off, given the last game is away to Tipp. Whatever happens, deepening the panel is the main aim and they’re doing that.

More in this section

Sponsored Content