The Wexford u20 hurlers lost out to Offaly in the Leinster hurling final on Wednesday evening in Dr Cullen Park…
The game ended on a score-line of 1-21 to 0-22 in favour of the Faithful County.
Cian Byrne masterclass:
Where would the Wexford U-20 hurlers be without Cian Byrne? Once again, the Fethard youngster showed his brilliance on one of the biggest stages on Wednesday. He scored 14 points in total, with 10 coming from frees. His two frees from the far ’65 in the first half, along with the pressure frees from tight angles late in the second-half to keep Wexford in the game highlighted that he’s able to mix it up – and that he’s able to hit them under pressure, despite taunting roars of ‘Uibh Fhaili’ and boos by the Offaly fans as he stood over it. Byrne’s masterclass stretched well beyond free taking though.
He was by far Wexford’s best and most influential forward and he kept the Yellowbellies in the game, stepping up with some incredible points. His first touch is magician like and that could be clearly seen in his last point from open play, whereby he brought a high ball down from the sky with a single touch to then slot the ball over the black-spot. With the Wexford u20s out of the Championship, could Darragh Egan, who was in the crowd on Wednesday evening, draft him into the Wexford Senior set up after what he witnessed?
The Offaly captain and full-forward, Charlie Mitchelll, received two yellow cards and he was sent off early on in the second half, with 37 minutes gone on the clock. Despite playing the whole second half with an extra man, Wexford failed to use the momentum and they failed to utilise the spare man. Other than getting some short puck outs in the second half, Wexford’s spare-man was almost non-existent. This was one of the major disappointments for Wexford, as after the sending off, a real opportunity to capture silverware existed.
The Wexford crowd:
The Wexford crowd at the game was quite poor. When it was revealed that Dr Cullen Park was a sell-out, it didn’t surprise me. Both Wexford and Offaly typically travel well, but Wexford were completely outnumbered in the stands. Some people have suggested that the time – 7:30 on a Wednesday impacted their reasons not to travel. But, that was the same for Offaly supporters too. Given the fact that silverware was up for grabs – and that a place in the All-Ireland final was up for grabs – it’s hard to fathom why there was such a small Wexford crowd there. Wexford were outnumbered by about 7 to 1. Although crowds do not win matches, they can certainly play an impact. The Wexford u20s deserved that little bit more from Wexford fans. The number of Wexford fans in the stadium has even sparked a reaction by Wexford Chairman, Michael Martin, who expressed his disappointment at that.
It would be unfair to write an article on the Wexford-Offaly u20 Leinster final and not mention Offaly’s Adam Screeney. We had pinpointed Screeney as a player to watch in a preview article for the game, and he definitely lived up to expectation. He scored 1-12, with 1-03 coming from play. His two first half points on the side-line were magical, and his goal in the second half after the red card was crucial for the Faithful County’s win. Offaly have a real player on their hands with Screeney, who was named Minor hurler of the Year last year. Personally, I would have preferred if Simon Roche did a complete man-marking job on the Offaly talisman, but that may not have made any difference either.
There really is something brewing in the air in Offaly. Crossing the field at the end of the game to get to the car park, we were swamped with the green white and gold. Green flares were being lit, while Offaly hurlers were bring lifted onto the shoulders of supporters. It reminded me of those great pictures from 1996 in Croke Park. One middle-aged man shouted and repeated “Lads, we are back!” – “Offaly hurling is back”. Although obviously wishing for a Wexford win, it was hard not to smile with the fact that Offaly hurling is well and truly on the up. They are being ruled out for the All-Ireland final against Cork, but honestly, an Offaly win wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest. They’re a solid outfit, all over the field, and they’ve a lot to look forward to in the years to come.
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