Wexford battled their way to a draw with All Ireland champions Tipperary, a performance which saved them from relegation to division two. Willie Doran scrambled in a late goal to put the Model County one point ahead in stoppage time. But the struggling champions levelled through Pa Bourke’s late 65.
Jim Berry contributed five points for the visitors and Rory Jacob complimented that tally with four scores of his own, from play.
Tipp made their way off the pitch with eyes on a different competition in a different season, but the yellow bellies were ecstatic with smaller graces.
Colm Bonnar embodied the mood in his camp, saying:
“As the game went on, our lads wanted it more because the prize was staying in Division One, They have had two horrible years in Division Two so they really worked their socks off.”
His opposite number echoed those sentiments and analysed his own sides showing as: “Sluggish from start to finish” said Declan Ryan, “I suppose Wexford had more to play for than we had.” He then seemed to sound a warning to the incumbent members of his squad that they may not be up for Championship duty. “Mentally it seemed we weren’t up for the battle anyway.” Ryan said, “I think we’ve been fair to a lot of players in this League. I think we’ve learnt a lot. We’ve definitely a better idea about guys now than we had at the start.”
The visitors in Semple Stadium trailed the match from the first to the 70th minute. Tipp had an outside chance of reaching the final it looked on as they stormed into a four point lead after six minutes. Gradually, Lar Prendergast steadied the ship and Wexford chipped their way back into the game. But with John O’Brien and James Woodlock in fine scoring form, Tipperary led by 11 points to 6 at half time.
Bonnar looked to inspire his team in his short time within the confines of the dressing room, reminding them of the manner in which they won last week: “We reminded them that we were five points down at half-time against Cork too. That gave us hope.”
The Premier County were dealt a massive blow at the start of the second half as Shane McGrath was stretchered off with an ankle injury. That stole some of the bite from the home side.Berry and Jacob began to turn the scoring tide and the 4,180 onlookers neared closer to the edge of their seats. Although Tipp kept ticking over, it was clear that Wexford were the ones gathering momentum. Bonnar was keen to tribute to his men:“The players themselves turned it around and it is great.” Said the Tipperary native, “You could sense something could happen and we moved Stevie Banville into the square and he is a disruptive forward. We left a few points behind us too but we got our belief and got our just rewards in the end.”
Jacob’s final score from play narrowed the deficit to just two points and they went all out for goal. The excellent Padraic Maher denied Banville from raising a green flag, but the line was breached a minute later.
Stamp lofted in a long, high ball toward the left of the square. It broke to Jacob whose shot crashed off Brendan Cummins’ hurley. It fell to Doran – who will not win any style awards for his finish – but a scuffed goal counts for three points, as much as any other. And this goal meant even more than that for Wexford hurling.
TIPPERARY: B Cummins; E Connolly, P Maher, P Stapleton; D Young, C O’Mahony, J Coghlan; J Woodlock (0-3), S McGrath; B Dunne, N McGrath; B Dunne, N McGrath (0-2), S Carey (0-1); M Heffernan (0-1), P Bourke (0-6, 0-3 frees, 0-1 65), J O’Brien (0-4). Subs: G Ryan for S McGrath (36 mins inj.), J O’Keeffe for S Carey (57 mins), J O’Neill for M Heffernan (62 mins).
WEXFORD: N Breen; P Roche, M O’Hanlon, K Rossiter; L Prendergast, D Stamp, C Kenny; D Redmond, D Stamp, C Kenny; R Redmond, E Quigley; PJ Nolan (0-1), H Kehoe (0-1), S Banville (0-1); R Jacob (0-4), G Sinnott (0-1), J Berry (0-5, 0-3 frees). Subs: C Farrell (0-1) for E Quigley (50 mins inj), B Doyle for G Sinnott (54 mins), W Doran (1-0) for H Kehoe (68 mins), N Kirwan for J Berry (71 mins), M Jacob for PJ Nolan (72 mins).
Referee : D Kirwan (Cork).