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GAA: DEMPSEY: THIS GAME WAS JUST MUDNESS; WEXFORD 1-10 LAOIS 0-9 LEAGUE: LAOIS WEXFORD: Two see red as tempers flare during water-logged clash.

THE wisdom of playing hurling in the winter months was again called into question at Rathdowney yesterday as Wexford took full points from their first round of the National Hurling League against Laois.

Wexford manager Tony Dempsey, however, was far from happy with the conditions in which they achieved their victory.

The new Wexford boss was incensed: "You must have a pitch to play hurling on, otherwise you should not play the game. That pitch was unplayable."

Dempsey said he was speaking from a position of strength: "If we had lost I would have gone away mutely because people would say it was sour grapes but we won a titanic battle on a pitch that was not playable. There was a pond of water on one side. It was ridiculous."

The Wexford manager is also a member of the Central Council of the GAA.

He defended the increased admission charges to games but conceded that supporters should not have to stand in such conditions either.

The hurling was close with tough exchanges. Numerous yellow cards were brandished before matters boiled over and both teams were reduced to 14 men.

Both teams were hugely committed: "The stakes are high. Both teams are preparing well, both are eyeing the Championship and both were determined today and of course it boiled over but it was bound to when the ball got stuck in the mud," said Dempsey.

"Hurling needs open spaces. It needs a playable pitch and with all due respect to the Rathdowney club there must have been a drier pitch in Laois today."

Wexford scored two fortuitous goals in the opening half, the first after only four minutes when mid-fielder Adrian Fenlon saw his 50-metre sideline cut go all the way to the net.

Laois shot seven wides in the opening quarter with only a point from James Young to show for their efforts while points from Martin Byrne, Rory McCarthy and Chris McGrath gave Wexford a five-point lead before they struck for their second goal.

With 17 minutes gone full forward Larry O'Gorman took a superb pass from Michael Jacob and rounded fullback Paul Cuddy but as the Laois goalkeeper advanced on the big number 14, he kicked the ball to the net.

David Cuddy eventually found his scoring range with two points to narrow the gap but although Laois held Wexford scoreless ,they could not close the gap further. The visitors led by 2-4 to 0-4 at the break.

Laois were the dominant team for the opening quarter of the second half and points from Enda Meagher and David Cuddy narrowed the deficit to just four points before tempers became frayed in the atrocious conditions.

Thirteen minutes into the half a fracas developed in front of the Wexford posts and when the bodies were eventually recovered from the pile-up Wexford full-back Rod Guiney and Laois full-forward James Young received their marching orders.

The interruption upset the Laois momentum and Wexford responded with three unanswered points to open up a seven points advantage again.

The best hurling of the game was produced in the final minutes as Laois again came back at Wexford. Points from Cyril and David Cuddy gave them a chance but all attempts at securing a goal were repulsed by the opposing defence.

Wexford weathered the storm and eventually Michael Jacob and substitute Paul Finn added injury time points to secure victory and vital League points.

Manager Dempsey was a happy man. "I am overjoyed with the win. We have played a lot of games since I took over and we have yet to lose.

"I want to win every game we play. The lads are playing with their hearts on their sleeves and I am happy with that. I cannot ask for more."

His Laois counterpart Sean Cuddy was not despondent: "It's the same old story, I suppose.

"I thought we hurled better than last week but conditions were not good and the pitch was probably not playable. It does not promote hurling but what can we do?"

Laois and Wexford are on course to meet in this year's Championship and the Laois manager had words of caution for his counterpart: "I would be happy with the way we played because Wexford are nearly at their best while we have a lot of improvement to make. Wait till the ground gets better."TEAMS & SCORERSWEXFORD

D Fitzhenry; C Kehoe, R Guiney, D Guiney, L Dunne, D Ryan, D Ruth, A Fenlon (1-0), R Stafford, R McCarthy (0-1), M Byrne (0-1), M Jacob (0-1), C McGrath (0-5), L O'Gorman (1-0), B Goff (0-1). SUBS: P Finn (0-1) for M Byrne; L Murphy for B Goff; M Jordan for R McCarthy.

LAOIS

J Lyons; D Killeen, N Lacey, P Mahon, N Rigney, P Cuddy, R Delaney, E Meagher (0-1), C Cuddy (0-1), D Conroy, D Cuddy (0-5), F O'Sullivan (0-1), P J Peacock, J Young (0-1), D Culleton.

SUBS: J O'Sullivan for D Killeen; S O'Dwyer for J O'Sullivan; P Phelan for D Conroy; J O'Shea for P J Peacock; M Kirwan for E Meagher

CAPTION(S):

GOR BLIMEY: Larry O'Gorman got Wexford's goal against Laois; FIVE ALIVE: Cuddy scored five points; UNHAPPY: Wexford boss Dempsey
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 5, 2001
Words:867
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