SUBSTITUTE Eamonn Dillon’s 37th-minute goal inspired Dublin to victory in this exciting Leinster U21 hurling championship final at Wexford Park last night.
Winning a provincial title for the second successive year before and estimated 8,000 spectators declared that Dublin are emerging as a powerful force on the hurling scene having already won the provincial minor hurling title and the national league.
The convincing manner in which they achieved this victory will have plenty believing that they can now go on and contest for the All-Ireland title.
Inside the opening two minutes the sides had shared a point apiece with Emmett Kent having fired the home side in front following excellent play from Harry Kehoe, but within one minute the sides were back level when Kevin O’Loughlin fired over a huge point off the terrace sideline.
Wexford edged ahead with points from Paul Morris, Emmet Kent (free and 65), and Padraig Doran pushing them into a 0-4 to 0-2 lead after eight minutes. Dublin’s second point coming in between from Niall McMorrow.
Both sides were finding it difficult to separate themselves such was the intensity of the hurling, with Dublin getting back level by the end of the opening quarter, 0-5 each, through excellent points from Kevin O’Loughlin, one free, and Niall McMorrow, while it was an Emmet Kent free that brought the home side level.
Dublin began to come more into the game as Liam Rushe began to drive his side forward from centre-back, and they led 0-9 to 0-8 at the interval.
Dublin showed their intent on the resumption. In front by just a single point at the interval, they restricted the Slaneysiders to just three second-half points.
Just 30 seconds into the second period they increased their lead through a Kevin O’Loughlin pointed free.
Paul Morris pulled one back with a free for Wexford.
Danny Sutcliffe restored Dublin’s lead before a further Morris pointed free left the minimum, 0-11 to 0-10, separating the sides just four minutes into the second period.
Wexford looked to have weathered the early Dublin storm when Harry Kehoe fired over a superb equalising point two minutes later, but the game turned on its head one minute later, when sub Dillon found space to shoot splendidly across keeper Mark Fanning into the opposite corner of the net, giving his side a three-point lead.
It turned into a Dublin march as they began to exert more pressure. They were dominant in the half-back line where Rushe was superb while in attack it was subs Eamonn Dillon and Sean McGrath who pinned Wexford back with some excellent points.
Wexford were unable to find any space up front, failing to score for the closing 24 minutes of the game, as Dublin continued to present themselves with some outrageous points, going on to build up a 10-point winning margin. Just like their minors and senior, Dublin hurled with a confidence to show they have put the provincial senior final behind them, while for Wexford they failed to bridge a nine year gap without a provincial title.
Dublin, just to show their dominance in that second period finished with some tasty points from Niall McMorrow, Kevin O’Loughlin, (two frees), and sub Sean McGrath in between, as they deservedly march on to the All-Ireland semi-final.
WEXFORD: M Fanning; W Devereux, P Donnelly, E Moore; M O’Regan, M O’Hanlon, S Murphy; E Kent (0-4, 0-2 frees, 0-1, 1 65), H Kehoe (0-2); S Tomkins, J Leacy, L Og McGovern (0-1); P Morris (0-3, 2f), J Breen, P Doran (0-1). Subs: D O’Keeffe for Kent (inj 26); J Gahan for Leacy (43); I Byrne for Tomkins (45); J Reck for O’Keeffe (55)
DUBLIN: G McManus; B O’Carroll, D Kelly, J Doughan; D Curran (0-1 sideline cut), L Rushe, M Quilty; C Gough (0-1), D Sutcliffe (0-1); M Schutte, D Plunkett, R Mahon; K O’Loughlin (0-7, 0-4 frees), T Connolly, N McMorrow (0-4). Subs: E Dillon (1-2) for Quilty (inj. 29); S McGrath (0-2) for Mahon (30); C Brennan for Schutte (49); F Clabby for Connolly (59); O O Maoileidigh for O’Loughlin (6).
Referee: S Cleere (Kilkenny).