When Dublin, trailing by three points, were awarded a free deep into injury-time at Parnell Park and centre-back Sean Moran strode forward, the mind was drawn back to Croke Park last year.
Cuala, with current Dublin manager Mattie Kenny in charge back then, trailed Na Piarsaigh by three points in the AIB All-Ireland club final when Moran memorably planted a free to the net to force extra-time.
Cuala eventually drew after extra time — on the same scoreline as yesterday, as it happens — and won the replay to hold on to their All-Ireland crown.
So Moran has form for last-action heroics, and while yesterday’s strike wasn’t as pure as his Croke Park sidewinder, he duly delivered the sliotar through a thicket of Wexford timber and bodies into the net.
It secured a draw for Dublin at the end of a rip-roaring encounter and means that after losing to Kilkenny in Round 1, they still have a chance of a top-three finish in Leinster — though will probably need to beat Carlow and Galway in their remaining games.
Significantly, it also stemmed the tide of frustrating Championship defeats over the last 12 months or so to teams they’d been leading against, most recently at Nowlan Park.
They were five ahead of Wexford yesterday with 15 minutes to go before being outscored 2-4 to 0-2 — Liam Óg McGovern and Rory O’Connor grabbing the goals — to trail by three, deep into additional time.
Just as all hope for Dublin seemed lost again, and another summer bowing out of Leinster at the earliest possible stage loomed, Liam Rushe engineered a free off Damien Reck and Moran strode forward with lethal intent.
Afterwards, Davy Fitzgerald cried foul, querying the amount of additional time added on by Fergal Horgan, claiming Wexford had done enough to win and also hitting out at bookmakers for not showing his team enough respect.
“I thought we showed tremendous character there in the second half, the way we played for around 20 minutes I don’t think any team would catch us if we played with that intensity and moved the ball around as we did,” said Fitzgerald.
“But it was a killer to get caught in the end, we’d done enough to see that out.
“The free wasn’t hit well. It hit the ground and if you do hit the ground anything is liable to happen.
“It’s f***ing fair tough from our side of things. It was gone over 40 minutes, I think. I didn’t know what another free against David Dunne was given for either.
Wexford travel to Galway next weekend knowing that a win would leave them in a strong position to push hard for a provincial final spot.
“I think all the bookies had us well outsiders here,” said Fitzgerald. “I think we were close to one-and-a-half to one, someone said to me.
"I can’t understand why they’d write us off like that or put us as underdogs like that. We are definitely right up there with any of the best teams in Leinster.”
A draw may have been the fairest result in a game that was level 11 times. Wexford took the lead a staggering nine times, but still couldn’t seal the deal as Dublin dug deep in search of a precious win.
Wexford shot into a three-point lead, though Fitzgerald said Dublin appeared to benefit generally from having played a game beforehand.
“That was definitely a help to them, they were up to the tempo,” he said.
Yet for every positive Dublin action from the likes of Conal Keaney — starting his first game of the year after shoulder surgery — or top scorer Paul Ryan, there was always an immediate reaction from Wexford.
Dublin twice scored five points in a row, between the 15th and 19th minutes and between the 42nd and 47th minutes, but on each occasion Wexford responded in kind.
It was that sort of a tit-for-tat encounter, and the sides were level at 0-11 apiece at half time.
The quality didn’t always match the intensity and drama of the occasion — though there were many high points, like Conor McDonald scoring two points from sideline cuts, Cian Boland bursting through the Wexford defence on a number of occasions, and Aidan Nolan making a terrific catch for the visitors in the 41st minute and pointing.
Wexford looked out of energy and ideas in the third quarter as Dublin got on top, moving 0-20 to 0-15 clear after 55 minutes.
But McGovern’s goal after being fed by Jack O’Connor, who had a brilliant final 20 minutes or so, ignited them.
Chin, the excellent Shaun Murphy and Chin again all pointed before McGovern then fed Rory O’Connor for Wexford’s second goal.
When Chin pointed from the left wing in the 72nd minute, his first from play all day, he punched the air in delight, believing that a three-point gap would be sufficient to take the win.
But it wasn’t to be, as Moran pounced again at the death.
Scorers for Wexford:
L Chin (0-11, 8 frees, 2 65s); L Og McGovern (1-1); R O’Connor (1-0); C McDonald (2 sidelines), S Murphy (0-3 each); A Nolan (0-1).
Scorers for Dublin:
P Ryan (0-10, 7 frees, 1 65); S Moran (1-2, 1-1 frees); C Boland (0-3); C Keaney, T Connolly (0-2 each); C Crummey, E Dillon, F Whitely (0-1 each).
M Fanning; D Reck, L Ryan, S Donohoe; P Foley, M O’Hanlon, A Nolan; S Murphy, D O’Keeffe; K Foley, L Og McGovern, L Chin; C McDonald, J O’Connor, R O’Connor.
C Dunbar for Nolan (54); D Dunne for McDonald (66); H Kehoe for J O’Connor (68); S Reck for Murphy (73).
A Nolan; P Smyth, E O’Donnell, T Connolly; S Barrett, S Moran, C Crummey; S Treacy, D Sutcliffe; C Boland, C Keaney, E Dillon; F Whitely, L Rushe, P Ryan.
D Treacy for Keaney (49); J Malone for Boland (60); C Conway for S Treacy (63); R Hayes for Whitely (67).
F Horgan (Tipperary).
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