Last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final mauling by Kerry was always going to trigger a frantic search for new blood in the capital and so it proved.
Goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton was the only man from that August meltdown to start here.
Even the famous Arnotts logo was conspicuous by its absence.
Wexford too were rolling the dice with some new faces and both Pat Gilroy and Jason Ryan were able to face the media afterwards on the back of some promising displays from the numerous newcomers.
“It was typical kind of January football,” said Gilroy. “There was alot of mistakes made but there was also an awful lot of endeavour on both sides there. To see the enthusiasm for January was encouraging for both sides, particularly for the new guys, and they coped well for their first game.”
Much had been made of Dublin’s new training regime in the week before. Twice-daily sessions have been on the menu – one at 6.30am – whereas Wexford have been restricted to just one field session thus far.
It told, too.
The sides were level on half a dozen occasions up to the 50th minute after which Dublin made a decisive lunge for the finishing line. An unanswered 1-3 was enough to set up another home tie next week, this time against Meath.
Ryan won’t lose any sleep over that.
Wexford played some sumptuous football in the opening ten minutes and the Waterford man could coo over a number of displays. Corner-forward Ben Brosnan’s in particular. The St Mary’s man kicked six points.
That was one more than Dublin’s Brendan McManamon but his were shoehorned into a second-half in which he started as a substitute and he was the game’s most dangerous marksman. Impressive though both men were, Dublin’s Eamon Fennell claimed the man of the match award by a whisker. Despite a chronic lack of football stretching back to 2008, the midfielder was the living embodiment of perpetual motion.
The game itself was far more stop-start. Referee Diarmuid Brazil awarded 57 frees, a startling figure for an essentially meaningless fixture, and a good number of the stoppages were down to the experimental rules.
Play was called back on at least a dozen occasions because of illegal handpasses, although there were only three occasions when Brazil saw fit to award a player for a mark. All were for Dublin.
Eight yellow cards were awarded and two players – one from each side – saw red. Dublin forward Eoghan O’Gara was first to go for a late challenge on David Murphy close to half-time.
Wexford’s Brian Malone, who had been playing as his side’s spare man, followed seconds after the break for a second yellow-card, his manager not enamoured with either banishment.
“You could see them being sendings-off in some games and they mightn’t even be a yellow card in others,” said Ryan. “It is frustrating. Obviously I am biased with Brian Malone’s two yellow cards.
“If he got one of those I would be disappointed. With him playing as a free man in the second-half, he would have had a big impact on the game and we lost that impact. It was like a kick in the ass for a lot of the boys.”
Blaine Kelly supplied another such boot eight minutes later when he converted a penalty. A second spotter from Kevin McManamon five minutes from time rounded off the action.
With the penalty spot currently situated two metres closer to goal, it was no surprise to see both efforts find the net but it will be some time before a jury returns a verdict on the current raft of experiments. Ditto for Dublin and Wexford.
Scorers for Dublin: B McManamon 0-5 (1f), K McManamon 1-1 (0-1f), B Kelly 1-1, D Rock 0-2 (1f), M McAuley 0-1.
Scorers for Wexford: B Brosnan 0-6 (4f), D Waters 0-1, R Barry 0-1.
DUBLIN: S Cluxton; C McCormack, P Casey, P Conlon; J McCarthy, S Murray, D Daly; M McAuley, E Fennell; J Brogan, T Diamond, B Kelly; D Rock, E O’Gara, K McManamon.
Subs: C Reilly for Cluxton (35), B McManamon for McCormack (35), A Hubbard for Daly (35).
WEXFORD: A Masterson; D Walsh, D Murphy, J Wadding; C Morris, A Doyle, C Carty; B Doyle, D Waters; R Barry, K Kennedy, B Malone; B Brosnan, D Kinsella, P Byrne.
Subs: C Byrne for A Doyle (35), A Morrissey for Kennedy (49), N Murphy for Morris (55), D Kehoe for Carty (55), A Flynn for B Doyle (63).
Referee: D Brazil (Offaly).