One wag suggested that the theme music from ‘The Great Escape’ should have been played over the tannoy and Pat Gilroy would hardly have disagreed.
With 20 minutes left in normal time yesterday, the Dublin manager was facing a torrent of recrimination over what had, up to then, been the county’s worst championship display in living memory.
“We’re delighted to get away with what we did there today. It was very poor at the start. I suppose that’s the thing you worry about when you have a two-month lay-off, what way you’re actually going to start the game.
“We didn’t get to grips at all with the game until the second-half. From then on I think we were much better. We were at the pace of the game but in the first-half we were chasing shadows.
“Wexford played very well but we left them loose. We weren’t closing down men.
“Around the middle third they had the run of the park and we weren’t doing anything about it in the first-half.
“Then in the second-half we got to grips with that and started to win a lot more breaking ball. It was a greasy, wet day and the team that was going to win those balls was the team that was going to win the game.”
As Gilroy put it, Dublin simply weren’t at the races and few players were immune to the problems. Bernard Brogan, so impressive in the league and yet so off-kilter for the first three-quarters of normal time, was the perfect case in point.
“We just couldn’t seem to get our hands on the ball,” the forwards said. “Wexford were coming at us in droves and they seemed to have a spare man coming from the back. We were six points down at half-time and it could have been past us.”
It was no surprise when Dublin were booed off at half-time and it must have been a particularly unpleasant sensation for selector Micky Whelan who experienced a similarly caustic reception when manager back in the 1990s.
So, what turned it around? “We realised that the biggest thing for us was that we were letting Wexford have the run of the middle of the field,” said Gilroy who rejigged his midfield throughout the day.
“We had to do something about it and we really stepped up to the mark in the second-half. We were lucky we weren’t further behind at half-time, to be honest, so we were very lucky to get out of that match.”
It looked like a case of goodnight and good luck for Dublin when Stephen Roche and Matty Forde nailed a pair of points after 44 and 46 minutes and another few scores or a goal for Wexford would surely have ended the game as a contest.
“Who knows what would have happened if a goal had gone in at that stage, you know? Look, you fear that kind of performance when you’re off for two months, you fear what way are you going to come out.
“I suppose the one thing was that the team kept its composure. Even though we weren’t playing well we did keep our composure. There was no losing the head at half-time and we got back into it well in the second half.”
Gilroy might have escaped the stocks for now, but yesterday’s performance has called his comprehensive regeneration project into question for the first time in what is his second season in charge.
The turnover of players has been significant. Some would argue too significant. Why, for instance, can he not find a place in his squad for someone like Jason Sherlock?
Sherlock polarises opinion but he would surely have moulded some shape into Dublin’s muddled attacking play yesterday, especially during that atrocious first-half.
Gilroy added: “We have to digest what went on today and take into account that we did have a two-month payoff and this was our first bit of competitive action. We were very slow out of the blocks. The match was delayed – for both teams – and we have to take all of those things into account and learn from them.
“The positive for us is that that was the third time we were six points down in a game this year and came back to win it. Certainly, if we have a start like that again in the championship we will be out of sight.”