Jury still out on lacklustre Dublin

“THE season starts here,” uttered Bryan Cullen on the Hogan Stand steps after accepting the Delaney Cup.

If Dublin are going to reach a first All-Ireland final in 16 years — never mind win one — it would want to very quickly.

Yesterday they accomplished something quite extraordinary, never looking under any real pressure at the same time as giving a performance that was in no way convincing.

Yes, Redmond Barry’s 46th-minute goal put Wexford three points ahead and Paddy Byrne had a goal chance close to the end of normal time.

Dublin also had to thank a freak goal, a mistake by Anthony Masterson, for getting them back on level terms but there was always a sense that it was coming.

On a day when Bernard Brogan was hardly on song, his older brother Alan took over proceedings, distributing ball and instigating attacks at will.

He also pocketed three points for himself and looks to have completely rediscovered himself after a couple of difficult seasons under Pat Gilroy.

Watching Cullen become the sixth Dublin captain in seven years to claim the Leinster prize, manager Gilroy didn’t look particularly jubilant to have won his second Leinster title in his three-and-a-half seasons at the helm.

You couldn’t blame him. He could think of plenty of better ways to have claimed it but Dublin are where he wanted them to be — in an All-Ireland quarter-final after just three games.

That reads like the minimum of fuss but Dublin went almost 25 minutes without scoring yesterday, substitute Kevin McManamon taking an Alan Brogan pass in the 46th minute to bridge the gap.

In that interim, Wexford accumulated 1-4. Adrian Flynn and Ben Brosnan from a free and then a 45 made it a one-point game at the break, 0-7 to 0-6.

They started the second half just as positively, Brosnan having a shot saved by Stephen Cluxton before he levelled the game with another free in the 41st minute.

And then came the goal, a Colm Morris punt gathered by PJ Banville, whose pass had Barry through on Cluxton whom he rounded to kick into the Hill 16 net.

The goal didn’t exactly have the desired effect for Wexford as Dublin were stung into action. McManamon and Brosnan swapped scores prior to Bernard Brogan finding his range after kicking a host of shots either wide or short.

What followed was a body blow for Wexford, substitute Tomás Quinn’s kick towards the square fisted by Masterson against Graham Molloy, who had Bernard Brogan for company, and the ball rolling back into the net.

Alan Brogan’s attempted fist pass then found the net and was disallowed but he made amends two minutes later with his third point.

The second Dublin goal came when James McCarthy had too much pace for Daithí Waters, the defender making a bee-line from 40 yards out and then sending a thundering shot past Masterson.

In nine minutes, Dublin transformed a three-point deficit into a five-point lead but were finding Wexford difficult to shake off.

Colm Morris had a goal disallowed and then there were questions of a possible penalty claim when Ciarán Lyng was fouled by Michael Fitzsimons close to the danger area — outside it according to referee Joe McQuillan.

Denis Bastick found himself in space to expand Dublin’s lead but the tidy Brosnan, Wexford’s best performer on the day, slotted over two from play.

After some fine work from McManamon, Ross McConnell was on hand in the final minute to restore Dublin’s four-point lead.

With so many blue jerseys on the goal-line, Brosnan had no choice but to kick over a close-range free two minutes into injury-time and hope McQuillan might add some more.

But the Cavan referee blew it up before Cluxton attempted to restart the game and Masterson was in tears.

Singling him out for the defeat would be unfair as it would be inaccurate. Wexford’s first half was a poor one and they were fortunate to finish it just one point behind.

Dublin had built a four-point lead by the 24th minute without the greatest of effort as Jason Ryan’s men continually coughed up possession in the middle third.

If Cullen was right about Dublin then the same could be argued for Wexford. This shouldn’t be the end result for their 2011 season.

A missed opportunity against a sleepy giant?

Yes, but as the championship is only getting started...

Scorers for Dublin: B Brogan (1f), A Brogan 0-3 each; G Molloy (own goal), J McCarthy 1-0 each; P Flynn, D Bastick, K McManamon 0-1 each.

Scorers for Wexford: B Brosnan 0-9 (5f, 2 45); R Barry 1-0; C Lyng 0-2; A Flynn 0-1.

Subs for Dublin: T Quinn for Connolly (31); K McManamon for O’Gara (h-t); B Cahill for Fennell (52); D Henry for B Brogan (61); R McConnell for Quinn (69).

Subs for Wexford: N Murphy (Bannow-Ballymitty) for Malone (blood sub 18-21); A Morrissey for Malone (54); P Byrne for Morris (63);

L Óg McGovern for Quinlivan (65).

Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan).

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