One wonders if Dublin would have come out on top in this game, without having come through the fulfilling experience of last year’s All-Ireland final.
After so many years of pausing with the winning post in sight, they now have built a vault of knowledge that enables them to prevail, even when they have enough reason to cry.
They were nowhere near their best yesterday and when Diarmuid Connolly lashed out at Brian Malone, earning himself a straight red card with a half-hour to go, they looked in desperate trouble.
Instead though, they produced their best period thereafter, displaying an appetite for industry that delighted their manager, Pat Gilroy.
“The team showed great character when we went down the man,” declared Gilroy. “Especially when we hadn’t been going that well. When you’ve been going well, you do it.
“The lads have dug deep before and not every day you go out here when everything goes right. It’s those days that show the true character in the team and they showed that today when adversity was there.
“When defeat was a real possibility there, they really upped the tempo of that game for about 10 minutes and that took us home.”
Gilroy said he didn’t see the incident that led to Connolly’s dismissal and so declined to comment, other than to concede losing a man was “disappointing” and “I’m sure the umpires didn’t see nothing”.
Given that these teams have been such regular opponents in the Leinster championship in recent years, there was no surprise for Gilroy in Wexford’s stern resistance.
Only last year, Jason Ryan’s crew were but an Anthony Masterson error away from an historic Leinster title.
And yet there was a widespread perception that Dublin would lay waste to them, based on Wexford’s sojourn in Division 3 of the league and the fact they needed two bites of the cherry to just edge past Longford.
The All-Ireland champions were never going to buy into that. “We expected that game,” insisted Gilroy. “We expected to be under that much pressure. The big difference between Wexford and some of the teams that are in their division is their conditioning and fitness is up to the scratch of Division 1 teams.
“They put you under incredible pressure and can maintain it for a long time. They were very well organised and they always are.
“At times we didn’t take the best options in the first half. We’d a lot of chances that we wasted, and they missed some too. I think Wexford are a good team. I think there was an expectation that we’re gonna go out and steamroll them but we don’t expect that ourselves and we’re expecting a dogfight like that. “If that was Cork, people would be saying that was a great performance by us to dig in and do it, but because they’re Wexford… they’re a good team. No team is going to want to get them in the qualifiers.”
In-demand tyro, Ciarán Kilkenny made a late cameo appearance and while he is renowned as a prodigious scoregetter, Gilroy was taken more with his workrate.
“He’s not with us that long and in a couple of games last weekend, he really stepped it up. He’d only finished his Leaving on June 14 but last week he really started to get to grips with the pace of the game.
“He’s clearly a guy with great potential for us. He showed he’s more than a fella that can score. He worked very hard when he came in there and got an important turnover for us.”
Now, there is a first Dublin-Meath Leinster final since 2001 to look forward to. It isn’t what was predicted but Gilroy was not taken aback when hearing the result of yesterday’s opening game.
“The day that Meath’s forwards would click, they were going to do that to somebody. It was a torrid time in 2010 [for us], it’s not that long ago, so I wouldn’t be that surprised.
“But I wouldn’t be writing Kildare’s obituary either. I’m sure they’ll come back strongly in the qualifiers.”