Dublin’s battling qualities underline All-Ireland credentials

Dublin retained their provincial crown with a well-deserved four-point win over Wexford in their Electric Ireland Leinster MHC final at a rain-sodden Croke Park yesterday.

There were also encouraging signs that they could go one step further after falling to Galway in last year’s All-Ireland decider.

Central to these ambitions was the stranglehold their half-back line exerted as Eoghan O’Donnell and Sean McClelland gave exceptional displays from the wing-back positions.

However, their dominance wasn’t mirrored on the scoreboard and that the sides were level at the break was largely because the holders were guilty of some aimless shooting.

That Dublin still managed to pull through was testimony to their battling qualities, with manager Shay Boland delighted with his side’s attitude.

“Tactically, Wexford threw a lot at us with various positional switches and the like but we were happy enough with how we were going. We ground it out but it probably took a bit longer than we would have hoped,” said Boland.

In a lively opening, Conor McDonald served early notice of intent with a glorious turn and point in the third minute to open the scoring, with dual player Conor McHugh restoring parity with the first of three opening-half scores within two minutes.

A Tony French free restored Wexford’s lead but the Model County were grateful to the intervention of goalkeeper Oliver O’Leary in the seventh minute when he bravely blocked a Paul Winters shot from close range.

Although Cormac Costello pointed from the resultant clearance, Dublin were struggling to contain the excellent McDonald and, after he was fouled in the 15th minute, captain Andrew Kenny blasted the resultant free beyond Cian Mac Gabhann for the game’s opening goal.

Dublin responded admirably and after Sean Treacy had chipped over a tidy point, the diminutive centre-forward raced through unopposed to place a precise finish to O’Leary’s left in the 17th minute, restoring parity in the process.

With Dublin spurning a number of chances as the half progressed, Wexford continued to tag on scores, with Kenny and McDonald especially prominent as they restored a two-point advantage.

The half concluded with Dublin briefly finding their range and scores from McHugh and Colm Cronin ensured the sides were deadlocked at 1-8 by the interval.

Winters and Kevin Foley traded points on the restart but, tellingly, the latter’s effort was Wexford’s only score from play in the half.

Cian Boland began to rove from full-forward to great influence and after pushing the Dubs a point clear in the 45th minute, Paul Winters followed up with a goal two minutes later.

Injury-time points from Winters and Boland confirming Dublin’s progression to the All-Ireland semi-finals.

Scorers for Dublin: Winters 1-5 (0-2f, 0-2 65s), S Treacy 1-1, C McHugh, C Boland 0-3 each, C Costello, O O’Rorke, C Cronin 0-1 each.

Scorers for Wexford: A Kenny 1-3 (1-2f, 0-1 65), C McDonald 0-5 (2f), T French 0-3 (3f), J O’Connor, S Kenny, K Foley 0-1 each.

DUBLIN: C Mac Gabhann; E Lowndes, C O’Callaghan, S Barrett; S McClelland, R Murphy, E O’Donnell; C Costello, C Cronin; C McHugh, S Treacy, C Conway; C Boland, O O’Rorke, P Winters.

Subs: D Gormley for Conway (44), C Bennett for Treacy (51), J Roche for McHugh (61).

WEXFORD: O O’Leary; S Doyle, S Murphy, E Conroy; L Ryan, A Kenny, A Roche; C Heffernan, C Devitt; K Foley, S Kenny, J O’Connor; J Broaders, C McDonald, T French.

Subs: D Shanley for Heffernan (30), K Ryan for Broaders (35), J Cash for French (51).

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