The full-forward pushed Wexford five clear with a brilliant 46th-minute strike at Parnell Park — and they held onto that advantage.
McDonald finished with 1-3 and gave a thrilling display, just days after similarly netting for the seniors against Clare. He’s expected to be involved again this weekend when the seniors meet Clare in their qualifier replay.
Senior boss Liam Dunne was delighted that McDonald and fellow rising stars Jack Guiney and Liam Ryan pulled through unscathed.
Wexford’s 16th title at the grade secures them an August 23 All-Ireland semi-final clash with Galway. But it’s heartbreak for Dublin who have now lost minor, U21 and senior Leinster finals in the space of three days.
Wexford were bang on form approaching the final, with big wins over Offaly and Kilkenny. They had 10 points to spare on both the Cats and then Offaly in the semi-finals.
As for Dublin, they navigated the easier side of the draw, though made hard work of progression. They took advantage of a Westmeath penalty miss to scrape through the semi-finals by one. And they required a strong second half in the quarter-finals to see off Laois So Wexford were understandably favourites and they hit the ground running, with the first three scores of the game.
It was ominous for Dublin as McDonald, midfielder Aidan Nolan and Padraig Foley all picked off fine points. McDonald’s second of the game from an acute angle on the left put Wexford 0-5 to 0-1 up after 10 minutes.
Dublin took their time to get going in both their previous games too. A couple of Paul Winters points got them off the mark, though they could never get within three points of Wexford in the first half.
The quality of score-taking was excellent, with both teams wasting few opportunities. But Wexford enjoyed greater possession in the crucial middle third and put it to good use. They enjoyed a double scores, 0-10 to 0-5 lead, after 20 minutes and already five different players had got on the scoresheet. Rhys Clarke netted in both of Wexford’s previous games and shot two first-half points.
It was their other corner-forward, Kevin Foley, who went closest to netting approaching half-time but his shot was blocked. They retained a commanding 0-12 to 0-8 lead though and were full value for it.
The visitors should have got the goal they craved after the restart. The game was only on seconds when Clarke’s shot was brilliantly saved by Dublin keeper Conor Dooley. And Dooley moved from gamekeeper to poacher minutes later with a brilliant long- range free. It reduced Dublin’s arrears to two points for the first time since the fifth minute, 0-13 to 0-11.
The two-point margin remained between them, at 0-15 to 0-13, with 15 minutes to go, setting up a tense finale. But McDonald’s goal ultimately edged it for Wexford, who stormed clear with a succession of scores.
The big Naomh Eanna full-forward capitalised on a great move down the right by firing into the far corner of Dublin’s net. The strike put Wexford 1-15 to 0-13 ahead and they tagged on several rapid-fire points.
Nolan took his tally to four for the evening while Guiney was also on the mark twice.
Wexford led 1-19 to 0-14 with 10 minutes remaining and used the cushion to repel Dublin’s anticipated fightback.
Winters took his tally to nine for the evening with three late frees. But the goal Dublin required to rescue the game never arrived, despite Matt McCaffrey and Colm Cronin efforts .
Scorers for Wexford: J Guiney (0-8, 5f, 1 65), C McDonald (1-3), A Nolan (0-4), R Clarke (0-2), G Moore, P Foley, P Sutton (0-1 each)
Scorers for Dublin: P Winters (0-9, 6f, 1 65), C Conway (0-3), O O’Rorke and G Whelan (0-2 each), C Boland, C Dooley (0-1f) (0-1 each)
WEXFORD: O O’Leary; D Byrne, L Ryan, E Conroy; A Kenny, S O’Gorman, J O’Connor; A Nolan, C Devitt; J Guiney, G Moore, P Foley; R Clarke, C McDonald, K Foley.
Subs: J White for Byrne (20), R Tubrid for Ryan (54-55, blood), P Sutton for P Foley (56), T French for Devitt (62).
DUBLIN: C Dooley; M McCaffrey, C O’Callaghan, S McClelland; C Robinson, C Crummy, E O’Donnell; G Whelan, D Gormley; P Winters, A Clabby, C Cronin; C Boland, C Conway, O O’Rorke.
Subs: C MacGabhann for Robinson (h/t), F McGibb for Clabby (34), M Cavanagh for Gormley (49), K O’Flynn for Conway (55), A Jamieson-Murphy for O’Donnell (63).
Referee: D Hughes (Carlow).