The 46th-minute dismissal of Paul Winters proved pivotal as Wexford finished strongly to beat Dublin by seven points in their Walsh Cup semi-final in Parnell Park yesterday.
The Dubs enjoyed a healthy five point lead at that juncture but their challenge fell apart after the St Brigid’s player received a second booking and they were held scoreless for the ensuing 27 minutes prior to Fergal Whitely’s consolation score in added time.
By that point, the visitors had already confirmed a final joust with neighbours Kilkenny next weekend with manager Davy Fitzgerald disappointed at the level of performance from his charges, despite the result: “We won it by seven points handy enough at the end but I wouldn’t have been happy with the first-half.
“I thought Dublin were the better team in the first-half but that was down to us as we did not fight hard enough.
“Dublin were definitely better than us in the first-half of that game and we played a bit better in the second-half but I think your man being sent-off was the change.
“ I’ll tell you know straight, I’ll be afraid of my life playing Dublin in the championship.
“I think it’s going to be 50-50 because they’ve a lot of lads to come back into that. We might have only maybe three or four,” he said.
It was Wexford that started the brighter thanks to a brace of points from Conor McDonald inside the opening four minutes but with Chris Crummey and Cian Hendricken impressing defensively, the hosts began to exert a control on affairs.
That control manifested itself in three frees from Winters while Whitely and Danny Sutcliffe tagged on scores as the half progressed to re-affirm Dublin’s sense of marginal supremacy.
Three points from wing-back Paudie Foley allowed Wexford to stay in touch although their opponents eked out a deserved 0-11 to 0-8 interval lead thanks to two late frees from Donal Burke.
As Dublin resumed on the front foot thanks to a further two frees from Burke and scores by Johnny McCaffrey and Whitely, a home win looked the most likely outcome but the sending-off of Winters and a Cathal Dunbar goal in the 51st minute alongside the contributions of midfielder Kevin Foley and substitute Jack Guiney ensured a first competitive defeat for Dublin manager Pat Gilroy.
“We had been putting up a serious intense shift up until the sending-off and I think that took its toll after that,” said Gilroy.
“Our intensity completely went out of it and we had to change a couple of the lads to try and bring that back.
“It is January and you could expect to see that at this time of year and to be honest, the first fifty minutes was very good and pleasing for us.
“We are working hard and working towards the league and for us, it has been a great weekend’s work.
“It would have been nice to get another game next weekend but we will not be losing any sleep over it either,” he added.
P Morris 0-6 (4f), C Dunbar 1-1, K Foley, J Guiney (1f), P Foley (1f, 1’65) 0-3 each, D Dunne, C McDonald 0-2 each.
P Winters 0-6 (5f), D Burke 0-4 (4f), F Whitely 0-3, J McCaffrey, D Sutcliffe, C McBride 0-1 each.
M Fanning; D Reck, L Ryan, S Donohoe; A Maddock, S Murphy, P Foley; K Foley, Jack O’Connor; Joe O’Connor, C Dunbar, A Nolan; P Morris, C McDonald, D Dunne.
E Moore for Ryan (h-t), J Guiney for Joe O’Connor (48), J Firman for Morris (64), E Molloy for Donohoe (65), M O’Regan for McDonald (68), C Flood for Jack O’Connor (68), G Molloy for Maddock (69), L Rashford for Dunbar (71).
A Nolan; P Smyth, B O’Carroll, C Hendricken; S Barrett, D Kelly, C Crummey; J McCaffrey, T Connolly; D Sutcliffe, F Whitely, P Crummey; A Moore, P Winters, D Burke.
C McBride for Barrett (22 inj), D Gray for P Crummey (27), E Dillon for Sutcliffe (57), R Mahon for Connolly (58), J Madden for McCaffrey (63), S Ó Riain for Burke (65), J Hetherton for Moore (66)
G Quilty (Kilkenny).