Wexford dominated for lengthy periods, but failed to put their opponents away, despite moving into a five-point lead, 0-18 to 1-10, after 55 minutes. Dublin were intent on pursuing this game to the very end as they produced a storming closing ten minutes that at one stage looked sufficient to give them their opening victory of the campaign.
When Paul Ryan fired home a 60th-minute goal, followed by a Liam Rushe levelling points three minutes later, they were showing a new ferocity to their play, with sub David Treacy putting them a point in front, 2-14 to 0-19, with just one minute of normal time remaining.
But still there was no panic in the Wexford play, as Rory O’Connor sent over a huge 75 metre levelling point off the sideline one minute into additional time, with the same player driving his side ahead with another massive effort from midfield, before sub Harry Kehoe secured the victory three minutes into added time.
Despite the lateness of the victory surge, Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald was particularly pleased with the two points and the fact his side did not drop their heads.
“We were always conscious that this was going to be a tough game given the progress Dublin have made. The Dublin management, to their credit, are doing a great job with this team, and all is not lost up there, but I still think we were the better team on the day.
“We made it hard on ourselves. We had our chances, we should have killed off the game, we missed two goal chances, so if you give away two momentum things, it’s difficult to get it back again. But I’m delighted with the way we played. We created 38 chances, got 22 scores, 13 wides, and created two goal chances. We are only a year and a half into this project and one could see that at times.
“It’s something we are conscious of but still not many teams would have come back from going a point down in the closing minute. Look, the lads did not drop the heads, they came right back with three points in additional time, so credit to them. They battled through this game, the marking was magnificent, we dispossessed Dublin on so many occasion. Our tackling was immense with the team effort fantastic.”
Fitzgerald refused to look too far ahead: “Galway and Kilkenny are the furthest from my mind. I am looking no further than Offaly next Saturday evening. We have always found it difficult in Tullamore and Kevin Martin is doind a great job. Offaly are always capable of springing a shock so we will be wary of that.”
His counterpart Pat Gilroy admitted that Wexford had been on top for most of the game.
“After the second goal we threw a lot at it, got ahead, but missed a chance to give us a two-point lead which would have left Wexford needing a goal and time would have been against them.
“We now have two games left but we are not ruling ourselves out of the race by any means. We may have lost both games, games we set out to win, so losing is not progress. But I’m not surprised that we were in both games right to the end.”
Despite enjoying most of the possession during the opening stages, Wexford were very much reliant on the freetaking of Rory O’Connor to keep them in front, leading 0-5 to 0-2 after 15minutes, with Paul Ryan pointed frees keeping the Dubs in touch. Then a poor clearance out of defence was punished by Rian McBride who found the net from 20 metres to draw the sides level.
The scoring was difficult with both defences giving little away but it was the razor sharp freetaking of O’Connor that edged Wexford into a 0-10 to 1-6 interval lead.
Dublin were struggling through the opening 10 minutes of the second half as Wexford powered forward almost continuously with Jack O’Connor, Aidan Nolan, Dee O’Keeffe and Rory O’Connor all tagging on points, with points from a Ryan free and McBride helping keep the Dubs in the game.
The home crowd were beginning to sense victory but the Dubs attack exploded when Ryan fired home an excellent goal.
But Wexford turned in a storming finish to claim a victory their play deserved.
R O’Connor (0-12, 9 frees); L Chin, P Foley (free) (0-2 each); D O’Keeffe, K Foley, A Nolan, J O’Connor; P Morris, H Kehoe (0-1 each).
P Ryan (1-8, 7 frees, 1 65); R McBride (1-1); J Malone, D Sutcliffe, L Rushe, P Smyth, D Treacy (0-1 each).
M Fanning; D Reck, L Ryan, S Donohoe; P Foley, M O’Hanlon, D O’Keeffe; K Foley, S Murphy; L Chin, A Nolan, J O’Connor; P Morris, R O’Connor, C McDonald.
H Kehoefor McDonald (55); C Dunbar for Morris (60).
A Nolan; P Smyth, C O’Callaghan, B O’Carroll; S Barrett, S Moran, C Crummy; R McBride, E O’Donnell; J Malone, F McGibb, D Sutcliffe; F Whitley, L Rushe, P Ryan.
T Connolly for Barrett (43); C Boland for Whitely (43); D Treacy for O’Carroll (51); R Hayes for McBride (59); P Winters for McGibb (65).
C Lyons (Cork).