Wexford edge tight Leinster hurling encounter

Wexford 2-14 Dublin 3-10

Wexford 2-14 Dublin 3-10

Wexford have reached the Leinster SHC final for the seventh successive year, edging out Dublin 2-14 to 3-10 thanks to a last-gasp free from substitute Barry Lambert.

Lambert helped turn tonight's Nowlan Park tie in the Model county's favour, hitting the match-winning point after Ross O'Carroll had grabbed a levelling 70th-minute goal for Dublin.

The sides swapped four goals in the first half, with a Rory Jacob major nudging Wexford into a 2-6 to 2-4 interval lead.

John Meyler's men moved 2-12 to 2-7 clear and while free-taker David Curtin and O'Carroll got the Dubs back on terms, Lambert fired over a deciding 80-yard score in injury-time.

This was cruel luck on a gallant Dublin side who had overcome the concession of 1-3 in the opening five minutes, the early loss of two defenders to injury and managed to draw level with Wexford after twice being five points in arrears during the second half.

In sun-splashed conditions, Tommy Naughton's charges displayed admirable battling qualities throughout. It seems it will not be too long until the Dubs succeed in reaching a Leinster SHC decider - 1991 was their last final appearance - but the final result did leave you wondering what difference two of their injured stars, attacking ace Kevin O'Reilly and powerful midfielder John McCaffrey, would have made?

As it was, Wexford did just enough to warrant their passage through to the July 1 final at Croke Park. A wides tally of 17 will have done little for their forwards' collective confidence, but key men like Lambert, David 'Doc' O'Connor, Eoin Quigley and Rory Jacob delivered when they needed to.

O'Connor, an unlikely centre-forward given his defensive prowess, showed some nice touches in setting in points for his forward colleagues. His best assist of the evening came in the opening skirmishes as he sent a great ball in for the returning Nigel Higgins to smash home Wexford's first goal.

Meyler's side built up an early 1-3 to 0-1 lead, with Paul Carley (free), Darren Stamp and Michael Jacob all pointing. John Kelly had opened Dublin's account in the first-minute, forcing Wexford veteran Damien Fitzhenry to tip over his crossbar.

But the Dubs, cheered on by Sunderland FC chairman Niall Quinn, a former Dublin minor hurler of some note, got back in contention in the tenth-minute when Kevin Flynn flashed home a goal.

Flynn brilliantly turned his man Malachy Travers and found the net after a crossed ball from Padraig O'Driscoll. Finding space, Michael Jacob quickly tagged on a point at the other end.

Wexford kept themselves in front, with Carley and Quigley moving their side 1-6 to 1-3 ahead, before Dublin grabbed their second goal.

It came from a high ball in, which broke fortunately for corner forward Kelly and the St. Mark's clubman made no mistake with a crisp finish to the net.

An O'Carroll point sent Dublin ahead for only the second time in the match, but Wexford, who switched O'Connor into full-forward for a time, got their own slice of luck before the break when a mix-up in the Dublin defence allowing Rory Jacob scramble home a goal from close range.

Minus their captain Philip Brennan, who went off injured, Dublin foraged well at the start of the second half and quickly erased that 2-6 to 2-4 half-time deficit - points from Curtin and Stuart Mullen saw to that.

The second half was a slow burner as the humid conditions slowed down the game and saw the scores dry up. A neat flick from O'Connor set up Rory Jacob for Wexford's first point of the half, twelve minutes in.

Curtin levelled immediately with a free before Wexford's hero Lambert announced his introduction with a crisply-hit point.

Lambert's score started a run of five successive points for Wexford as the Dubs looked to be tailing off. The best of those points for Meyler's side came from the stick of Rory Jacob who made a difficult point look easy when he drew his marker before striking over off his right from an acute angle.

Wexford were seemingly hitting overdrive as they moved 2-12 to 2-7 ahead with just over ten minutes remaining. However Dublin, rallied by the sizeable travelling support, raised their game for the remainder with centre-back Ronan Fallon launching a series of fruitful attacks.

Mullen sent over his second point of the half and Curtin landed a brace, the first from a placed ball, to reduce the arrears to 2-13 to 2-10 with three minutes remaining.

Somehow, lively centre forward O'Carroll managed to squeeze home a levelling goal for the Dubs and the teams looked set for a second duel.

But there was still time for Lambert, who had given away the free which led to Dublin's third goal, to come with up a superb match-winner. Notching his fourth point of the game, the St Martin's clubman sent a monster free from close to the sideline to dash Dublin's hopes of a first Leinster championship win since 2004.

WEXFORD: D Fitzhenry; M Travers, D Ruth, P Roche; R Kehoe, K Rossiter, C Kenny; E Quigley (0-1), D Lyng; P Carley (0-1), D O'Connor (0-1), M Jacob (0-2); N Higgins (capt) (1-0), D Stamp (0-1), R Jacob (1-4, 0-1f).

Subs ued: R McCarthy for Carley (43 mins), B Lambert (0-4, 0-2f) for Higgins, M Jordan for Stamp (both 62).

DUBLIN: G Maguire; P Brennan (capt), S Hiney, T Brady; M Carton, R Fallon (0-1, 1f), D O'Reilly; J Boland, D Qualter; L Ryan, R O'Carroll (1-1), D Curtin (0-4, 3f); J Kelly (1-2), P O'Driscoll, K Flynn (1-0).

Subs used: G O'Meara for Brennan (20 mins), S Mullen (0-2, 0-1f) for O'Reilly (24), P Carton for Kelly (53), E Carroll for Ryan (63), D O'Dwyer for O'Driscoll (66).

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