Plucky underdog does its best to land a few punches on Dublin. All-Ireland champions march away to the beat of their own drum anyway, registering a win on a scoreline of hurling proportions without ever hitting their straps.
So, for Laois three weeks ago, read Wexford yesterday: a mid-ranked, well-organised football side with a smattering of talented individuals that never looked like injecting a badly-needed dose of the unexpected into a championship in dire need of it.
Meath may have something different to say come the provincial final and one hopes that the sight of the old foe on a day when a trophy is on the line can deliver something approaching a contest of equals in this processional Leinster Championship.
There was much to admire in the Dubs yesterday, individually and collectively. Isn’t there always these days? But it is being delivered devoid of drama and that makes for a pallid spectacle indeed.
This looked ominous right from the off.
With less than a minute on the clock Paul Mannion had Wexford goalkeeper Shane Roche deflecting a goalbound shot onto his post and wide for a ’45 and the pot shots were still coming come the 72nd minute with Cormac Costello tapping over a free.
Costello’s input on the day said much about Jim Gavin’s side. Brought on for Dean Rock at half-time, he ended the afternoon with 1-5, two points more than Ben Brosnan who spent 70 minutes moulding his statistics.
Dublin actually started with half a new forward line. Bernard Brogan and Paddy Andrews were sidelined by injury and Eoghan O’Gara by the sheer weight of numbers on a bench weighed down with potential opportunists.
Rock, Mannion and Kevin McManamon made up the promoted trio but the sum total was remarkably similar with 2-25 registered compared to the 2-21 appropriated against Laois and with the 15 efforts kicked wide or short of goal the last time reduced by one.
Not just that, but Dublin once again found themselves racking up spurned goal chances. Half-a-dozen were mislaid in the opening half against the midlanders. This time the squandermania kicked in even earlier.
Put it this way, Roche wasn’t the only Wexford man throwing himself in the way of shots trained low on his goal in that opening spell. Rob Tierney, Graeme Molloy and Adrian Flynn all managed to propel body parts in the way before 10 minutes had elapsed.
Between them, the sides amassed 19 wides or shots that fell short prior to the interval. Every one of Dublin’s will have merited a light rap on the knuckles. Every one of Wexford’s must have felt like a blow to the solar plexus.
For sides like Laois or Wexford to even threaten anything approaching a shock, scoring opportunities can not be ‘take–em-or-leave-em’ events against Dublin and Wexford left far too many behind them while the gap on the scoreboard was still plausible.
The closest they came to a goal in that spell was a Kevin O’Grady shot that was blocked by Philly McMahon when an overlap promised greater space for a comrade, but four Brosnan points kept them to within four at the change of ends.
Dublin never looked remotely at risk of injury. A rearguard in which Kevin Nolan for Darren Daly was the only change kept dangerman Ciarán Lyng scoreless from play and, as the second period wore on, their defenders became more conspicuous up front.
It was fellow corner-back Conor Carty who had the first meaningful goal attempt, for Wexford, shortly after the renewal, but Stephen Cluxton’s save proved the foundation for Costello’s tour de force that ended any debate there might have been.
A broadside of 1-2 in just three minutes was deadly in isolation, but it was supported by two points from the excellent Michael Darragh Macauley and Mannion.
They were 10 points up before Daithí Waters provided a slick finish into Cluxton’s net after a rare Wexford foray 59 minutes in, but the script had already been written, the momentum in Dublin’s favour irresistible.
Not once did they look like they were stretching themselves. Umpteen openings could have delivered as many goals had the killer instinct been awoken. In the end, they settled for just one more, through a Paul Flynn zinger as injury-time approached.
Killers on cruise control.
Scorers for Dublin: C Costello (1-5, 0-1 free); P Flynn (1-2); D Rock (0-4 frees); P Mannion (0-3); E O’Gara, T Brady (both 0-2); D Connolly (0-2, 0-1 free); A Brogan, N Devereux, MD Macauley, P McMahon (all 0-1); S Cluxton (0-1 ‘45’).
Scorers for Wexford: B Brosnan (0-6, 0-3 frees); PJ Banville (0-3); D Waters (1-0); J Holmes, K O’Grady (both 0-1); C Lyng (0-1 free).
Dublin: S Cluxton; R O’Carroll, J Cooper, P McMahon; J McCarthy, K Nolan, N Devereux; MD Macauley, C O’Sullivan; P Flynn, D Rock, D Connolly; P Mannion, K McManamon, A Brogan:
Wexford: S Roche; C Carty, G Molloy, R Tierney; M Furlong, B Malone, A Flynn; D Waters, P Byrne; K O’Grady, PJ Banville, T Rossitor; J Holmes, B Brosnan, C Lyng. Subs for Dublin: C Costello for Rock (half-time); E O’Gara for Brogan (47); J McCaffrey for Nolan (56); T Brady for O’Sullivan (59); M Fitzsimons for Devereux (64); B Cullen for Macauley (68).
Subs for Wexford: Cillian Kehoe for Holmes (51); M O’Regan for Flynn (53); E Nolan for Byrne (57); D Dunne for Rossitor (60); Colm Kehoe for O’Grady (63); G Cullen for Banville (68).
Referee: C Brannigan (Down).