WEXFORD’S footballers may have achieved one major breakthrough at Croke Park yesterday but their hurling counterparts proved to be in no mood to accommodate a second such romantic script.
Irresistible at times in that drawn encounter last week, Dublin never scaled those heights second time around and played like a team that, deep down, knew they left a golden opportunity behind in Kilkenny. Wexford delivered a far more balanced performance here and manager John Meyler was in exuberant form afterwards.
“It’s a fantastic day for the south-east with three teams coming up here to Croke Park, the minor hurlers drawing, the senior footballers getting to a Leinster final for the first time in I don’t know how long and the senior hurlers getting to a final as well.”
What sort of a fist they can make of it against Kilkenny in the final is a moot point but there is little doubt that they have benefited enormously from the extra game, unlike Dublin who degenerated as the tie went on.
Much was made of their 19 wides last week. They hit 13 yesterday but, if anything, this was an even worse performance by Tommy Naughton’s side in front of the posts.
David O’Callaghan and Ross O’Carroll tormented Wexford the first day but neither scored a point from play all day here. Neither did any one of Dublin’s other four starting forwards.
O’Callaghan’s tally of 1-8 was made up of eight pointed frees and one well-taken goal but he was guilty of four wides, at least two of them from areas where a man of his reputation would be expected to score.
Wexford have their own work to do in attack. They racked up the same number of wides as their hosts but spread the scoring duties around. Five of their six forwards were on target from play. The sixth, Diarmuid Lyng, pitched in with a quartet of dead balls. Just like in Nowlan Park, they managed two goals as well.
Both came in a first half where, for the second game in a row, Wexford took their time emerging from the traps and paid for their early lethargy by falling behind 0-5 to 0-1.
Full-forward Stephen Banville kickstarted their afternoon with his 11-minute goal but O’Callaghan responded with his own shortly after and the sides went blow for blow for a spell after that.
The day started to sour for Dublin approaching the break with Jacob netting Wexford’s second goal and the damage was intensified with a hat-trick of points before the break.
Dublin were relying on dead balls but Wexford were generating more rhythm and led by six points with 15 minutes to go before being reduced to 14 men with the sending off of corner back Malachy Travers.
Dublin panicked and started sniffing out goals when a handful of points would have placed the result back in the balance.
O’Callaghan was the chief culprit, passing over easy points on at least two occasions in favour of attempting to beat Damien Fitzhenry.
“We could have picked them off point by point,” Naughton accepted. “Maybe there were some bad decisions made but that comes with experience and being there before.”
Wing-forward James Burke did find the Wexford net two minutes from time but referee Michael Wadding had already called play back for a foul on Peadar Carton.
Wexford survived the late siege by a side desperate to reach a first provincial final in 17 years but a more menacing threat awaits them in the final in a fortnight.
“I’m pleased,” said Meyler.
“We started the second half well then tapped over a few points. I thought ‘here we go’ but then we fell on our arse, fell asleep. I thought Dublin would come back at us. Mal got sent off but the likes of Fitzy and Doc (O’Connor) led by example.”
Scorers for Dublin: D O’Callaghan 1-8 (0-8f), R Fallon 0-3 (2f, 1’45’), J McCaffrey 0-2, M Carton 0-1, D Qualter 0-1.
Scorers for Wexford: R Jacob 1-3, S Banville 1-1, D Lyng 0-4 (3f, 1’45’), S Doyle 0-3, W Doran 0-2, D Redmond 0-1, E Quigley 0-1.
DUBLIN: G Maguire; T Brady, S Hiney, N Corcoran; M Carton, R Fallon, J Boland; J McCaffrey, S Lambert; J Burke, D O’Dwyer, K Flynn; D O’Callaghan, J Kelly, R O’Carroll.
Subs: P Carton for Flynn 29, D Qualter for Lambert 42, P Kelly for Carton 53, P O’Driscoll for O’Dwyer 55, P Ryan for Kelly 63
WEXFORD: D Fitzhenry; M Travers, K Rossiter, P Roche; M Jacob, D O’Connor, D Stamp; PJ Nolan, D Redmond; W Doran, E Quigley, D Lyng; S Doyle, S Banville, R Jacob.
Subs: B Lambert for Kelly (63), M Doyle for Nolan (66).
Referee: M Wadding (Waterford).
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