Wexford Steal Late Draw Against The Dubs

duDublin rolled into Wexford Park last night looking for a morale-boosting win against Wexford. The Dubs have suffered a tough twelve-month spell, and really needed a win and a good performance against the Yellow Bellies, who have turned into a second-tier team in recent years. In the end, they got neither, as Wexford deservedly came out of the game with a hard-fought draw.

The game itself wasn’t much for the neutrals. After Wexford went a point up in the first thirty seconds, the Dubs went on and knocked over six in a row at the other end. It seemed like the Dubs were on to give the hosts a hiding, as they strangled the life out of them during that ten minute spell. Wexford could win no possession in the Dublin half of the field, and looked as if they were chasing shadows, with numerous Dublin players standing on their own waiting for handy passes for easy scores.

Then something unusual happened. Wexford made a game out of it. This is something the Slaneysiders haven’t seen much of in the lean years since they last won Leinster in 2004. The downward spiral the team has been on since has been tough for their supporters, and hurling fans in general, to take. Whereas the Offaly and Wexford sides of the 1990’s were always a match for, and frequently better than, their Kilkenny counterparts, that tide has turned totally in favour of the Black Cats in the last ten years. Even the win in the 2004 semi-final was seen as a totally unexpected ambush, and a shock win for Wexford. They just have never been able to bring through players capable of lining up in place of Martin Storey, Larry O’Gorman and Liam Dunne.

Dunne is now Bainisteoir for his home county, and has instilled a bit of fight in them at least. While the league campaign was a disappointing one, a bit of life came back into Wexford hurling last night. They crept back into the game, narrowing it to six points to four with a rapid succession of scores. Rory Jacob was giving one of his best performances in years, giving the Dublin full-back line a torrid time. Gareth Sinnott and David Redmond started to win some ball in the half forward line. Jack Guiney knocked over frees from all angles and distances. There was a real chance of a game breaking out.

The gap remained two points for most of the half. Dublin re-asserted themselves and got a grip in terms of possession, but as much as the ball rained down on top of the Wexford defenders, they were more than capable of dealing with it now. Where Dublin forwards were winning clean ball before, now the Wexford men were able to at least break it loose if they couldn’t claim it themselves. Wexford starting hunting in packs all over the park, having found some self-belief. The experienced Keith Rossiter and Richie Kehoe were rocks at the back, while Harry Kehoe was flying at midfield. The introduction of Lee Chin also helped massively, and you would wonder whether his selection for the Wexford footballers game against Louth the next day had anything to do with him being dropped.

Still, Dublin went point for point with the hosts, fending them off capably. That was until Conal Keaney, controversially selected at centre-back, was left chasing Eoin Quigley’s shadow as he headed straight for goal. Jack Guiney made a great run across the Dublin defence, and slammed the ball to the net, to give Wexford  the lead.

The Wexford goal only seemed to jar the Dubs from their slumber, though. The next three scores all went to the Dubs, leaving them a point up at the break. Half-time probably came at the wrong time for them in fact, as they had totally taken hold of the game after the goal, and Wexford had done well to get in only one point down.

It wasn’t long into the second half when Dublin began emptying the bench, a sight that has been seen too many times in the last couple of years for them. Dotsy O’Callaghan was guilty of some terrible wides, while David Treacy and Ryan O’Dwyer made little impact. Joey Boland was knocking over the frees, but his contribution from play was pretty poor. Big questions have been asked about the wisdom of Anthony Daly moving Keaney out of the forwards. Luckily for them, the Dublin subs were able to improve the side.

Early in the second half, Wexford could, and probably should, have gone down to fourteen men, after Mossy Waters lashed out with a wild pull off the ball, striking Conor McCormack. Waters had a fine game, but has been prone to doing reckless things like this, and it really was a surprise that referee Diarmuid Kirwan produced only a yellow card.

The quality of the hurling was non-existent, as this game fell into a nervous scrap for the last half-hour. You could see these were two sides desperate for a championship win, but neither had the quality to take control of the game. Wexford hurled hard and fast, and worked like dogs, but they played with no intelligence. A lot of the starting Dublin players seemed to just lose interest in the second half altogether.

There was a ten minute spell between the fifty-fifth and sixty-fifth minute where both sides went end to end, just knocking wide after wide. What shots didn’t go wide dropped short, often comically bad. Lee Chin tried to make his mark on the game, first with a lung bursting run from nearly the sixty-five metre line where he seemed determined to score a goal. He burst past the Dublin defence, showing tremendous speed and skill, but Gary Maguire was able to make a fine save. Chin then had a great chance to set up a point, having burst through again. With Gareth Sinnott standing on his own nearby, he awkwardly shot wide. This was a great example of the poor play that was served up in the second half.

The game looked to be petering out, with Wexford a couple of points up and looking like they would hold on for a win. But then, almost out of nothing, the Dublin substitutes Mark Schutte and Eamonn Dillon combined beautifully to score a goal. Schutte did a brilliant job winning a ball coming in, and when it broke loose around the goal, there was Dillon to smash it hard along the ground into the back of the net.

Gareth Sinnott equalised quickly, before Paul Ryan landed what looked like it might be a winner for the Dubs. With only thirty seconds left though, the Dubs gave away a free that Jack Guiney made no mistake with. A draw was probably a fair result in the end, giving the overall lack of quality on show. The replay should suit Dublin better, as surely they can’t be that bad again. Wexford will be kicking themselves that they couldn’t show more composure midway through the second half, as they should have been out of sight and celebrating a good win in Leinster for the first time in a while. It is doubtful too many neutrals will make their way to Parnell Park next Saturday evening for the replay, but these two teams will have to be ready to slog it out again to earn a place in the Leinster semi-final.

  1. June 11th, 2013

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