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Monday 14 October 2019

Depleted Dubs in full control

Electric Ireland Leinster Minor Football Championship Group 2: Dublin 3-12 Wexford 1-10

Rory O’Connor sizing up his options as Dublin’s Senan Forker awaits his next move
Rory O’Connor sizing up his options as Dublin’s Senan Forker awaits his next move

Alan Aherne

Playing with an extra man for more than three-quarters of the game didn't provide the expected boost in Bellefield on Wednesday when the Wexford Minor footballers were comfortably defeated by a vastly superior Dublin side in their second Electric Ireland Leinster championship Group 2 encounter.

The visitors were already ahead by 0-3 to nil when linesman David Hickey drew the attention of referee Kieran Harris to an off-the-ball incident on the pavilion side of the field in the twelfth minute.

Wexford's Paddy Darcy was shown a yellow card but, after the wing-back returned to his position, the man in the middle issued a straight red to Dublin's Ryan O'Dwyer.

Despite that setback, the city slickers retained control for the most part and were full value for their eight-point win, with any lingering hope of a revival from the home side wiped out when they conceded two goals in the opening four minutes of the second-half.

Dublin had been ahead at the break by 1-7 to 0-3, and they were never going to be caught when the margin rose to 3-7 to 0-4, even though they were playing into the wind.

The winners were a lot more composed on the ball and were particularly dangerous on the break, while it was frustrating to watch the marked difference between the sides from their own kick-outs. Not alone did Dublin players dart left and right to offer plentiful options for netminder Hugh O'Sullivan in spite of being a player short, they also won more than their fair share of the Wexford re-starts.

The team showed two changes in personnel from the narrow loss to Offaly at the same venue, with Jason Murphy and Liam Crowley replaced by Paul Deeny and Tomás Barron respectively.

Dublin had first use of the elements and took a lead they never relinquished when the accurate Fionn Murray converted his opening free via the ground in the third minute.

A mark by Ryan O'Dwyer saw the early leaders regain possession from the kick-out, and that move ended with a foul on the diminutive but deadly Robbie Bolger and another successful kick from Murray.

Wexford captain Jack O'Leary's first placed ball went wide via the left post before Dublin's Dara Fagan struck the woodwork after a flowing move featuring Robbie Bolger and Luke Swan.

Swan won back possession seconds later and fed Bolger to make it 0-3 to nil, but there was an unexpected twist to proceedings when the Dubs were reduced to 14 with three minutes of the opening quarter still to be played.

Wexford couldn't capitalise initially though, with a point-scoring attempt by Ciarán Regan fisted clear before Fionn Murray missed a scoreable free at the other end.

However, David O'Dowd won the kick-out that followed and fed Dara Fagan to widen the gap to four, while a short free by Murray led to Robbie Bolger adding another point.

The handling of Dublin netminder Hugh O'Sullivan was first rate, apart from one major second-half error, and his shot-stopping was also highlighted when he kept out an effort from Liam Doyle in the 20th minute.

Still, that good chance spurred Wexford on, and they enjoyed their only really bright spell over the next seven minutes when they picked off three points on the bounce.

Jack O'Leary finally opened their account from a free after a foul on Paddy Darcy, and their second score arrived in exactly the same manner before Leigh Whelan made it 0-5 to 0-3 after another placed ball from the captain was knocked into his path by a Dublin player.

The boys in blue had briefly threatened a goal after the first Wexford point when Dara Fagan found Robbie Bolger with a pass on the ground, but he missed the pick-up and the chance was gone.

However, just when it looked like Wexford might have a manageable half-time deficit to deal with, and wind advantage still to be enjoyed, Dublin hit them with a hammer blow in the 28th minute.

It came in the form of a brilliant solo goal by Bolger, who jinked his way past a few attempted tackles before applying an ice-cool finish, and it was followed by points from Fionn Murray (free) and a beauty from the boot of Seán Kinsella to leave Wexford trailing by 1-7 to 0-3 at half-time.

It was effectively game over just one minute into the second period after Dara Fagan picked out Murray for the second Dublin goal.

And even though Jack O'Leary pointed from a '45, Wexford's race was well and truly run when Murray pounced again in the 34th minute, widening the gap to 3-7 to 0-4 after a clever Seamus Darby-style nudge by Robbie Bolger started an attack that featured the final pass from Senan Forker.

Trailing by twelve points, even with an extra player, summed up the problems facing Wexford, but they did try their best to rally and at least improve their scoring difference before the last group game against Meath in Navan on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Substitutes Joe Curtis and Ryan Connolly boosted the cause with their direct running, and both picked off points before another replacement, Liam Crowley, set up Leigh Whelan to make it 3-7 to 0-7 in the 40th minute.

Murray converted another Dublin free before the victors' sole defensive error of the evening led to Wexford's goal, with Conor Archer's back pass putting netminder Hugh O'Sullivan under pressure.

He seemed to have regained composure, only to see an ill-advised handpass across his own square intercepted by Curtis who buried the ball in the net (3-8 to 1-7).

The goal gave Wexford a timely boost, but it didn't have any major bearing on the outcome in the long run as Dublin were largely untroubled for the remainder of the game and actually outscored their rivals by 0-4 to 0-3.

Jack O'Leary blazed a quickly-taken free left and wide before Murray tapped over for the leaders after Wexford netminder Tommy Kennedy was booked for a foul on Dara Fagan.

The goalkeeper saved well with his feet from the latter, and another O'Leary free was off target before Rory O'Connor pointed from a Paul Deeny pass (3-9 to 1-8).

Murray (free) and Robbie Bolger left Dublin nine points clear, with O'Leary responding from play before substitute Luke Curran closed the winners' scoring.

Leigh Whelan converted one late free and missed another as Wexford's wide count rose to six, with Dublin ending with five.

The teams go into Wednesday's last round with Dublin on four points, Meath and Offaly on two, and Wexford bringing up the rear as they seek a first win that could still leave them in with a chance of sneaking a quarter-final spot depending on the other result plus scoring difference.

However, on the balance of probabilities, and based on their performances to date, it's going to be a very tall order to beat the reigning provincial champions - who are also in need of a victory - on their own patch.

Readers with long memories may recall that when Wexford last defeated Dublin in Minor football, by 1-8 to 0-3 in Wexford Park in 1992, it came after the visitors had wing-back Declan Monaghan dismissed in the 23rd minute.

And although history repeated itself in one sense with that even earlier sending-off last week, that's where the similarities ended.

Wexford: Tommy Kennedy (Ballyhogue); Leigh Newport (Our Lady's Island), Brian Cushe (Naomh Eanna), Eamonn Doyle (Ballyhogue); Leigh Whelan (Ballyhogue, 0-3, 1 free), Jason Bolger (Kilanerin), Paddy Darcy (Kilanerin); Paul Deeny (Volunteers), Tom Kavanagh (Castletown); Shane Kehoe (Cloughbawn), Rory O'Connor (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown, 0-1), Tomás Barron (St. James'); Liam Doyle (Ballyhogue), Jack O'Leary (St. Fintan's, capt., 0-4, 2 frees, 1 '45), Ciarán Regan (HWH-Bunclody). Subs. - Joe Curtis (Kilanerin, 1-1) for Barron (27), Ryan Connolly (Naomh Eanna, 0-1) for Bolger (30+3), Liam Crowley (St. Fintan's) for Kehoe (38), Oisín Waters (St. Martin's) for Deeny (60+1), also Rory Tubritt (Naomh Eanna), Jason Murphy (Horeswood), Eoin Foley (Volunteers), Tiarnan Malone (Shelmaliers), Aodhán Byrne (Shelmaliers).

Dublin: Hugh O'Sullivan; Conor Tyrell, Ben Millist, Jack Lundy (capt.); Alex Watson, David O'Dowd, Conor Archer; Harry Colclough, Senan Forker; Ryan O'Dwyer, Seán Kinsella (0-1), Fionn Murray (2-6, 0-6 frees); Dara Fagan (0-1), Luke Swan, Robbie Bolger (1-3). Subs. - Eoin Gannon for Archer (HT), Luke Murphy-Guinane for Colclough (44), Ben Harding for Lundy (50), Liam Fenton for Kinsella (53), Kieran Conroy for Watson (55), Luke Curran (0-1) for Fagan.

Referee: Kieran Harris (Kildare).

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