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Monday 11 December 2017

Dubs deliver crushing blow

Dublin 0-20 Wexford 1-14

Alan Aherne

Wexford full-forward Jack Cullen grabs the ball and puts pressure on Dublin's Ben McHugh
Wexford full-forward Jack Cullen grabs the ball and puts pressure on Dublin's Ben McHugh
Charlie McGuckin on the ball for Wexford during Saturday's defeat
Leading scorer Ross Banville taking on Dublin's Thomas Glynn

Wexford's quest to leave a lasting impression on the final Electric Ireland Leinster Minor hurling championship never really got off the ground in Parnell Park on Saturday when Dublin dominated this penultimate round clash but still only found themselves three points clear at the finish

Next year the Under-18 grade will be no more after a fruitful existence since 1928, as it will be replaced by Under-17.

It meant that this outing turned into Wexford's last-ever in the competition, and it certainly won't be remembered with any degree of satisfaction.

The team did rally in the last twelve minutes plus four of added time, holding a previously rampant Dublin scoreless while pulling back five points themselves.

It meant that Wexford actually still had a chance of securing extra-time, but they needed a goal to do it, and the only likely source of that was big full-forward Jack Cullen.

A defender in last year's campaign, and wearing number 7 on the programme, the Gorey lad had missed the previous two games with a hamstring injury but was placed on the edge of the square for this outing.

He ended up as one of just two Wexford scorers on a dismal afternoon, and a buzz of excitement was heard one minute into added time when he gathered the ball and turned some distance from goal, only to be dispossessed.

Cullen was the target again just over 60 seconds later when Michael Codd sent in a line ball from the right, but unfortunately it was too long and went out for the sixth of the losers' seven wides.

One last chance presented itself when Dublin man of the match Seán Currie was penalised on the left sideline and Ross Banville was directed to lob the ball into the danger zone. It got a touch off a Wexford stick but veered wide, and the full-time whistle sounded on the puck-out.

Only for Banville and his superb accuracy from placed balls, Wexford wouldn't have been nearly as close on the scoreboard as they were outclassed in general play.

Twelve of his 13 points came from frees, and he only hit one wide - from long range in the first-half - before that last effort when he wasn't aiming for a score.

In fact, he was the sole Wexford marksman until the 42nd minute when Jack Cullen goaled, having contributed nine points by that stage.

Just one of those came from play, in the 25th minute after Banville - re-positioned at right half-forward - latched on to the break from a James Henebery puck-out.

The fact that Banville and Cullen were the only two scorers, and that everything bar 1-2 came from frees, is a sad indictment of this performance.

Don't let the scoreline fool you; any Wexford person in Parnell Park who reckoned that the three-point gap was a fair reflection is living in cloud cuckoo land. Dublin were superior in every facet of the game, and it really looked like young men against innocent boys.

The winners were slicker on the ball, sharper in the 50-50 battles, and had a vastly superior first touch. It was most disheartening to see so many Wexford players fumbling their initial attempt to gather possession, losing valuable seconds in the process.

Truth be told, the display was far from a ringing endorsement for the coaching they have been subjected to over the past number of months.

Leading by 0-10 to 0-6 at half-time, Dublin had surged 16-9 clear and were coasting before Jack Cullen handed Wexford a lifeline in the 42nd minute.

Route one ball into the targetman seemed to be the only way the visitors would unlock a defence where Luke Walsh reigned supreme in the pocket as a free man, accepting handpasses at will and constantly clearing his lines.

Sam Wall, if fully fit, had been a very strange omission from the starting line-up in my view, and it was no surprise that he had an immediate impact after coming on in the 40th minute.

His delivery was perfect for Cullen who grabbed it, turned and drilled a low shot into the corner of the net to narrow the margin to four points.

However, Wexford couldn't build on that tonic in the immediate aftermath, with Charlie McGuckin firing a point attempt wide from a good position when Jack Devereux fed him after a midfield free from Ross Banville rebounded off the crossbar.

Dublin's Mark Grogan caught the resultant puck-out and fired over off his left side for a superb score, and three more points followed in the next five minutes from the rampant Seán Currie (free and play) and David Keogh (0-20 to 1-9).

That should have been that as far as the outcome was concerned, but at least Wexford gave the Dubs something to think about in the closing stages which ought to teach them a valuable lesson ahead of the Leinster final against Kilkenny and the All-Ireland series.

Substitute Jason Byrne should have well and truly wrapped up the win after shaking off Eoin Molloy from a David Keogh delivery, only to shoot at James Henebery. The ball went out for a '65 that Currie sent wide, and a quick trio of pointed Ross Banville frees - the latter duo after fouls on Jack Devereux - reduced arrears to 0-20 to 1-12 by the 58th minute.

Sam Wall was again the provider when Jack Cullen picked off what was only the third Wexford score from play, and Banville registered again after Dublin's short puck-out went wrong when corner-back Thomas Glynn needlessly conceded a free for over-carrying.

That led to those few anxious moments for the home side in added time, but it would have been a travesty if they hadn't emerged from this game as victors.

Wexford were hanging in there by the end of the first quarter, only 0-7 to 0-5 in arrears, but relying completely on Ross Banville's free-taking skills.

In contrast, Dublin had picked off four of their points from play, with the lively Liam Murphy a regular target in the right corner for nicely-weighted deliveries. He contributed to that tally along with Diarmaid O Floinn, but the main man without question was Seán Currie - a survivor from last year who is also well known to keen observers of under-age hurling though his exploits on the schools scene.

A real ball of energy, he zipped around the Dublin forward division and proved impossible to mark, ending the game with five of his twelve points coming from play.

Jack Cullen snatched at the first ball that he got in his hand in the 13th minute, firing his point attempt to the left and wide.

And although Dublin picked off three of the four points scored in the second quarter, Wexford were fortunate that their shooting wasn't always up to scratch, chalking up eight of their eleven wides before the break.

Wholesale positional changes were made, including Gavin Sheehan moving out to centre-back and Jack Cullen finishing the half on the left wing after a swap with Seán Nolan.

Nothing seemed to work, although Nolan did have a goal chance blocked by a defender just before the break when a Jack Devereux point attempt came back off the post.

Cullen was back on the edge of the square for the second-half, but the mentors' decision not to bring on any substitutes seemed completely at odds with the way the game was unfolding.

And though Ross Banville knocked over three more frees in the first ten minutes, Dublin were menacing on every attack and had eased 16-9 clear before Cullen's goal thanks to points from Seán Currie (play and two frees), Diarmaid O Floinn and Liam Murphy (two).

Somebody seeing this final score in a history book many years from now might form the opinion that this was a close contest, but the reality was a lot different, make no mistake about it.

Wexford: James Henebery (Faythe Harriers); Conor Scallan (Ferns St. Aidan's), Gavin Sheehan (Gusserane), Cathal O'Connor (Rathnure); Michael Codd (St. Martin's), Eoin Molloy (Naomh Eanna), Jamie Myler (St. James'); Kyle Firman (St. Martin's), Eoin O'Leary (St. Martin's, capt.); Charlie McGuckin (Naomh Eanna), Diarmuid Doyle (Marshalstown-Castledockrell), Seán Nolan (Horeswood); Jack Devereux (St. Martin's), Jack Cullen (Naomh Eanna, 1-1), Ross Banville (Shelmaliers, 0-13, 12 frees). Subs. - Sam Wall (Gusserane) for Firman (40), Tom White (Oylegate-Glenbrien) for Doyle (40), Eddie Dunbar (HWH-Bunclody) for McGuckin (48), also James Lawlor (Ferns St. Aidan's), Mike Kelly (Oylegate-Glenbrien), Ricky McGrath (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown), Jack Brazzill (Glynn-Barntown), Eoin Murphy (Ferns St. Aidan's), Ger Dempsey (Glynn-Barntown).

Dublin: Conor O'Donoghue; Thomas Glynn, Ben McHugh, Andrew Dunphy; Eoghan O'Neill, Luke Walsh, Lee Gannon; Ben Coffey, David Keogh (capt., 0-1); Mark Grogan (0-1), Emmet Allen, Diarmaid O Floinn (0-2); Liam Murphy (0-4), Seán Currie (0-12, 7 frees), Kevin Desmond. Subs. - Brian Smith for Dunphy, temp. (8-11), Jason Byrne for Desmond (HT), Micheál Murphy for O Floinn (49), Seán Lambe for Allen (51), Enda O'Donnell for Keogh (60+3).

Referee: Michael Murtagh (Westmeath).

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