Early promise fades as Wexford bow out
GAA Eirgrid Leinster U-20 Football Championship Round Three: Dublin 1-15 Wexford 0-11
First-half promise faded rapidly at Innovate Wexford Park on Saturday when the county Under-20 footballers departed from the inaugural Eirgrid Leinster championship after their second loss in three games.
Dublin preserved their one hundred per cent Group 1 record by comfortably outscoring the home side by 1-10 to 0-3 when wind assisted in the second-half, and that ensured a pre-knockout exit for Wexford who needed a victory themselves and a favourable outcome elsewhere to stay in the hunt.
With Westmeath beating Longford by 1-16 to 1-10 at the same time, it meant that scoring difference would have applied if the young Slaneysiders had triumphed and forced a three-way tie on four points apiece.
As it transpired though, calculators weren't required as the Dubs advanced straight to the last four on six points, while Westmeath's haul of four granted them a quarter-final berth.
While there was justifiable anger and frustration over Wexford being denied the services of Senior-tied trio Eoin Porter, Barry O'Connor and Martin O'Connor, in hindsight the big regret will be the very slow start in Mullingar in round one when the visitors fought back from a 1-10 to 1-2 interval deficit but ultimately came up short by 2-12 to 1-12.
As well as those three big guns, the losers were without injured duo Peter Barry and Sam Wall, plus Luke Sinnott who had featured in the previous two rounds.
They did quite well though after captain Darragh Lyons won the toss and opted to avail of the wind first, even if their half-time lead of 0-8 to 0-5 didn't look sufficient.
And there was no denying the stand-out moment of that opening period, as it was provided by very promising goalkeeper Ivan Meegan in the 27th minute.
Not alone did he get on the scoresheet for the third game running, but he was also the leading marksman overall for the losers with four points.
And, to the best of my knowledge, I think he became the first Wexford netminder ever to score from play in any code when he played a one-two with a defender close to his own goal leading up to half-time before embarking on a long solo down the middle of the field.
As he approached the 45-metre line at the town end, he wrong-footed the nearest Dublin challenger before taking aim with that accurate left foot of his and planted a sublime point that energised the small crowd.
That brilliant piece of individual flair pushed Wexford clear by 0-8 to 0-4, with a James Doran free leaving Dublin one goal in arrears at half-time.
Midfielder Richie Waters had kicked the first two points, both created by Jamie Myler, in the fourth and tenth minutes, with Dan O'Brien and Cormac Howley on target for Dublin in between.
Kyle Firman converted from long range after Darragh Lyons broke the kick-out following the second score from Waters, before Ronan Devereux picked out Seán Nolan to make it 4-2 in the twelfth minute.
Ross McGarry pulled one back before Cathal Devereux kicked a fine brace of points off his left peg, and a booming free off the ground from just inside the 65-metre line by Ivan Meegan stretched the advantage to 7-3.
McGarry again responded for Dublin, and we were then treated to that Meegan magic from play before he drilled another free to the right of the posts for one of Wexford's six wides before the break.
The visitors didn't waste any time in pushing on with the wind in their favour on the re-start, and they were level by the 37th minute after points from captain Seán Bugler, a fine solo effort by wing-back Seán Farrelly, and a low shot by James Doran that clipped the heels of a colleague on its way over the bar.
Cormac Howley quickly gave them the lead for the first time, but there was some relief from the pressure in the 40th minute when Meegan converted a free after a foul on Richie Waters (0-9 each).
A Donal Ryan mark from the kick-out started a move that featured Seán Bugler and Ciarán Smith before Ross McGarry was pulled down by Meegan, but Dan O'Brien wasted the penalty by firing high and over the bar.
The miss offered hope to Wexford, although Meegan drove their sole second-half wide from a 50-metre free before a strong Dylan Furlong run ended with substitute John Dunne feeding Kyle Firman to kick the leveller (0-10 each).
Dublin didn't help themselves with a second-half wide count of nine, and 14 in all, but they pounced for the game's big score in the 47th minute after pushing up to force an error from a Wexford kick-out.
Dan O'Brien and James Doran combined before Ross McGarry palmed the ball to the net, and Wexford were outscored by 0-5 to 0-1 from that stage onwards.
Lively substitute Tom Keane pointed three times in eight minutes before Meegan kicked what amounted to a consolation from a free.
And he showed his shot-stopping capabilities in added time, making two excellent saves from Ciarán Archer and Keane to keep the Dubs' winning margin down as Keane and Doran added late points.
A speculative effort from Jamie Myler was comfortably saved by David O'Hanlon at the death and, with just one point scored from play in the second-half, Wexford's early promise didn't last the course to the frustration of their hard-working young backroom team.
Wexford: Ivan Meegan (Ferns St. Aidan's, 0-4, 3 frees); David O'Keeffe (Taghmon-Camross), Mark O'Neill (Gusserane), Frank Roche (Castletown); Dylan Furlong (Sarsfields), Ronan Devereux (Crossabeg-Ballymurn), Gavin Sheehan (Gusserane); Darragh Lyons (St. James', capt.), Richie Waters (Fethard, 0-2); Kyle Firman (St. Martin's, 0-2), Mikie Dwyer (Fethard), Robbie Brooks (Castletown); Cathal Devereux (Our Lady's Island, 0-2), Jamie Myler (Horeswood), Seán Nolan (Horeswood, 0-1). Subs. - Quinn Saunders (Our Lady's Island) for Brooks, temp. (24-28), Saunders for O'Keeffe (45), John Dunne (HWH-Bunclody) for Brooks (45), Cathal Walsh (Monageer-Boolavogue) for Nolan (55), Jack O'Leary (Volunteers) for Dwyer (59), Paddy Dunbar (HWH-Bunclody) for Roche (60+3), Jamie Thomas (St. Mary's, Maudlintown) for C. Devereux (60+3), also Ian Hawkins (Monageer-Boolavogue), Gavin Watchorn (Duffry Rovers), Shane Halpin (Castletown).
Dublin: David O'Hanlon; Nathan Doran, Ciarán Smith, Michael Mullin; Seán Farrelly (0-1), Neil Matthews, Eoin O'Dea; Donal Ryan, Eoghan Fitzpatrick; Cormac Howley (0-2), Karl Lynch-Bissett, Ross McGarry (1-2); James Doran (0-3, 1 free), Dan O'Brien (0-2, 1 pen.), Seán Bugler (capt., 0-1). Subs. - James Holland for Fitzpatrick (42), Tom Keane (0-4) for Howley (42), Ciarán Archer for O'Brien (52), Nathan Nolan for Farrelly (53), Rob Shaw for O'Dea (57), Daniel Brennan for Lynch-Bissett (59).
Referee: John Hickey (Carlow).