Late points sink the Dubs
Team continues to develop with hard-earned success
A test at the third time of asking for Wexford, passed with a late burst that saw the hosts past Dublin in Hollymount on Thursday and into the Bord na Móna Walsh Cup semi-finals opposite Kilkenny.
Wexford 1-17 Dublin 0-17
As much as it's nice to get comfortable wins under the belt in the early games, a couple of tricky ties against strong opponents was just what Davy ordered before the National League campaign begins against Limerick on February 12.
Dublin came to play. They were bright, young and eager to stake their own claims for starting berths, with the challenge to stay in Division 1 staring them in the face. However, Wexford wanted this one a little more.
It was evident from early on. The brisk pace with which Wexford played, the style of hurling, the bright new ideas - it was all there for a sizeable crowd to see in the home of the extremely well-prepared and organised Shelmaliers club.
Dublin were probably lucky to be only five points down at the break. It was clear that Wexford intended to put down an early marker and they were able to do that with their two-man full-forward line, supported by an in-form Conor McDonald on the right wing.
You know what you get from Lee Chin at this stage, but boss Davy Fitzgerald must have been impressed by the first-half performance of the two named midfielders, Shaun Murphy and Barry Carton.
Cloughbawn man Carton was arguably the most impressive performer of the opening 35 minutes, popping up everywhere with assists and eventually bagging the point his performance deserved.
He was involved right from the first minute, feeding McDonald for a superbly-taken opening score. After Domhnaill Fox levelled for the Metropolitans, Gorey hot-shot McDonald provided the second Wexford score, registered by Lee Chin on the right of the sticks.
Shaun Murphy got involved in McDonald's second point, another crisp strike which made it 0-3 to 0-1 after seven minutes. Against a slight breeze, Dublin took their chances in the opening quarter with minors from Caolán Conway and Niall McMorrow levelling the scores.
There were several fantastic scores before the end of the opening quarter. In fact, the game was absolutely superb in that spell with 17 of the 35 total scores coming in the first 21 minutes. Paul Morris nailed his opener from tight on the left from another Carton assist.
McMorrow took just seconds to hit back with his second of the evening. Podge Doran might not win every ball played his way but he is an absolute handful, and the Oylegate-Glenbrien clubman opened his account with an eleventh minute raised white flag.
An excellent team score finished by Fox made it 0-5 each, but it was the last time the visitors were level until Fergal Whitely pointed in the 57th minute. Wexford quickly breezed into a lead.
Carton and David Redmond worked the ball down the right for McDonald to notch his third, Lee Chin nailed a booming long-range free, and Morris, enjoying his role inside, tapped over to increase the lead to 0-8 to 0-5.
Any good purple patch is emphasised with a goal and it duly arrived in the 17th minute. Diarmuid O'Keeffe started the move, feeding the ball down the right to Morris. The Ferns St. Aidan's clubman sent a frozen rope across to the field to Doran and he bludgeoned the sliothar past Conor Dooley.
Quick scores from Chris Bennett and Conway broke the run but McDonald soon registered his fourth - a move that started with goalkeeper Mark Fanning, flowed through Matthew O'Hanlon and Morris, and ended with the clinical finish.
A purring Morris fed Diarmuid O'Keeffe but the St. Anne's man saw his effort rattle the post with Dooley stationary. Then scores started to dry up. Chris Crummey grabbed the first of three but a Chin free and Carton's deserved point gave Wexford a six-point lead.
Still, the score of the half, and probably one of the best of the season, came just before the interval whistle. Niall McMorrow did plenty of work to get himself from midfield to the edge of the '45, but his flick up and swing, one-handed, to point was majestic.
A 1-11 to 0-9 lead looked pretty good for Wexford but it got even better when Podge Doran added a point in the 40th minute. Eighteen minutes, and six Dublin scores, later, Wexford finally troubled the scoreboard again.
In between the boys in blue dominated. Two of the six points came from the stick of Crummey, three came from dead-balls and the last, the score that made it 1-12 to 0-15, was struck by substitute Whitely. Wexford wafted three wides in that spell.
Yet there was no panic. No dropping of heads, no hint of despondency. Morris tapped over after Podge Doran had a powerful effort exquisitely blocked by Shane Barrett. A Donal Burke point tied the game for the sixth time in the 61st minute.
After McDonald's fifth point eased Wexford 1-14 to 0-16 in front, Dublin came right back and almost netted. Ben Quinn got Alex Quinn in on the left of goal but his fizzed shot flashed high into the side-netting. They did equalise through Burke in the 67th minute.
Parity merely lasted seconds. Richie Kehoe won the ball on the right side of the half-back line and sent over a booming effort that flew over the bar with a couple of feet to spare. His clubman Chin took advantage of Dublin over-carrying in midfield and notched his fourth two minutes from time.
All Star nominee Chin also had the final say, putting the seal on an excellent early season victory. He registered again in the first minute of added-time after good inter-play between Kehoe and McDonald picked him out in space.
Overall, there was plenty to encourage the Wexford faithful, even at this stage. The prize of an early season meeting with Kilkenny is sure to encourage a big crowd to next Sunday's semi-final, with a potential decider scheduled for the following weekend.
Wexford: Mark Fanning; Willie Devereux, Liam Ryan, James Breen; Simon Donohoe, Matthew O'Hanlon (joint capt.), Diarmuid O'Keeffe; Shaun Murphy, Barry Carton (0-1); Conor McDonald (0-5), David Redmond, Damien Reck; Lee Chin (joint capt., 0-5, 3 frees), Podge Doran (1-2), Paul Morris (0-3). Subs. - Eanna Martin for Reck, inj. (35+1), Richie Kehoe (0-1) for Devereux (49), Aidan Nolan for Carton (54), Cathal Dunbar for Redmond (54), Kevin Foley for Morris (64), Harry Kehoe for Doran (70+1).
Dublin: Conor Dooley; Patrick Smyth, Shane Barrett, Conor Robinson; Chris Crummey (0-3), Liam Rushe, Seán McGrath; Ben Quinn, Caolán Conway (0-2); Domhnaill Fox (0-2, 1 free), Niall McMorrow (0-4, 1 free), Thomas Connolly; Alan Moore, Fionntán Mac Gib, Chris Bennett (0-1). Subs. - Canice Maher for Connolly (25), Ryan O'Dwyer (0-1 free) for Moore, inj. (28), Fergal Whitley for Fox, temp. (39-56), Alex Quinn for Bennett (40), Donal Burke (0-3 frees) for Conway (49), Fergal Whitley (0-1) for McGrath (56).
Referee: Peter Burke (Kilkenny).