Dublin’s ‘tight’ win over Wexford highlights team’s injuries and retirements

Farrell’s first task in the post-match media conference was to handle questions about absent keeper Cluxton

Dublin keeper Stephen Cluxton. “The situation is very simple, Stephen isn’t with us at the moment”

Dublin keeper Stephen Cluxton. “The situation is very simple, Stephen isn’t with us at the moment”

 

Dublin’s surprisingly tight win over Wexford on Sunday, 0-15 to 0-7, was their narrowest victory since defeating Meath in the 2013 Leinster football final. It was their first Leinster championship visit to Chadwick’s Wexford Park since 1993 when current manager Dessie Farrell was playing and the then Leinster champions escaped with a four-point win, 0-11 to 0-7.

Farrell’s first item on the agenda in the post-match media conference was to handle questions about absent keeper Stephen Cluxton.

“The situation is very simple, Stephen isn’t with us at the moment. He’s gone back to his club. He’s just taking time to heal the body, maybe to regenerate the appetite. I don’t know, to be honest, whether Stephen will be back or not.”

However, the view within the county is that he will not be back, and although the management don’t want to be seen to close the door on him they aren’t expecting him to return this season, which at this stage has only seven weeks to run.

The poor performance comes at a stage when the absence of players either through injury, retirement or general non-availability is beginning to bite.

Jack McCaffrey departed last year at 27 and his contemporary Paul Mannion followed suit last January. McCaffrey’s replacement in last year’s championship, Robbie McDaid, is feared to be possibly out for the season after a shoulder injury on Sunday, although the scans were still being completed on Monday.

Add to that the hamstring injury sustained by John Small in the league fixture against Kerry, which still isn’t right, and Sunday’s absence, also with injury, of All Star Eoin Murchan – not thought to be serious – and the defence is under pressure.

Veterans

This year’s retirements have included veterans of the breakthrough 2011 All-Ireland win, Michael Darragh Macauley and Cian O’Sullivan. Kevin McManamon, who scored the decisive goal that day, is believed to be going to the Olympics as a performance coach with the Irish boxers and isn’t expected to play any part in the championship.

The big challenge is not just coping with the departure of one of football’s most influential players as an on-field impact but the loss of experience and leadership in the dressing-room in Cluxton’s absence but also in that of the other players who have stepped down.

Such performances as Sunday’s happen from time to time, but Wexford played man-on-man and not behind a defensive system. Yet they kept Con O’Callaghan scoreless in the championship for the first time in three years – and only the fourth time since he made his debut in 2017.

A big response is expected – and needed – in the Leinster semi-final against Meath. Just seven months ago, in last year’s provincial final, the same opponents came in with high hopes of being competitive after a tight league match in Parnell Park just weeks previously.

They were beaten by 20 points, but at the weekend Meath walloped Longford, scoring four goals in the process, and will approach the Dublin match with higher hopes than seemed likely just after they lost the Division Two promotion play-off to Kildare a couple of weeks ago.

Public sale

Meanwhile, tickets for Saturday’s Leinster hurling semi-finals had to be placed on public sale after the four competing counties, Dublin, Galway, Kilkenny and Wexford, failed to distribute their allocations. One of the problems is believed to have been the “pod” system, which sees some of the tickets sold in blocks of five to facilitate families or domestic groupings and it proved difficult to find groups of people to take up these allocations.

Finally, Mike Quirke has stepped down as manager of the Laois footballers. The former Kerry All-Ireland winner has completed two seasons in charge during which the Covid pandemic has played havoc with the football seasons.

This year has been particularly disappointing with the county getting relegated from Division Two and on Sunday sustaining a 16-point drubbing by Westmeath finished their championship on the first day.

“The players have shown fantastic commitment towards representing their county in the best possible way under very challenging circumstances,” he said in a statement on Monday, “and despite not getting the performances or results we craved this season, they can be proud of the effort and application they have shown throughout,” the Tralee man said in a statement.

“I’ve made my decision at this stage to allow the county board ample time to find new management in advance of county championship action resuming in the coming weeks and months.”

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