‘They may just have taken a break’ - Dublin return to winning ways

Brian Fenton excels in midfield as Con O’Callaghan hits 1-6 from play on return

Wexford’s Liam Coleman and Dublin’s Brian Fenton challenge for a high ball during the Leinster SFC quarter-final at Chadwick’s Wexford Park. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Wexford 0-4 Dublin 1-24


An old-style beat-down to pass a Saturday night for the travelling Dubs. A combination of a rare away day and a bank holiday weekend meant there wasn’t a hotel room to be found by the Slaney as early as the middle of last week. They got what they came for - a bloodless 37th win in a row in the Leinster championship.

Con O’Callaghan scores Dublin’s goal during the Leinster SFC quarter-final against Wexford at Chadwick’s Wexford Park. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

For all that, nobody came away from here declaring rumours of the Dubs’ demise to have been exaggerated. Wexford finished sixth in Division Four and they were facing Dessie Farrell’s side six days after beating Offaly. Plus, Dublin owed them for thoroughly rattling their cage in this fixture last summer. Anything less than a damn good thrashing would have people talking again.


Not that they won’t anyway. This doesn’t wipe the relegation slate clean and it won’t strike fear into the hearts of the rest of the field - not the same sort of fear it used to at any rate. This was a settling par after a run of bad bogeys. Something to build on, nothing more.

“Our league campaign and our form during the league was very, very poor,” said Farrell afterwards. “It was a pretty humbling experience for all involved and it was a time for reflection over the intervening weeks. We sat down and just assessed where we were at and what we wanted to achieve for the rest of the season.

“It’s well documented at this stage that there’s definitely been a transition within the group but the core of the group is very talented and experienced and a special bunch of individuals. There’s obviously a question around motivation. How long can lads keep going to the well?

“I think it’s only natural and reasonable that players who have been at the top for so long, there may be a dip in motivation and from time to time. So that was looked at and I think tonight the players applied themselves really, really well. We won’t be carried away with ourselves. It’s the first round of the Leinster championship and there’s much bigger tests to come.”

Dublin never had to get serious about their work. Brian Fenton waltzed through his evening, swishing points off his left and right, lording the skies around the middle and generally doing as he pleased. Con O'Callaghan became the 50th player Farrell has used in 2022 and helped himself to 1-6 from play - and if anything he probably went back on the bus annoyed that it wasn't more like 6-1.

The choice of David O'Hanlon between the sticks meant that Dublin were fielding their third championship goalkeeper in the space of 18 months. Aside from the occasional Evan Comerford fill-in, three goalkeepers covered the previous 40 seasons of championship. Farrell confirmed that Comerford will be back the next day but even so, this is still a time of flux on plenty of fronts.


In truth, they could have put Bosco in goal here. Wexford were kept to 12 shots in the whole game, from which they mined just four points. Hanlon had to take just nine kick-outs all night, all of which he chipped short to his full-back line. He had one slight scare on the hour mark when a long free from Kevin O’Grady deflected off Seán McMahon, forcing O’Hanlon into a sprawling save. But otherwise, he’ll have had more taxing yoga sessions.

For all that, Dublin took a while to get into their stride. Dean Rock struck the first of the evening after nine minutes, finding room after O’Callaghan pierced the cover. Fenton got his day underway soon after, lurking 40 metres out and arcing his first of the night when nobody came out to inconvenience him.

And so the general theme for the first half was set. Wexford tried manfully to get up the pitch, diligently running off shoulders and looking to inject pace, only to be met by a wall of Dublin bodies who invariably turned them over. Dublin broke that bit quicker, were that bit surer with their handling and found their scoring pockets more readily.

Fenton, most of all. When the game was still a game, it was the princely midfielder who did most to win it. He had four points on the board before the break, all of them pretty similar except he swapped feet here and there to kick them. John Small cracked the Wexford crossbar with their first goal chance on 24 minutes, O'Callaghan did the same four minutes later. With Rock patiently coming on the loop to gather up a couple of points of his own, Dublin pushed in into a 0-10 to 0-1 half-time lead.

Nobody seriously imagined that the night had any twists in it. And so it proved. O’Callaghan came out after the restart and proceeded to lay waste to the Wexford full-back line. Three minutes in, he palmed home the only goal of the night after Rock rattled the Wexford crossbar for the third time. He filled his boots with three rapid fire points soon after, easing the Dubs an ocean clear.

"Look, right from the word go they were very much on it," said Wexford manager Shane Roche afterwards. "You could hear them communicating with each other, you could hear probably things that lacked last year were there. Everything was done quickly, everything was done efficiently, shot selection was on point.

“They got the ball to the best man on the field, their shot efficiency was very high and they punished everything which just shows they haven’t gone away. They may just have taken a break.”

We’ll see.

WEXFORD: Darragh Brooks; Liam O'Connor, Eoin Porter, Martin O'Connor; Páidí Hughes (0-1), Glen Malone, Dylan Furlong; Niall Hughes (0-1, mark), Liam Coleman; Alan Tobin, Donal Shanley, Kevin O'Grady; Mark Rossiter, Eoghan Nolan (0-1), Ben Brosnan (0-1).

Subs: Tom Byrne for Shanley (42 mins); Robbie Brooks for Rossiter (46); Michael Furlong for Tobin (60); John Turbitt for Brosnan (69); Seán Ryan for Nolan (69).

DUBLIN: David O'Hanlon; Eoin Murchan, Mick Fitzsimons, Lee Gannon; Robbie McDaid, Jonny Cooper, John Small (0-1); Brian Fenton (0-5), Tom Lahiff (0-1); Seán Bugler, Brian Howard (0-2), Ciarán Kilkenny (0-1); Cormac Costello (0-2), Con O'Callaghan (1-6), Dean Rock (0-5, one 45, one mark).

Subs: James McCarthy for McDaid, Niall Scully for Bugler (both 49 mins); Seán McMahon for Murchan (54); Aaron Byrne for Costello (55); Lorcan O'Dell (0-1) for J Small (62).

Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry).