Wexford make Dublin work as Stephen Cluxton remains absent

Division Four side give champions their closest provincial match since 2013

Wexford’s Dáithí Waters challenges Ciarán Kilkenny of Dublin during their Leinster SFC quarter-final. Photo: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Wexford’s Dáithí Waters challenges Ciarán Kilkenny of Dublin during their Leinster SFC quarter-final. Photo: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 

Dublin 0-15 Wexford 0-7

So hands up who had this one down for the first goalless game of the 2021 championship? Don’t lie, now. Or that lowly Wexford, little old Division Four Wexford would give Dublin their closest provincial game since the 2013 Leinster final? Oh, come now. Nobody had a rashers.

Least of all Dublin, who trudged through a desperately unimpressive performance here. They were never in danger of losing obviously, but at no stage did they look like brushing Wexford aside with their customary ease. What it means in the long run is anybody’s guess. But on this display, they won’t jump every fence all the way to the end of August. They have Meath next up, in a fortnight’s time.

In all truth, we mostly came to Wexford in search of clarity on Stephen Cluxton as much as anything. We presumed the match would take care of itself but since it was Dessie Farrell’s first time in front of reporters since his suspension ended, the opportunity to find out what was really going on with the Dublin captain couldn’t be missed.

“The situation is very simple,” Farrell told us afterwards. “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.

“But he’s not retired, he has just stepped away. We’ve spoken about it as a group - I think given the service he has provided over the years, he deserves that respect and that time and space to make up his mind.”

Do you expect him back this year?

“I don’t know, is the honest answer. It’s not that we are trying to play games here in any way. He’s asked for time and I think he deserves the time. At the end of the day, the service he has given to the county has been immense. When a man asks to step away and take time out, I think a player like Stephen Cluxton deserves that and we all need to respect that.

“We’ve always operated on the basis that we have an open-door policy. That was the same for the last management team and it is the same for any team I manage. If there are players out there and they are willing to contribute, and they and we feel they have a contribution to make then the door is open for sure.”

Whatever about Cluxton, the rest of the Dubs certainly weren’t at it. They didn’t score at all for 15 minutes of the first half, a collector’s item in Leinster Championship terms. Three of their starting forwards were subbed off before the hour mark, Con O’Callaghan and Ciarán Kilkenny managed just a single point between them.

Almost as strange was the fact that although they kept Wexford scoreless for 40 minutes in the middle of the game, it wasn’t enough to completely put them away. When Wexford wing-forward Páraic Hughes landed a brilliant outside-of-the-boot effort on 48 minutes, it left just five between the teams.

Not that Wexford were ever likely to make that up but even so - it was enough keep them interested all the way through the closing 20 minutes. Plenty of teams with much loftier reputations haven’t been able to say that over the past decade.

Shane Roche’s side did themselves proud here. The Dublin players will have to cast their minds back a bit for the last time they were hit this hard in a Leinster match. Liam Coleman put in a thumping afternoon against James McCarthy in only his third championship match, Daithí Waters comfortably broke par against Brian Fenton. In defence, Gavin Sheehan kept tabs on Con O’Callaghan far more convincingly than sundry All Stars have ever managed.

For all that, Dublin were never worried about winning. They were 0-6 to 0-3 up at half-time and stretched their legs with more purpose after the restart. Cormac Costello was more focused with his frees in the second half and Dean Rock came off the bench for his first game of the year and nipped a point. But Wexford gave them plenty of it, much to the delight of manager Roche.

“I’m just delighted with the bunch, I couldn’t ask for any more. I asked them to die with their boots on. Great win last week but as the week went on, the more people said to us ‘go out there and you’ve nothing to lose’ and I was kinda saying to myself that I wanted more for this group.

“So we recovered early on in the week and then on Thursday night we questioned what are we about, how are we going to go about this, are we just going to be accepting of one championship win and two defeats in the National League or are we going to go out here and give it a rattle.

“We questioned them about the 24-point handicap that I think Dublin just saunter through every year. I asked hard questions of the group and we trained savage hard, I felt, on Thursday night and I felt, ‘Jaysus we are going to give these boys some rattle.’ And we did.”

Dublin: Evan Comerford; Mick Fitzsimons, Davy Byrne, Seán McMahon; James McCarthy, Brian Howard (0-2), Robbie McDaid ; Brian Fenton (0-2), Peadar Ó Coifigh Byrne; Paddy Small, Ciarán Kilkenny (0-1), Niall Scully; Ryan Basquel, Con O’Callaghan, Cormac Costello (0-7, 0-5 frees).

Subs: Tom Lahiff (0-1) for McDaid, 34 mins; Sean Bugler for R Basquel, half-time; Colm Basquel (0-1) for Scully, 53 mins; Aaron Byrne for Small, 57 mins; Dean Rock (0-1) for Byrne, 66 mins.

Wexford: Darragh Brooks; Liam O’Connor, Gavin Sheehan, Eoin Porter; Brian Malone, Martin O’Connor, Michael Furlong; Daithí Waters, Liam Coleman; Paraic Hughes (0-1), Tom Byrne, Kevin O’Grady; Mark Rossiter (0-3, 0-2 frees), John Tubritt (0-1), Niall Hughes.

Subs: Sean Nolan for Tubritt, 42 mins; Alan Tobin for Waters, 58 mins; Donal Shanley (0-2, 0-1 free) for Hughes, 62 mins; Robbie Brooks for Rossiter, 62 mins; Conor Carthy for O’Grady, 67 mins.

Referee: Derek O’Mahoney (Tipperary).

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.