Wexford 0-22 Dublin 2-14
Excuse me while checking the photo finish. In another crazy sprint for the line Dublin appeared to dip too soon, and with that allow Wexford to snatch it. It was indeed mighty close.
Only in contrast to the late gate crashing by Kilkenny at Parnell Park last Sunday, Dublin were the ones mostly chasing it - and again their luck just ran out. Pat Gilroy must be wondering already what he’s done to deserve this.
Wexford though were deserving winners - injury-time points from the brilliant Rory O'Connor and substitute Harry Kehoe restoring the advantage they had held throughout the game, after Paul Ryan's goal and closing points from Danny Sutcliffe and then David Treacy briefly put Dublin in front.
Surrendering that lead in injury time will certainly haunt Gilroy, even if Dublin were partly to blame: their frequently overly-zealous tackling gave O’Connor the chance to equalise with a free as the clock spilled into injury time, before the 19 year-old defied his age and on-field position to fire over an outrageous winner, from deep inside his own half. Just to be sure Dublin didn’t dip again Harry Kehoe fired over another.
O'Connor finished with 0-12, 11 frees, and epitomises the undying spirit now infiltrated into the team by Davy Fitzgerald. Nine different players scored, Paudie Foley and Diarmuid O'Keeffe from long range, Lee Chin and Paul Morris from short, while Damien Reck and Liam Ryan were giving Dublin precious little to work off.
“Loved it, they loved it,” said Fitzgerald, relaying how his players stood up to Dublin’s challenge, especially the physical. “I knew what was coming, the Dubs have improved out of measure, but I just think we made it hard on ourselves. I honestly believe that we should have killed that game off, once or twice, and we let them back into it.
“The two goals were two errors we made. So, you give away two momentum swings like that, it’s very hard to turn it back. Normally the team that gets that momentum wins it. But in fairness to the lads, they weren’t giving up. There’s no doubt in my mind, Wexford were the better team today. We’re only a year and a half down here into this project, and you can see it - a lot of teams wouldn’t have come back the way they came back with two minutes to go, and they finished very strong. That’s the thing I loved, we didn’t drop the heads.”
Starting without the injured Conal Keaney, and Rushe not quite the same wrecking ball of a week ago, Dublin were mostly reliant on the free-taking of Ryan, Rian McBride's goal in the 13th minute coming against the grain, and Jack Malone their first to score from play after 32 minutes.
O’Connor was killing them softly with his frees, two just before the break giving Wexford a one-point advantage - which they pushed out to five after 15 minutes of the second half. By then Dublin were well off the pace, and alarm balls were clearly ringing on the sideline. Gilroy dropped in Cian Boland and then David Treacy and slowly they gave chase, before Ryan’s goal - after a rare lapse in Liam Ryan’s game - brought Dublin right back in touch entering the last 10 minutes.
“When you’re up, you’ve got to kill the game off, we didn’t,” added Fitzgerald, after what is Wexford’s first championship victory over Dublin in 10 years. Then a special word of praise for the young O’Connor: “In fairness, he got two fantastic scores in the end- can’t argue with that. But I think we have to look at the blocks and the tackles. I honestly thought that our tackling was immense, if you really look on it. Look at the one-to-one tackling, I thought we dispossessed them a load of times.
Indeed they did - but that’s not the only worry for Gilroy. The Dublin manager gets next Sunday off before hosting Offaly in what’s already looking like a relegation play-off to stay in the Liam MacCarthy for 2019. No surprise that Gilroy is not in agreement with that prospect.
“The games have been very close, it does not seem to make a lot of sense,” said Gilroy. This season is not just about making progress either.
“It’s about winning these two games. We didn’t win them so we are very disappointed. We expected to win the two games.. It is not progress as we did not win these two games. But I can’t fault their effort. There are a lot of things we are doing well, but when you’ve got winning opportunities, you’ve got to win.
“In fairness, Wexford were all over us, right throughout the game. We were working hard, but they were working that bit harder. But we did keep going, in fairness, the lads threw a lot at the last quarter, and when we got into the winning position, it’s very disappointing to come out the wrong side of it.
Admitting Dublin conceded too many frees, Gilroy had no complaints about the physicality of the game: “Yeah, we don’t seem to be getting too many, and we seem to be giving them away. But look it’s something we have to take on the chin. No question about it, we spoke about it during the week, and it came back to haunt us, lads knocking balls over from 90 yards, and you just can’t afford to be giving away the frees.
“We have two games left and we will be concentrating on each of them fully. By the time we play Galway, it could be wide open. We still have a chance to get into the play offs so we will be going hard.”
WEXFORD: 1 M Fanning; 2 D Reck, 3 L Ryan, 4 S Donohoe; 5 P Foley (0-2, one free), M O'Hanlon (joint-capt), 7 D O'Keeffe (0-1); 9 S Murphy, 8 K Foley (0-1); 11 A Nolan (0-1), 10 L Chin (joint-capt) (0-2), 12 J O'Connor (0-1); 13 P Morris (0-1), 15 C McDonald, 14 R O'Connor (0-12, 11 frees).
Subs: 23 H Kehoe (0-1) for McDonald (55 mins), 22 C Dunbar for Chin (61 mins).
DUBLIN: 1 A Nolan; 2 P Smyth (0-1), 3 C O'Carroll, 4 B O'Carroll; 7 C Crummey (capt), 6 S Moran, 9 E O'Donnell; 10 J Malone (0-1), 5 S Barrett; 8 R McBride (1-1), 11 Fiontan Mac Gibb, 12 D Suttcliffe (0-1); 13 F Whitely, 14 R Rushe (0-1), P Ryan (1-7, six frees, one 65).
Subs: 21 T Connolly for Barrett, 22 C Boland (0-1) for Whitely (both 43 mins), 23 D Treacy (0-1) for O'Carroll (51 mins), 24 R Hayes for McBride (66 mins).
Referee: Colm Collins (Cork).