Old hands help Dublin see off Wexford challenge

Conal Keaney and Alan McCrabbe in great touch for defending Leinster champions

Wexford 1-14 Dublin 0-22: Summer in bloom, and with that Dublin burst their way into another Leinster hurling final. They had to rely on old heads like Conal Keaney and Alan McCrabbe, but they're there now to defend the title won last year for the first time since 1961.

It was only after Wexford’s effort eventually wilted in the warm evening that Dublin were sure of their passage, because as a contest it wasn’t entirely decided until the end – with Dublin’s experience, and perhaps greater will to win, the telling difference overall.

Keaney’s five points from play provided the platform for Dublin’s win, although he was afforded a little too much space by his Wexford opponents. Still, in front of a bumper crowd of 13,943 – or those who preferred to watch it live here, rather than on Sky – there was no denying Dublin were the better team in the end.

So it’s on to the Leinster final, on July 6th, where they’ll play either Kilkenny or Galway, who meet next Sunday. Indeed all the pressure was on the champions, since winning the title last year, but they rode it out like champions typically do: no fear, no panic, no problem.

Indeed in the second half Dublin went from strength to strength – stretching their two-point advantage at the break to win by a comfortable five points.

They were missing All Star forward Danny Sutcliffe, and first-choice goalkeeper Gary Maguire, but plenty others stood up, McCrabbe hitting 0-9, three from play, with Paul Ryan also scoring three, and Michael Carton two. In defence Liam Rushe and Peter Kelly proved their All Star qualities and Colm Cronin marked his championship debut with a point. Goalkeeper Alan Nolan had an excellent debut too.

Wexford were left relying on the free taking of Colm Morris in the second half, but did start nicely sharpened by their 13-point win over Antrim, and it showed. Dublin were without a competitive game in 11 weeks, and that showed too.

Because Wexford hit two points in the opening three minutes – Jack Guiney and the young Conor McDonald – in the same time it took Dublin to hit three wides. Then, McCrabbe levelled Dublin up, and Keaney – already enjoying too much freedom in the half forward line – hit his first big score of the evening to edge Dublin ahead.

Then, just when it seemed Dublin were starting to throw more of their weight around, Wexford struck a brilliant goal. Paul Morris originally set up McDonald, and even though Alan Nolan managed to block his shot, up pounced Podge Doran for the rebound. And up Wexford went, 1-3 to 0-4.

Wexford didn't hold that advantage for long. Paul Ryan, parachuted straight in for the injured Mark Schutte, hit two big points, and Keaney added his second, again after Wexford afforded him too much room.

McCrabbe’s free-taking accuracy also held up, so that Dublin edged back in front. Even though Liam Óg McGovern got an important point back just before the break, Dublin were still worthy of their two-point cushion at the break, 0-11 to 1-9.

Dublin’s 2014 form – lost three league games, won three, in strict rotation – was somewhat questionable, yet their consistency held up impressively in the second half to them through, and with that leave them nicely positioned to retain the Leinster title for the first time since 1942.

DUBLIN: 1 A Nolan; 2 S Hiney, 3 P Kelly, 4 P Schutte; 5 S Durkin, 6 L Rushe, 7 M Carton (0-2); 8 J Boland (0-1), 9 J McCaffrey (capt); 12 C Cronin (0-1), 11 R O'Dwyer, 10 A McCrabbe (0-9, six frees); 14 C Keaney (0-5), 13 D O'Callaghan, 15 M Schutte.

Subs: 24 P Ryan (0-3) for M Schutte (5 mins, inj), 21 N McMorrow for O'Dwyer (43 mins), 20 C McCormack for Boland (60 mins), 26 D Treacy (0-1) for O'Callaghan (66 mins).

WEXFORD: 1 M Fanning; 2 L Ryan, 3 M O'Hanlon (capt), 4 K Rossiter; 5 L Chin (0-1), 6 A Shore, 7 C Kenny; 8 D O'Keeffe (0-1), 9 H Kehoe; 10 P Morris (0-6, four frees, two 65s), 11 P Doran (1-1), 12 L Óg McGovern (0-2); 13 R Jacob, 14 C McDonald (0-2), 15 J Guiney (0-1).

Subs: 26 G Sinnott for Guiney (44 mins), 18 D Redmond for O'Keeffe (50 mins), 22 E Moore for Kehoe (56 mins), 21 I Byrne for Jacob (57 mins),

Referee: Colm Lyons (Cork)