Polished display from Wexford gems in Leinster Under-21 final

Champions retain their title in a comprehensive fashion against Dublin

Wexford 1-20 Dublin 0-18 Talk of hurling revolutions and heroes can be heard outside the Pale now. In Ryan, Guiney and McDonald Wexford have new names to champion as they came to Dublin last night and retained the Leinster Under-21 hurling title.

And they did so in a comprehensive manner. A dormant giant is stirring again. Galway are up next at this age grade but Clare are on the horizon. The above mentioned trio must rest up before Saturday's visit of All-Ireland champions Clare to Wexford Park in the senior championship replay. Their county needs them, and will continue to over the coming decade.

Act One went according to pedigree and the way the wind was blowing. Still, it was worrying to see Paul Winters whizz three placed balls wide of the posts. Very unlike the St Brigid's prodigy. He did finish with 0-9 and allied by the full forward line all scoring, Dublin stayed in touch.

But that's all they managed to do. This is a confident, powerful Wexford outfit. They have impressive hurlers in every line but the senior graduates – fullback Liam Ryan, Jack Guiney and Conor McDonald at full forward – are the real deal.


True gem

Guiney repeatedly punished Dublin with dead-eye frees but McDonald is a true gem, almost flawless under dropping ball. Cian O’Callaghan is a fine defender but McDonald, in this mood, is unmarkable.

Aidan Nolan

was also making hay with two points from midfield while Rhys Clarke’s long-range shooting helped them to a 0-12 to 0-8 interval lead.

Oisín O'Rorke looked Dublin's most potent weapon, spinning off Eoin Conroy for two scores with Cian Boland and Caolán Conway also contributing.

But Wexford are the better, more polished side. As defending champions tend to be even without graduates like Lee Chin. But in any decent two-act play there is some form of twist.

Dublin burst out of the changing room to bring it back to a two-point game. Garry Moore got Wexford back to a goal advantage. Winters was trying to win it on his own but a 20-yard free rebounded to him before Oliver O'Leary deflected the second attempt over his bar.

Imposing Dublin goalkeeper Conor Dooley was also getting involved in the thickening plot with some brilliant reflex saves, particularly from Clarke's bullet, and he landed a huge free from deep in his own territory.

Dublin were holding pace but a massive Wexford crowd didn't journey up the east coast in hope. This is their best group in an age. Carlow referee David Hughes was getting all kinds of pressure from the travelling supporters. They rose in unison when he gave, what they felt, was a long overdue free for Guiney to clip his fifth score.

Then Wexford dropped the anvil. Of course it was McDonald who rifled a shot past Dooley. That made it 1-15 to 0-13 with 44 minutes played.

Extended lead

Aidan Nolan and Guiney weren’t long extending that lead to eight points. Wexford were ravenous now just like their seniors in Ennis last Saturday, as are all their teams nowadays.

Dublin needed a goal. They dropped some enticing balls in on top of O'Leary's square but Liam Ryan gathered and batted it to safety. That action bloodied him. He was gone not 60 seconds before returning to fell Colm Cronin. With no black card in hurling, it was the correct decision to take the yellow card. Winters pointed the free and Dublin trailed by six with three minutes to play.

Make that six minutes due to injury time. Dublin needed two goals now.

Matthew McCaffrey and Cronin both unleashed shots but O’Leary saved both of them.

Deserving champions. WEXFORD: 1 O O'Leary; 2 D Byrne, 3 L Ryan, 4 E Conroy; 5 A Kenny, 6 S O'Gorman (capt), 7 J O'Connor; 8 A Nolan (0-4), 9 C Devitt; 10 J Guiney (0-8, five frees, 65), 11 G Moore (0-1), 12 P Foley (0-1); 13 R Clarke (0-2), 14 C McDonald (1-3), 15 K Foley. Subs: 17 J White for D Byrne (19 mins), 18 R Tubrid for L Ryan (53-54 mins, blood), 23 P Sutton (0-1) for P Foley (55 mins), 22 T French for C Devitt (59 mins). DUBLIN: 1 C Dooley (0-1, free); 2 M McCaffrey, 3 C O'Callaghan, 4 S McClelland; 7 C Robinson, 6 C Crummy, 5 E O'Donnell; 8 D Gormley, 12 G Whelan (0-2); 13 P Winters (0-9, seven frees), 10 A Clabby, 11 C Cronin; 9 C Boland (0-1), 15 C Conway (0-3), 14 O O'Rorke (0-2). Subs: 19 C MacGabhann for C Robinson (half-time), 18 F McGibb for A Clabby (34 mins), 22 M Cavanagh for D Gormley (49 mins), 17 K O'Flynn for C Conway (54 mins), 20 A J Murphy for E O'Donnell (60 mins). Referee: D Hughes (Carlow).

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent