ARGUABLY the biggest shock at Croke Park yesterday wasn't the sight of Wexford unnerving Dublin, but rather the realisation that Bernard Brogan is human after all.
The reigning Footballer of the Year is the most lethal weapon in the Dublin armoury. And it looked like the start of a routine day at the office when he spectacularly curled over a point from a tight angle after only 20 seconds.
But a combination of stout Wexford defending and uncharacteristic wayward finishing would dominate his afternoon from then on with Brogan taken off 10 minutes from time after missing 11 chances. Pat Gilroy replaced his entire starting full-forward line, with Diarmuid Connolly called ashore early and Eoghan O'Gara off at half-time with a wrist injury.
Brogan still scored two points from play, as well as a free, and created the panic that caused the mistake for the first Dublin goal -- but the team had to look elsewhere for scores.
"You don't expect Bernard to miss the ones that he did today, but we still came out the right side of it," said manager Gilroy.
"The Wexford pressure was severe, and some of the options we took were not right. We didn't support the guys in the full-forward line enough. A couple of times they were far too isolated, particularly in the first half. We got the ball into their scoring area 45 times, and 33 times we got nothing off it and we needed to change it. Only for Eoghan getting injured we might have taken Bernard off a bit earlier. He is human. He's allowed have the odd off day, and in fairness to him he hasn't done that for a long time."
Gilroy believes Dublin enter the All- Ireland series more strenuously tested than in other years.
"We've been put under severe pressure in different parts of the field. Today we were dealing with two or three men back in front of our full-forward line, and we found it difficult to break it down.
"We still managed to score 2-12, and I know we have a fortuitous goal, but it was still good to get that kind of score when the entire full-forward really didn't play that well.
"We learnt to win in a very ugly way."
Wexford's Jason Ryan insists his team takes nothing from the fact that they have been competitive compared to the 23-point mauling in 2008. "I'm absolutely gutted. I'm sick of losing to Dublin," he said.
"Maybe the goal was the killer but the point that came after was just as bad. Dublin have a habit of getting a goal and then getting the next point or the next score because the goal hits you and then when you're down you get a kick in the gonads," he stated, but refused to blame 'keeper Anthony Masterson for the match-turning Dublin goal.
"There was nobody at fault. You can't blame the goalkeeper," he said.
"It's still the same result, no matter how much is in it. It's black and white and we lost the game."