Dublin ease past Wexford to spark new hope
A Chinese proverb says 'a journey of a 1,000 miles starts with a single step'.
Well, Dublin supporters will be hoping their journey back to All-Ireland glory won't take as long as the proverb might suggest, but certainly the Dubs took a positive step into 2010 at Parnell Park yesterday.
One win, albeit by double scores over Wexford in the O'Byrne Cup, does not a championship-winning summer make, but if you have to play at this time of year with training curtailed by GAA rules and harsh weather, then you may as well win the game.
In that respect it was mission accomplished for Dublin in an untidy but interesting encounter that featured two dismissals -- one for either team -- and two penalties taken from the new 11-metre distance.
Goalkeepers be warned: it will take something special to save penalties this season as the shortened distance to goal gives the advantage to the player taking the spot-kick.
Both goals in the match came from penalties awarded to Dublin by referee Damian Brazil, both in the second half.
The first was a game-changer, as the teams were level at 0-6 each after 42 minutes when Brendan McManamon had a shot at goal which Wexford defender Joey Wadding tried to stop with an illegal foot-block.
Up stepped Blaine Kelly to score the penalty, and when the lively Brendan McManamon added a point a minute later, the Dubs began to put daylight between themselves and Wexford.
By the time the second penalty was awarded in the 63rd minute for David Murphy's foul on Kevin McManamon, Dublin were four points ahead on a 1-9 to 0-8 scoreline.
McManamon took the penalty himself and duly stroked it safely into the corner of the net to extend the margin to seven points.
A final flourish late in the match by Brendan McManamon put the final point on the scoreboard for that eight-point win.
Referee Gavin had sent off Dublin forward Eoghan O'Gara after 30 minutes when he followed through on Wexford centre-back Murphy.
Wexford's Brian Malone suffered the same fate three minutes into the second half after he clashed with Dublin's Darren Daly, who got a yellow card for that incident.
It was not a dirty game, but even allowing for the lack of sharpness and fitness of the teams, the referee could not be blamed for the red cards, as a tad more self-discipline by the players involved would have kept them on the pitch.
That said, it was an experimental Dublin team in which the McManamon brothers from St Jude's did well, scoring 1-5 between them. O'Gara produced some positive attacking play before he was sent off , and Kelly was a threat.
Dean Rock, son of Barney, was given 35 minutes and had mixed success from free-kicks but clearly has plenty of potential.
Wexford's Ben Brosnan resembles Conor Mortimer of Mayo in appearance and in his lively forward play, and he got six of his team's points.
He missed some chances, but was his side's best forward.
Defender Wadding covered himself in glory before conceding the first penalty as he dived to make a stunning block on a scoring attempt from close range by Kelly in the 25th minute.
Brendan Doyle and Daithi Waters worked hard for Wexford in midfield, but as the game wore on, the Model County's play became very loose and the open spaces were exploited gratefully by Dublin.
These teams meet in the Leinster Championship on June 13, but long before then the respective managers have questions they need answered by their players.
Wexford boss Jason Ryan commented: "The positives I'll take are the new guys -- Joey Wadding in the full-back line, Daithi Waters in midfield, young Conor Carty at wing-back, and Ben Brosnan in the forwards -- I thought they were all real positives for us.
"There were lots of different negatives but I'll be delighted knowing we have some fresh blood coming through and that fresh blood will hopefully motivate some of the others to increase their efforts and push on."
Dublin's manager Pat Gilroy summed up: "We were looking just for honesty from fellas, and a lot of endeavour and concentrating on working harder than we have done. We got a lot of that.
"There were an awful lot of mistakes as well but I don't mind mistakes at this time of year.
"You've got to encourage players to make them."
Scorers -- Dublin: B McManamon 0-4; K McManamon ((1-0 pen); B Kelly (1-0 pen) 1-1 each; D Rock 0-2 (01f); E O'Gara, M McAuley 0-1 each. Wexford: B Brosnan 0-6 (4f); R Barry, D Waters 0-1 each.
Dublin -- S Cluxton; C McCormack, P Casey, P Conlon; D Daly, S Murray, J McCarthy; M McAuley, E Fennell; J Brogan, T Diamond, D Rock; B Kelly, E O'Gara, K McManamon. Subs: C Reilly for S Cluxton (h-t); A Hubbard for D Daly (h-t); B McManamon for D Rock (h-t); S McGrath for B Kelly (53 mins); S O'Shaughnessy for T Diamond (58 mins).
Wexford -- A Masterson; J Wadding, D Walsh, A Doyle; C Morris, D Murphy, C Carty; B Doyle, D Waters; R Barry, B Malone, K Kennedy; B Brosnan, D Kinsella, P Byrne. Subs: C Byrne for A Doyle (h-t); A Morrissey for K Kennedy (49 mins); D Kehoe for C Carty (55 mins); N Murphy for C Morris (55 mins); A Flynn for B Doyle (63 mins).
Ref: D Gavin (Offaly).