'Ultimate test' ahead as Dubs trounce Model
Dublin 2-19 Wexford 0-12
Ger Cunningham admits the acid test awaits against Kilkenny next month after first-half goals from Eamon Dillon and Darragh O’Connell helped Dublin secure a semi-final spot with a 13-point trouncing of Wexford at a rain-soaked Croke Park on Saturday.
The Dubs never looked back after Dillion’s cool 17th-minute finish and former Kerry hurler O’Connell sealed the deal with their second in the dying moments of the opening half to hold a 2-10 to 0-8 lead.
With the elusive Niall McMorrow causing Wexford further trouble in the second half and 11 different players on the scoresheet, Dublin powered on in the closing 35 minutes, outscoring Wexford 0-9 to 0-4.
Cunningham will be pleased with the clinical nature of their performance, and the composed displays of rookie defenders Shane Barrett and Eoghan O’Donnell, but he’s well aware that stiffer challenges lie ahead against the Cats.
“That’s the ultimate challenge really,” the Dublin boss said. “These guys have been champions for the guts of the last 10 or 12 years. It’s a huge challenge for us, but any of the guys inside in the dressing-room will hopefully look forward to it.
“And they’ll take on the challenge of what’s ahead. There’s some of the aspects of this performance that won’t be good enough to go to Portlaoise and beat Kilkenny, so there’s stuff we’ll have to work on – but just delighted to be in a position to take them on.”
Their task was made easier by a deplorable Wexford performance with Liam Dunne acknowledging that his side haven’t progressed as planned while bemoaning the loss of many key players this season.
“When you look at a performance like that, straight up you’d have to say no. But there’s a such a transition of players from this team in the last two or three years. It’s just phenomenal, to get a settled team, to get everyone back,” he said.
“You have Jack Guiney going over to America in the middle of last week, you have Kevin Foley, a guy with three Leinster U-21 medals and he feels he can’t give the commitment and doesn’t want to hurl for Wexford at the moment.
“We can’t afford not to have everybody. But it’s a tough one. People will say you’re not making progress but you’re introducing young guys all the time. And they’re learning harsh lessons at the moment.”
Wexford led 0-5 to 0-4 after a quarter of an hour with Conor McDonald and Liam Óg McGovern lively up front, but the game would turn quickly with Dillon’s goal.
The in-form attacker poached the sliotar from his marker Liam Ryan, who had lost his hurl, before racing through and scooping the sliotar past Conor O’Leary to the net.
Dillon opening up the Model men’s defence like the Red Sea was a sign of things to come and Treacy followed up with two frees before Mark Schutte extended the gap to five.
McGovern broke a ten-minute dry spell for his side with the first of two quick-fire points, followed by a McDonald effort, but Treacy replied with a trio of frees before O’Connell banged in another goal.
A dangerous Dillon delivery was gathered by Schutte but schoolboy Wexford defending saw three men swarm around the Cuala forward. He fed the unmarked O’Connell who finished with aplomb.
“Goals win games and they got two of them,” was Dunne’s verdict. “We didn’t track the second one back, which we should have. We didn’t defend well for both the goals really.”
In their first Leinster Championship appearance in Croke Park since 2008, Wexford showed some fight early in the second period but McDonald’s 52nd-minute free was their final score of the game.
Chris Bennett, Paul Ryan, Daire Plunkett and the returning Ryan O’Dwyer, who was back to his usual combative self, sent over further scores as the Dubs coasted to victory in front of an attendance of 13,066.
“He’s been itching to get back in, he’s been hounding the doctors as to when he can get back in playing,” Cunningham said of O’Dwyer. “He’s coming back after a serious injury and he has a huge passion for the game. It’s just great to have him back in the dressing-room. We need his physicality and what he brings to the table. It’s been great.”
Cunningham confirmed that All-Star full-back Peter Kelly and Cian Boland will miss the Kilkenny clash while Dunne outlined how influential midfielder Lee Chin “could have been banjaxed for the year” had he played through injury.
The Wexford boss was sympathetic for the efforts of his youthful side.
“And you think of those guys in the dressing room there, they’ll be ridiculed by everyone after that, which you have to take on the chin. Some fellas don’t want that. They wonder is it worth the hassle and they decide it isn’t. Some fellas will die for it. Everyone is different.”
SCORERS – Dublin – D Treacy 0-8f (7f, 1 ‘65), N McMorrow 0-4, E Dillon and D O’Connell 1-0 each, J McCaffrey, P Ryan, C Bennett, R O’Dwyer, D Plunkett, M Schutte and D O’Callaghan 0-1 each. Wexford – C McDonald 0-6 (4f), L Óg McGovern 0-4, H Kehoe and E Moore (‘65) 0-1 each.
DUBLIN –C Dooley 7; E O’Donnell 7, C O’Callaghan 7, O Gough 6; C Crummey 7, L Rushe 7, S Barrett 7; D O’Connell 7, J McCaffrey 8; D Plunkett 6, N McMorrow 8, D Treacy 7; D O’Callaghan 7, M Schutte 7, E Dillon 7. Subs: O O’Rorke for M Schutte (BS 8), M Schutte for O O’Rorke (BS 9), R O’Dwyer 8 for D O’Connell (56), C Bennett 7 for M Schutte (60), P Schutte for J McCaffrey (69), O O’Rorke for D O’Callaghan (70), P Ryan for E Dillon (71)
WEXFORD – C O’Leary 6; L Ryan 7, M O’Hanlon 7, E Conroy 7; E Moore 6, P Foley 6, D O’Keeffe 7; J O’Connor 6, A Kenny 6; H Kehoe 6; P Morris 5, D Dunne 6; L Óg McGovern 8; C McDonald 7, P Doran 6. Subs: C Dunbar 6 for A Kenny (h-t), I Byrne 6 for P Morris (47), E Martin for E Moore (66).
REF – F Horgan (Tipperary)