Dillon goal puts Dubs on road to more glory
A beautiful evening in Wexford Park and yet another glorious occasion for Dublin hurling as they retained their title with a compelling second-half performance which squeezed the resistance from the home side.
Dublin, physically stronger and consequently much better equipped to win possession, outscored Wexford by 1-9 to 0-3 in the second half with the crucial break arriving in the 38th minute, when sub Eamonn Dillon created space for himself before sending the ball scudding off the surface past Wexford goalkeeper Mark Fanning.
It was level at 0-11 each when Dillon got in his opportunist strike and, within a minute, Dublin had extended the lead to four points. Wexford subsequently failed to score again, while Dublin added a string of points which took them through to the All-Ireland semi-finals.
It was disappointing for Wexford, whose reputation had soared after beating Kilkenny, but they found Dublin a much tougher proposition and the loss of midfielder Emmet Kent with a head injury (he was taken to hospital for treatment) in the 22nd minute of the first half proved a serious setback.
From there on, Dublin took control around midfield, where Danny Sutcliffe was consistently effective, while the half-back line exerted its influence with a powerful display.
Liam Rushe was a commanding figure at centre-back and his colleagues responded so positively that Wexford found it virtually impossible to make any headway throughout the second half.
They did well enough in the opening six minutes, wiping out Dublin's two-point lead with good strikes from Paul Morris (free) and Harry Kehoe. That was as good as it got for Tony Dempsey's side, who were overwhelmed by Dublin's power from there on.
Dillon, who came on for Martin Quilty just before half-time, proved something of a super-sub, scoring 1-2 and generally causing problems. Another Dublin sub, Sean McGrath also made quite an impact, helping himself to two excellent points, while the accuracy of Kevin O'Loughlin from frees and open play was a major weapon.
Morris took over the free-taking duties from the departed Kent and did quite well, but with so little ball going in, it was very difficult for the inside men to make an impact. In contrast, the Wexford full-back line were under constant pressure, especially in the second half.
The start was delayed by 10 minutes due to the big crowd, many of whom got caught in traffic. Eventually the attendance rose to around 7,500, most of whom were from Wexford, but it was the noisy Dublin contingent who were celebrating at the end.
Dublin led by a point (0-9 to 0-8) at the end of a first half in which the scores came in clusters. Wexford made an early break, racing into an 0-5 to 0-2 lead before Dublin grabbed three points.
The Dublin points were shared by corner-forwards, O'Loughlin and Niall McMorrow, whose clever running took them into good positions which created the openings. It was level again at 0-6 each between the 15th and 24th minutes, a period in which Rushe, became a dominant figure for Dublin.
Liam Og McGovern put Wexford back in front with an excellent point in the 25th minute, which was followed almost immediately by another point from Morris, who also did well in the first half.
But just as they had done earlier, Dublin battled back and landed three points before the break from an inspirational line-ball cut from Dean Curran, an opportunist effort from Dillon and a free from O'Loughlin.
Nobody could have predicted at half-time that Dublin would enjoy so much dominance in the second half, but once Dillon struck for the goal, it sent their confidence levels soaring. Conversely it had a deflating effect on Wexford, whose share of possession dropped alarmingly from there on.
So, then another special day for Dublin as they added the Leinster title to the minor crown, while the seniors still have their sights on All-Ireland glory too.
Wexford needed a boost more than Dublin after a disappointing season at senior level, but it wasn't forthcoming on an evening when they just couldn't match the range of skills and physical power of John McEvoy's side who now march on to the All-Ireland semi-final where they will play Antrim.
Scorers -- Dublin: K O'Loughlin 0-8 (6f), E Dillon 1-2, N McMorrow 0-3, S McGrath 0-2, C Gough, D Curran (sideline) D Sutcliffe 0-1 each. Wexford: E Kent (2f , 1'65'), P Morris (2f) 0-4 each, L Og McGovern, P Doran, H Kehoe 0-1 each.
Dublin -- G McManus; B O'Carroll, D Kelly, J Doughan; D Curran, L Rushe, M Quilty; C Gough, D Sutcliffe; M Schutte, D Plunkett, R Mahon; K O'Loughlin, T Connolly, N McMorrow. Subs: E Dillon for Quilty (28), S McGrath for Mahon (ht), C Brennan for Schutte (50), F Clabby for Connolly (59), O O Maoileidigh for O'Loughlin (61).
Wexford -- M Fanning; W Devereux, P Donnelly, E Moore; M O'Regan, M O'Hanlon, S Murphy; H Kehoe, E Kent; S Tomkins, J Leacy, L Og McGovern; P Morris, J Breen, P Doran. Subs: D O'Keeffe for Kent (22), J Gahan for Leacy (43), I Byrne for Tomkins (46), J Reck for O'Keeffe (56).
Ref -- S Cleere (Kilkenny)