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Michael Carton, Dublin, in action against Podge Doran, Wexford. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

Michael Carton, Dublin, in action against Podge Doran, Wexford. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

Michael Carton, Dublin, in action against Podge Doran, Wexford. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

MICHAEL CARTON beamed as the last pats on the back landed just before entering the dressing-rooms in Parnell Park on Saturday night.

"I'll be sore tomorrow in work," he smiled, victory over Wexford, the reinforcement of a recent Dublin superiority, already soothing the scars of a fairly bloody two-week war.

"Wexford are a very good hurling team and this is what we expected out of them. I know they were two scrappy affairs but to come out of them with a win was great for us.

"It's tough," Carton added. "We have to learn to deal with the favourites tag. We seemed to struggle with it at times."

Not, admittedly, likely to be much of a burden for Dublin this week.

"It's good to get two tough games and come out of it with a win. It's great. It should bring us on a lot."

Anthony Daly, likely more certain now of his ideal starting XV than he had been prior to the drawn match, was definitely sure that the extra match would bring his team on in a hurling and possibly even psychological sense, even if they won't be quite so fresh today as they would with a week's rest.

"The bodies would have been more thankful anyway, a few lads sore in there, a few stitches and that," he said, perhaps hinting, but definitely not pointing an accusing arrow at any of a number of late, potentially dangerous hits on Dublin players over the course of the preceding 70-something minutes.

And that Dublin needed a second time of asking will be forgotten about quickly this week as the great stripy behemoth appears on their radar.

In separate interviews with print and television media on Saturday night, Daly pointed to the fact that his team had played Wexford four times this year between Walsh Cup, league and now Leinster championship fare and had yet to lose once, a statistic which back when he took over in late 2008, would have caused delirium.

Garlands

That colourful garlands of praise weren't dropped at his or his team's feet this week won't perturb him any either. The win itself was gratification enough and there were, certainly, some bright sparks in amongst the largely tense, unpolished stuff.

Conal Keaney at wing-forward being chief among them. Peter Kelly at full-back, another.

And Carton himself is one of the unqualified successes of the last two sun-kissed Saturdays. First day out, he was the best performer in a half-back line that included Conal Keaney and Liam Rushe – arguably Dublin's most consistently effective over the 70 minutes.

His second point from way out on the left wing was, quite possibly, the most vital single score of the tie from a purely Blue perspective and his resurgence continued to Saturday night, particularly so after half-time.

Paul Schutte was taken off during the break, with Shane Durkin bringing some gas around the middle for Dublin as his replacement.

Ergo, Joey Boland moved to wing-back and Carton slotted in as Dublin's sweeper, a handy off-shoot of Andrew Shore's sending off, with Peter Kelly and Niall Corcoran marking Wexford's two inside men.

Carton's calm in possession was an antidote for some of the pressure Wexford put on and, at times, Dublin brought on themselves.

"It (the sending off) didn't really change it too much for us," Carton insisted. "We just had to focus on every ball. Like, how many times do 14 men beat 15 men? So, the attitude was just 'head down and win every ball'.

"We have confidence. We knew we had confidence. We just had a bad game last week ... well, not really a bad game, more bad shooting really. We knew it was in us and it came out there now so that's great."

A year ago, Dublin were preparing for Kilkenny in completely contrasting circumstances.

Perception

The 'three cruciates' were back and hurling. Dublin had just decimated Laois and despite relegation from Division 1A, their league title of a year previous and exploits in the All-Ireland semi-final against Tipperary remained the prevailing forces in most people's perception of Dublin.

A year ago then, Dublin were about to be crippled by expectation, the ingestion of their own hype and subsequently, the fiercest force ever assembled for the purposes of hurling down in Portlaoise.

In that regard, this week will have a completely different atmosphere.

"Head down now," Carton concluded.

"We know what Kilkenny are like. It's the only Kilkenny you'll get.

"It's going to be a great week. I can't wait for it now. I'm looking forward to it.

"We just have to go out and prepare for that and meet the very best with our very best."


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