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Minors improve but not model of consistency

DUBLIN produced a dominant second-half performance in overcoming a limited Wexford outfit by eight points in their Electric Ireland Leinster Minor Football Championship quarter-final at the DCU Sportsgrounds on Saturday afternoon.

It was a far from complete display by the reigning holders but there were significant signs of improvement from their first-round victory over Louth, with subsequent incremental progress required if a powerful Kildare side are to be dismissed at the semi-final stage.

Central to Dublin's improvement was the redeployment of Eoghan O'Donnell to midfield, with the Whitehall Colmcille dual player adding the dynamism and mobility that was markedly absent in that sector against Louth.

Similarly, Aaron Byrne looked far happier at wing-back than at centre-forward while Garvin Gallagher, who featured at full-back in the opening round, was far more influential at wing-forward, landing two pivotal points in quick succession during the second half.

It was O'Donnell who opened Dublin's account following a surging run in the second minute, midfield partner Sam Molony doubling the lead soon after as the hosts looked to build on a strong start.

Con O'Callaghan (pictured) added a third point for Dublin in the fourth minute, benefiting from a fluency in Dublin's play that opened up the Wexford defence with relative ease. However, in windy and slippery conditions, the hosts failed to translate their early supremacy into scores and after recording three wides in quick succession, they allowed their opponents to find the target through an eighth-minute free from Donal Shanley.

Dublin responded well through their new addition to the panel, David McGrath, with Aaron Byrne producing a trademark run from wing-back to kick Dublin's fifth point by the 11th minute.

Wexford's policy of quick delivery into talented full-forward Paudie Barden was beginning to reap dividends with Shanley confidently dispatching a brace of frees as the Model County assumed greater control.

O'Callaghan and Molony both spurned goal chances as the half progressed, with Dublin fortunate not to concede in the 24th minute when Tony Smith crashed a shot off Lorcan Molloy's upright.

The half concluded with two scores of the highest quality, McGrath judging the wind to perfection to score from 40 yards while Shanley's glorious point in injury-time cut Dublin's advantage to just two points (0-8 to 0-6) by half-time.

When Shanley narrowed that deficit further within two minutes of the restart, it appeared that Wexford had sufficient momentum to launch a concerted challenge to Dublin's provincial ambitions.

However, their challenge petered out to a degree, with Jack Mullins' ability to nullify the increasing marginalised Barden a huge factor in this while Eoin Murchan was another defender to impress as Dublin tightened matters considerably.

This solidity allowed Byrne to restore Dublin's two-point lead and, thanks to Gallagher adding two points within a minute, Dublin effectively quashed any thoughts of a Wexford comeback.

Shanley briefly raised their hopes with a brace of frees by the end of the third quarter but their defensive struggles were exacerbated when O'Callaghan fired in two quick points.

Dublin failed to add a goal to their tally, with O'Callaghan, twice bravely denied by Dylan Cloke, hitting the crossbar in the 58th minute, though his misfortune was of an academic nature by the final whistle.