Wexford 1-20 Dublin 0-16
A Dublin dismissal eleven minutes into the second-half led to a complete transformation in Parnell Park, Donnycarney, on Sunday.
A sluggish Wexford side finally discovered some decent form with the aid of the extra man and ended up rather flattering seven-point victors over the home side in this Bord na Móna Walsh Cup Senior hurling tournament semi-final.
The boys in blue were clearly on a mission to impress new manager Pat Gilroy, and their tenacity in the tackle and general superiority was amply reflected in an interval lead of 0-11 to 0-8.
And when that advantage was stretched to 15-10 without any undue trouble on the re-start, Wexford looked to be in a genuine spot of bother.
However, everything changed in the 46th minute after a foul on Mark Fanning on the endline as he attempted to prevent a '65 led to a brief shoving match.
Corner-back Simon Donohoe quickly left the scene and, by the time referee Gavin Quilty located him to show a yellow card, he had already booked Dublin duo Paul Winters and Fergal Whitely.
Winters had been cautioned beforehand in the 31st minute, and his departure was followed by a complete take-over by Wexford as they reeled off 1-10 on the trot before Whitely fired over a consolation point deep into added time.
It was undoubtedly the game's most significant moment, and it's worth noting that the dismissed full-forward's direct opponent, Liam Ryan, had also collected a first-half booking as the pair were constantly grappling when the ball was directed into the Dublin forward line.
In the circumstances, it was a blessing in disguise when Ryan didn't resume for the second-half, with Eoin Moore coming on at centre-back and Shaun Murphy reverting to the edge of the square.
Yellow cards can be picked up for next to nothing these days, and Winters paid a costly price for that second indiscretion as it afforded Wexford the space to work the ball forward from defence, creating constant overlaps in the process.
Damien Reck became the free man with the option of joining the attack if desired, and the young defender made his presence felt as Wexford pounced for the game's only goal in the 51st minute.
Kevin Foley had already narrowed the gap to four (15-11) after the sending-off from a short, snappy Jack O'Connor pass before Danny Sutcliffe drove a half-chance for a Dublin goal across the square and to the right and wide.
Just over one minute later a long-range Donal Burke free dropped into Mark Fanning's grateful hand, and he picked out Aidan Nolan with a pinpoint pass.
Damien Reck arrived at pace to carry on the move and drive at the Dublin defence before delivering a handpass towards Cathal Dunbar, although the forward had to retrieve it as it went to ground. However, the nippy attacker's first touch was precise as he gathered the ball slightly to the left of goal and hammered a powerful shot into Alan Nolan's net (0-15 to 1-11).
Paul Morris, much improved in the second-half, then fed David Dunne for the equaliser, and suddenly Wexford were powered by an unstoppable momentum.
A lead that had been lost in the ninth minute was eventually regained at the start of the last quarter when Morris availed of a Dunbar handpass, and seven more points followed in succession as Wexford ended up easing their way to a final clash away to Kilkenny on Sunday.
Morris (free) made it 1-14 to 0-15 before an Eamon Dillon effort that was comfortably claimed by Mark Fanning led to one of the best points of the afternoon at the other end.
The netminder found Kevin Foley whose high ball in was caught spectacularly and handpassed in an instant by Conor McDonald as he fell to the ground, with David Dunne on the scene to apply the finishing touch.
Neither of the starting wing-forwards, Jack O'Connor and Aidan Nolan, got on the scoresheet, but the workrate of both was immense. And they combined in the 60th minute, with the latter, at midfield by that stage, finding Morris who turned sharply to wrong-foot a defender before making it 1-16 to 0-15.
That Nolan move came with the arrival of Jack Guiney to left half-forward in place of Joe O'Connor, and the big Rathnure man landed two swift points after deliveries from Kevin Foley and Shaun Murphy respectively (1-18 to 0-15).
The win was in the bag by that juncture, but there was still time for two more points from a Foley long-ranger and a Guiney free before Fergal Whitely ended a Dublin scoreless spell that lasted for all of 29 minutes.
Matthew O'Hanlon, Lee Chin, Diarmuid O'Keeffe and Harry Kehoe were among those carrying injuries or unavailable, with the toss taken by Shaun Murphy in the absence of both joint captains.
The first of twelve wides from the visitors (five in the opening half) arrived from Paul Morris and Jack O'Connor before full-forward Conor McDonald rewarded good approach work by Morris and Aidan Nolan respectively with a brace of points.
Free-taker Paul Winters brought Dublin level by the sixth minute, with his second strike coming after Shaun Murphy struggled to bring a short Mark Fanning puck-out under control.
With the home side dropping back, tapping the ball to an unmarked defender was the regular preferred option of the netminder, but some sloppy handling ensured that his plans didn't always work out.
And with the experienced Chris Crummey, in particular, strong under the dropping ball, Wexford didn't have matters their own way when he opted to go long either.
A foul on Liam Ryan saw the ball moved forward when a Dublin player stood over it, and the extra yards were seized upon by Pádraig Foley as he made it 3-2 in the eighth minute.
That advantage was squandered when a booking for Aidan Nolan was followed by a Shane Barrett free which broke kindly for Fergal Whitely, and he levelled for the second time.
Conor McDonald sent a scoreable free to the left and wide before Paul Morris took on that particular task, and his first conversion in the 18th minute came after Paul Winters had hit three on the trot for the Dubs - two placed balls after blazing over from play.
The second Winters free arose after another puck-out lapse, with Liam Ryan losing the ball on the right wing and then clipping Alan Moore as he raced back which led to a yellow card.
Kevin Foley struck two wides on either side of that Morris point, and Danny Sutcliffe gave a brief reminder of what Dublin missed in his self-imposed exile when Ger Cunningham was in charge with a neat solo point off the stick to make it 7-4.
His marker, Pádraig Foley, had drifted from left to right when he split the posts from long range in the 19th minute, and Cathal Dunbar - who started on the '40 - narrowed the gap to one from a Conor McDonald handpass.
Winters and Pádraig Foley ('65) swapped points before Dublin substitute Cian McBride and Kevin Foley did the same.
That costly first yellow for Winters followed as he wrestled with Liam Ryan off the ball, and he then had two uncharacteristic misses from frees before Donal Burke assumed that role and converted two to leave Wexford trailing by 0-11 to 0-8 at half-time.
Free-takers Burke and Morris exchanged scores on the re-start, but Dublin continued to look the better side as new full-back Shaun Murphy had to make a timely block from a Fergal Whitely drive. The ball broke kindly for Johnny McCaffrey who was content with a point, and another Burke free widened the margin to 14-9 after Eoin Moore entered the notebook.
Paul Morris earned and converted a placed ball, but the response was swift as Fergal Whitely nudged Eoin Moore off the ball from a long Alan Nolan free and left his team with a 0-15 to 0-10 lead.
The beauty of hurling is that it can change in an instant, and the turning point followed quickly as Paul Winters saw red and Wexford finally managed to play with a degree of conviction.
After the muscle-loosener against Carlow and the waste of everyone's time versus Wicklow, this was the ideal test for the winners. And with the stakes set to be raised even higher in the final away to Kilkenny on Sunday, there's no denying that the mentors will end up with all they want and more from this competition ahead of the league opener away to Waterford on January 28.
For the record, the seven second-half wides (Dublin had nine overall) came from Jack Guiney (two, one free), David Dunne, Jack O'Connor, Jake Firman and a late brace from Aidan Nolan, while 19 of the 33 frees awarded went to Wexford.
Wexford: Mark Fanning (Glynn-Barntown); Damien Reck (Oylegate-Glenbrien), Liam Ryan (Rapparees), Simon Donohoe (Shelmaliers); Aaron Maddock (St. Martin's), Shaun Murphy (Oulart-The Ballagh, capt.), Pádraig Foley (Crossabeg-Ballymurn, 0-3, 1 free, 1 '65); Kevin Foley (Rapparees, 0-3), Joe O'Connor (St. Martin's); Jack O'Connor (St. Martin's), Cathal Dunbar (Ballygarrett, 1-1), Aidan Nolan (HWH-Bunclody); Paul Morris (Ferns St. Aidan's, 0-6, 4 frees), Conor McDonald (Naomh Eanna, 0-2), David Dunne (Davidstown-Courtnacuddy, 0-2). Subs. - Eoin Moore (Oulart-The Ballagh) for Ryan (HT), Jack Guiney (Rathnure, 0-3, 1 free) for Joe O'Connor (46), Jake Firman (St. Martin's) for Morris (64), Eoin Molloy (Naomh Eanna) for Donohoe (65), Michael O'Regan (Glynn-Barntown) for Jack O'Connor (69), Connal Flood (Cloughbawn) for McDonald (69), Gary Molloy (Naomh Eanna) for Maddock (70), Liam Rochford (St. Anne's) for Dunbar (70+2).
Dublin: Alan Nolan; Paddy Smyth, Bill O'Carroll, Cian Hendricken; Shane Barrett, Darren Kelly, Chris Crummey; Johnny McCaffrey (0-1), Tomás Connolly; Danny Sutcliffe (0-1), Fergal Whitely (0-3), Paul Crummey; Alan Moore, Paul Winters (0-6, 5 frees), Donal Burke (0-4 frees). Subs. - Cian McBride (0-1) for Barrett (22), Daire Gray for P. Crummey (25), Eamon Dillon for Sutcliffe (57), Robert Mahon for Connolly (59), James Madden for McCaffrey (63), Seán O Riain for Burke (65), John Hetherton for Moore (65).
Referee: Gavin Quilty (Kilkenny).