Excellent second-half performance sees Dublin into quarter-final
Enniscorthy was busy. The round-about leading into the town is called: ‘The Buck Stops Here’.
There was no place to hide on the final Group day in the Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Senior Championship.
Up the hill to the fine home of Rapparees Starlights. With its stone seats and homely atmosphere. The turf was shaved and the pitch lined with the club’s colourful flags.
The brilliant Siobhán Madigan of RTÉ arrived into the Press Box. So did the dedicated We Are Dublin duo, Nigel McCarthy and Noel Murphy. Also on commentary duty was the former Wexford player and All-Ireland winning manager, Stellah Sinnott.
Young Lucia Graham walked out to help referee, John Dermody, with the toss. And she did a superb job as the coin twisted in the air like a spinning-top.
In the distance was Vinegar Hill. And Dublin were soon climbing it. Wexford had two goals in the bag within nine minutes.
It was Jackie Quigley who drilled in the opening goal at the score board end, and the second goal, from Joanne Dillon, was a gem.
She was to the right of the posts. There were defenders on her heels, but she managed to strike the sliotar high to the left corner.
Wexford looked slick and sure. And were working hard. Linda Bolger made a brave block on Issy Davis, and Emma Walsh did the same on Jody Couch.
Yet Dublin kept grafting. And, inch by inch, they began to find their voice. Aisling Maher was sending over the emails. She had a splendid match. And so did Davis, her stature rising with each passing week. She scored one of the points of the day, and it lifted Dublin’s spirits.
Leah Butler was tight to the left sideline on the stand side. She slipped the ball to Hannah Hegarty, who sprayed a pass to the right hand corner. From where Issy drove it over the sweet spot.
Dublin trailed at the break, 2-3 to 0-6. At half-time, the children swarmed onto the pitch. There was no music over the tannoy.
But had there been, it could well have been a hit from the man who is back on the big screen, ‘It’s Now or Never’.
Right on the restart, Dublin won a free. And Maher’s shot dipped under the bar. The wonderfully gifted Aisling O’Neill added an elegant point. And, suddenly, there was a different complexion to the day.
Six minutes into the second period, Emma Flanagan pounced for a goal that put the Dubs four points ahead. And now there was no stopping them. As they began to sprint towards the last eight.
Their lungs were swelling with confidence. They hit a cluster of porcelain points. And a third goal on 53 minutes. Hegarty found Ali Twomey and Ali’s pass opened the door for Davis, whose finish was as delicious as a coffee slice.
Two minutes later, Davis cracked in her second goal. Which was set up by a neat pass from O’Neill. It was a simple, unselfish pass that summed up the wisdom of her years.
It is Dublin against Kilkenny on Saturday week, July 16th, at Semple Stadium for a place in the Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship semi-final.
The Dubs secured their ticket with a 4-14 to 2-10 win over Wexford at Bellefield on Saturday. Such an outcome looked unlikely early on.
“I was worried,” admitted Dublin manager, Adrian O’Sullivan. “We didn’t start well, and Wexford got two cracking goals.
“But we managed to come back into the game. We were three points down at half-time, but we knew we weren’t completely out of it. The way we finished the half gave us that bit of belief.
“It was calm in the dressing-room at half-time. Our message was to focus on the performance and let the outcome take care of itself.
“We made a couple of tactical adjustments, and the players produced a brilliant second half. They played out of their skin. It was as good as the day below in Walsh Park.
“We have a huge opportunity now. Playing Kilkenny in Thurles. I’m delighted for the players. They just give us everything.”
Wexford manager, Kevin Tattan, emerged from the dressing room. The day’s result etched on his face.
Yet he hid his disappointment when he spotted a young Wexford supporter, and told her mother that the child was welcome to get as many autographs and selfies with the Wexford players as she wanted.
Tattan looked back on the game. “We started well. We were getting the ball into our attackers, and they were taking their players on. We were really doing well.
“But the momentum went against us. Dublin got two goals, and in the second half we struggled to get the ball into our forward line. We found it difficult to turn the tide.”
Tattan commended Dublin’s display. “Dublin have been good this year. They got a grip around the middle of the pitch, and they were winning good ball. Getting it into their forwards.
“We are disappointed. A couple of breaks go your way, and a couple of breaks don’t. But we have a great group. They have worked so hard. Giving everything for the jersey. And it’s all about driving forward now.”
Tattan also complimented the excellence of Aisling O’Neill. “Aisling is going to be a super player. She already is a super player. Dublin have some top-class forwards.”
The Dublin manager, Adrian O’Sullivan, highlighted the performances of O’Neill and Issy Davis, who made crucial contributions to the triumph.
“People talk about what makes a good player. Talent alone is never enough. It’s about delivering under pressure. When it really counts. And that’s what Aisling and Issy did out there. It was fantastic to see that from two young players.
“I hope that the Dublin minor manager, John O’Connell, was looking in because the players he had as minors are playing so well.”
And the side also contains priceless experience.