Wexford rally well to exploit Dublin red
Wexford 1-20 Dublin 0-16
Pat Gilroy's Dublin hurling project is only a few weeks old, but already a few things are evident.
Just as he did with the footballers after 2009, every stone has been turned over to offer opportunities to players that others might raise an eyebrow to and dismiss as 'past it', or deficient in some area of the game.
Gilroy has used 46 players in the current programme of Walsh Cup and the challenge matches that have been stitched in between, and yet it feels like he is still only scratching the surface.
Whatever team does emerge is sure to be physical, if the early evidence is anything to gauge by, a throwback of sorts to Anthony Daly's tenure.
For around 46 minutes of this semi-final in Parnell Park yesterday they gave Wexford their fill of it with their levels of attrition.
Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald was happy with the response after the break, but felt afterwards that, even with a team that won't come close to resembling their championship best, Dublin left a calling card that will make them a real handful come summer.
But that attritional approach perhaps came at a cost here, Paul Winters throwing himself headlong into a 46th-minute flashpoint to earn a second yellow card and reduce Dublin to 14 men.
They were comfortably leading by five points at that stage, 0-15 to 0-10, but their collapse was alarming, with Fergal Whitely getting their next score more than 27 minutes later as a decent crowd was making its way to the exits.
Wexford hit them for 1-10 without reply. In between a lot went right for the visitors in that period, but Dublin were barely recognisable from the team that had dictated the terms up to then.
He is not one to unduly worry at this stage of a season, but Gilroy will nonetheless hope it is isn't a chink in the armour.
"You are going to struggle once you go a man down and we had been putting in a seriously intense shift up to that point," he said.
"It told then, we missed a good goal chance soon after that and it took its toll in the last 15 minutes. Our intensity completely went out of it and we changed a couple of lads to try and bring that back. It came back a little bit towards the end, but it is January and you are going to expect to see that. But the first 50 minutes of that was very good and very pleasing for us."
The toll is exacerbated by their parallel league preparation schedule. Early morning training sessions have again been built in, while there was a challenge match for some against Waterford on Friday night to double up on, a match that featured the return of Conal Keaney.
Winters had quite a first-half battle with Wexford full-back Liam Ryan, but the Model man, on a yellow card, didn't reappear in the second-half after sailing too close to the wind. By then Dublin were 0-11 to 0-8 clear, with Whitely among those to catch the eye.
Gilroy left the impression that they have got as much out the pre-season campaign as they had intended.
For Fitzgerald there's a fourth meeting with Kilkenny since he took on Wexford to contend with and with a further two - championship and league - scheduled, his contention that they "could be sick of seeing one another" might not be far off the mark.
Fitzgerald didn't like what he saw in the opening half, delivering a stark warning about life in Division 1A.
"I thought Dublin were the better team in the first-half, but that was down to us. We did not fight hard enough. We did not win any 50-50 balls. We played a bit better in the second-half, but I think your man being sent-off was the change. That gave us more room," he said.
"They were definitely way more physical than we were. You give him (Gilroy) another few months of doing that job, they're not a team you want to come across. Playing like that we won't survive in Division 1 and the lads know that. We had a lot of our team out there today," he warned.
"Probably the most consistent game we played last year was the Kilkenny championship game. We played for 70 minutes. When we hit the Leinster final and All-Ireland quarter-final we played in patches. When you play for patches against the big teams they're going to hurt you. It just takes 10 minutes and you're hurt."
Still, Fitzgerald had to be pleased with the way they took control, even allowing for the luxury of being able to keep a man, usually Damien Reck, back in a holding role.
Jack Guiney came off the bench and belted over two long-range scores to press home the advantage, but by then Aidan Nolan, David Dunne, Paul Morris and Cathal Dunbar had made the incisions to open the gap. Paudie and Kevin Foley were also instrumental in pulling Wexford together.
Dunbar scored the goal courtesy of Reck's pass - it may have been aimed at a different target, but the finish was clinical.
As an aside, the epidemic of thrown hand passes was very evident here. Referee Gavin Quilty pulled one early in the second-half, but that was only a fraction of what he could have done with so little clear striking action on view.
Scorers - Wexford: P Morris 0-6 (3fs), C Dunbar 1-1, P Foley (1f, 1 65), J Guiney (1f), K Foley all 0-3 each, C McDonald, D Dunne 0-2 each.
Dublin: P Winters 0-6 (3fs), D Burke 0-4 (4fs), F Whitely 0-3, C McBride, D Sutcliffe, J McCaffrey 0-1 each.
Wexford: M Fanning; D Reck, L Ryan, S Donoghue; A Maddock, S Murphy, P Foley; K Foley, Joe O'Connor; Jack O'Connor, A Nolan, P Morris ; C Dunbar, D Dunne, C McDonald. Subs: E Moore for Ryan (h-t), J Guiney for Joe O'Connor (46), J Firman for Moris (64), E Molloy for Donoghue (66), C Flood for Jack O'Connor (69), M O'Regan for McDonald (69), G Molloy for Maddock (70), L Chin for Dunbar (71).
Dublin: A Nolan; P Smyth, B O'Carroll, C Hendriken; S Barrett, D Kelly, C Crummey; J McCaffrey, T Connolly; D Sutcliffe, F Whitely, P Crummey; D Burke, P Winters, A Moore. Subs: D Gray for Barrett inj (21), C McBride for P Crummey (26), E Dillon for Sutcliffe (56), C Ryan for Moore (56), R Mahon for Conolly (59), J Madden for McCaffrey (63), S O Riain for Burke (65).
Ref - G Quilty (Kilkenny)