Dublin’s eligibility for a new All-Ireland challenge has been a topic of discussion since they declared themselves human not long ago. After a league in which they were demoted from Division 1 and relinquishing their All-Ireland title when they lost to Mayo last year, uncertainty about the team’s true well-being has taken hold.
His will not have answered too many questions, a bloodless win at Wexford against a county that last tasted victory over Dublin in the 1956 Championship. At Leinster, Dublin also appear to be less dominant than they used to be, but have only lost once in 17 years. At Wexford Park they faced a team that finished sixth in Division 4.
In truth, with this kind of divide, the game shouldn’t reveal much about Dublin’s true state. Last year Wexford gave Dublin a hard time and the first signs of corrosion were showing, games Dublin would have won at a gallop were now decided by single digit margins. This was a bit more like the old ways, Dublin were in total control led by a superb Brian Fenton who scored five points from play and a 1-6 contribution from the recalled Con O’Callaghan.
Wexford were a surprise opponent after beating Offaly a week earlier. Led by Ben Brosnan who scored 1-8, they sent John Maughan’s team into the Tailteann Cup and denied Offaly an appealing home game against Dublin at Tullamore. But Brosnan, try as he might, was living on scraps this time and was well watched over by Eoin Murchan. In the first half, when Fenton was imperious, scoring four points with both feet, Wexford managed just one goal.
While they managed to get within eight of Dublin last year, they were never even close and struggled early in the game with their own kick-out with a tendency to go long, resulting in a poor return. Dublin gave David O’Hanlon his league debut in goal and the Na Fianna man spent most of the game as active as most of the spectators. He handled the ball once in open play in play and dealt with a ball that slipped through the fingers of a Dublin defender late in the game. Otherwise, his most difficult task was kicking the ball wide, which was rare enough given his team’s dominance.
After Wexford had netted just once in the first half, a point from Eoghan Nolan in the 10th minute, Wexford struck three in the second minute and kicked just five wides, showing just how little activity there was down at Dublin goal. They were 1-0 to 10-0 down at the break.
Those more optimistic about Dublin’s current state of health relied largely on the return of O’Callaghan from injury, named after his first game of the year. But while he was successful at 1-6, most of the damage was done after the break when the game was effectively over, with 1-5 coming his way on that side of the half. In the first half, Wexford kept a close eye on the Cuala man and managed to defuse the Dublin attack threat fairly well.
But Fenton gave them a headache, by far the most influential player in the game in the first half when Wexford defended deep and numerous. Along with his four points, he also gained a 45 from another try that Dean Rock landed. The Raheny man brought a degree of composure to the Dublin game, covering a large amount of ground to help his defense when he turned over a ball at one point when Wexford were ambushing.
Wexford were lucky as O’Callaghan was put through by Ciaran Kilkenny in the 27th minute, Dublin found an overlap and the Cuala man’s shot went off the bar. It turned wide from there, but the referee signaled a penalty point. Despite Wexford’s protests and appeals to the linesman on that side of the field, who briefly consulted with Barry Cassidy, the score stood.
Dublin had another scoring opportunity four minutes from the first when O’Callaghan slammed a pass to John Small, who shot the bar. The lead was already uncatchable at the break.
Fenton took his tally to five from the game just after the break and the game was hermetically sealed in the 40th minute when Rock smashed a shot off the underside of the bar and when he came back O’Callaghan used quick hands to turn it on Darragh to bring Brooks into the net.
Brosnan shot a point from the game but Wexford now had the demeanor of a team wondering if their continued industry was worth the effort. O’Callaghan found a new life, scoring three non-response points to leave Dublin 14 points clear and the crowd of just over 7,000 must have checked the clock to see how much was left before heading home could go.
A 23-point loss for the hosts was a stunning contrast to the excitement they felt in defeating Offaly just a week earlier. Dublin return to Croke Park on May 15 as part of a semi-final doubles header. They did what they had to do, put in an efficient performance and got a morale boost as they attempted to reach another Leinster final.
Dublin – CO’Callaghan 1-6; B fentons 0-5; D skirt 0-5 (1 45, 1 st); C Costello, B Howard 0-2 each; C Kilkenny, J Small, T Lahiff, L O’Dell 0-1 each;
Wexford – E Nolan, B Brosnan, N Hughes (M), P Hughes each 0-1.
Dublin: D O’Hanlon; E Murchan, M Fitzsimons, L Gannon; R McDaid, J Small, J Cooper, R McDaid; B. Fenton, T. Lahiff; S Bugler, B Howard, C Kilkenny; C Costello, C O’Callaghan, D Rock.
Subtitle: J McCarthy for McDaid & N Scully for Bugler (49); S McMahon for Murchan (53); A Byrne for Costello (54); L O’Dell for Little (62).
Wexford: D Brooks; M O’Connor, E Porter, L O’Connor; D Furlong, G Malone, K O’Grady; N Hughes, L Coleman; D Shanley, P Hughes, A Tobin; M Rossiter, E Nolan, B Brosnan.
Subtitle: T. Byrne for Shanley (42); R. Brooks for Rossiter (45); M Furlong for Tobin (59); J. Tubritt for Brosnan & Ryan for Nolan (69).
Referee: B Cassidy (Derry).
https://www.independent.ie/sport/gaelic-games/gaelic-football/con-ocallaghan-back-with-a-bang-as-dublin-obliterate-wexford-but-bigger-questions-await-for-dessies-men-41603794.html Con O’Callaghan is back with a bang as Dublin obliterates Wexford but bigger questions await Dessie’s men