AS the last embers cooled on a fiery night in Wexford Park last Saturday and the kaleidoscope of snap reaction spun itself out, perspective began to permeate around the night and the mad-hatter draw contained within.
No, Dublin had not showered in glory or anything near so luxurious. Yes, they were making life tough from themselves given that win, lose or draw tomorrow night’s replay in Parnell Park with Wexford, they will be playing championship hurling on three successive weekends.
But just as Kilkenny staggered to life belatedly in Tullamore last Sunday, the victors in Parnell Park will have an extra 70 minutes of match sharpness with which to arm themselves for a Leinster semi-final with the Cats eight days later.
Small mercies and all that.
“Definitely, we weren’t up to scratch in terms of our converting chances,” reflected Joey Boland, who, somewhat surprisingly, played as Dublin’s centre-forward on the night.
“I don’t know how many wides we had. It could have been 14 or 15. That’s just kind of a freak thing because usually we’re pretty accurate so we’re obviously not up to scratch, not up to speed yet. Hopefully that game will bring us on.”
The implication being that a one-point win (a result which, until only a couple of years ago, would have justified delirious celebration in the capital) might not have served Dublin as well as another tangle with Wexford, particularly at home in Parnell Park, provided, of course, that they do the job at the second time of asking.
Against that, the need to dampen expectation around the Dublin hurlers has long expired. And a loss to Wexford, over whom Dublin have supposedly leaped in the Leinster hurling scene, would constitute a blow every bit as destabilising as the chastising by Kilkenny or the collapse to Clare last summer.
A win, and a pretty compelling performance, featuring a forward unit with adhesive effects on the ball, flowing fluency and clinical finishing is very much the Dublin order of the night and the only combination of events which will raise any hope that they can rattle Brian Cody’s men in a week’s time.
“Shooting, taking our chances,” identified Boland as the single area for improvement tomorrow night.
“You can go out to a pitch and puck as many balls over the bar as you like but it’s that intensity when you’re drained of energy to try and keep a cool head and pop it over the bar which, in fairness, a lot of us did for a lot of the game.
“There were just a couple of wides. But the plus side is, there were a lot of chances made.”
Boland himself had a night to enjoy and endure. His posting at centre-forward, presumably, was a shock to all but the inhabitants of the Dublin dressing-room.
And with Paul Ryan benched, the Na Fianna man found himself on free-taking duties, nailing all his early efforts but contributing three wides at a critical time in the match.
“It’s a different role,” says Boland. “They asked me to do a job. And I did it as best I could. I’ve always said players should be able to play where they’re asked. Wherever I’m put, I’ll play. No problems at all.”
Wexford, meanwhile, suffered a similar affliction, butchering chance after chance as Dublin slumped on the ropes seeing stars.
It took all their experience and the replacement of half their starting forwards before Dublin drew level but it was, at least, an encouraging sign of belief.
“Last year, we fell down with a couple of minutes to go,” Boland points out. “Hopefully that will stand to us this year – that we’re a stronger team mentally as well as physically.
“Plus, we trusted our panel. It’s a 20-man game these days and especially in that heat out there. A load of us were out on our feet in the last 15 or 20 minutes. It was such an energy-sapping day.
“The likes of Trollier (Eamonn Dillon) came in with the goal. Mark Schutte did very well. Paul Ryan did very well off the bench and made an impact. So it’s a 20-man game and you have to trust them to make an impact, which they did. So that will stand to us again.
“It was tough,” he adds. “We knew what they were going to bring because they beat us twice already this year. They’re not going to lie down in their back yard. So it was very, very intense and it took a while to get used to that intensity. Hopefully it will bring us on for the next day.”