Dublin dethroned Wexford in the sizzling sunshine at Wexford Park tonight to book a semi-final date with Westmeath – 2-12 to 1-8.
The Model County were bidding for their fourth successive provincial title at this level but ran into a well-oiled Sky Blue outfit who will now entertain Kilkenny’s conquerors at Parnell Park in a fortnight for a place in the decider.
The defining moments in the match arrived in the 35th and 36th minutes when back-to-back goals from Sean Ryan and Sean Treacy propelled the victors into an unassailable eight-point lead after JJ Doyle’s men had gradually chiselled a four-point deficit down to two.
Thanks largely to a run of five consecutive scores between the fourth and 14th minutes, Dublin led by 0-7 to 0-4 at the interval, with seven different players on target for Joe Fortune’s slick charges during that opening 30+ minutes. The defending champions would have wind advantage upon the resumption – but would have needed a tornado on their side to break down this Dublin outfit!
Cathal Dunbar opened the scoring for the holders from in front of the posts on two minutes and Ryan replied in kind two minutes later. An excellent point from distance from roving corner forward Eoghan Conroy edged the visitors ahead – a lead they would not surrender…
The influential Treacy stretched the gap with a classy strike off his left and full forward Chris Bennett (’65’) became the fourth Dub to register in the 13th minute. With a slight glimpse of goal, Colm O’Neill – a late addition to the starting XV – drilled over the winners’ fifth successive score to leave four between them at the end of the opening quarter.
After a lengthy period of sparring, Model talisman Conor McDonald lofted over an inspirational point from way out the field but a more economical Metropolitan combination replied with a point from midfielder Jake Malone.
Centre forward Sam Kelly hit Wexford’s third but again the response was swift, this time from Mark McCallion. A shuddering Eoghan O’Donnell (yellow card) challenge on James Cash resulted in an injury to the latter and a close-range free which McDonald swept over via an opposition hurl on the stroke of 30 minutes to leave three in it at half time
Centre back Padraig Foley reduced the arrears with a beauty within 30 seconds of the resumption but midfielder Malone dropped over a superb point from the right wing on 32 minutes.
The momentum swung very much in Dublin’s favour three minutes later when – after McDonald had pointed a free at the other end – Ryan eased around his man to plant the sliothar in the bottom left corner of the Wexford net. Within 60 seconds, Treacy added a second Dubs major from close range – 2-8 to 0-6 six minutes into the second half.
McDonald (free) and Conroy swapped points before Treacy’s brace increased the gap to ten with 14 minutes remaining. Another McDonald free barely raised a cheer amongst the home faithful; Treacy (free) brought his tally for the night to 1-4 as the game petered towards an inevitable conclusion.
The Slaneysiders came looking for late goals but the Dubs defence stood firm until McDonald scooped the sliothar to the roof of their net from close range in added time. It was too little, too late for the hosts as an excellent Dublin team joined Westmeath, Carlow and Offaly in the last four.