GAELIC GAMES/Dublin 3-21 Wexford 2-15: A SIGN of these improved times for Dublin. Their second away win on the trot was achieved playing considerably within themselves and the victory welcomed by some self-examination. Wexford having raised a decent gallop against Kilkenny last week were kept at a distance throughout following a strong start by their visitors.
Dublin now sit top of the league with three games still to play. For a side which started the campaign as 80 to 1 long shots to win the title the achievement is considerable.
“We’re here with seven points. If you’d offered me the position we are in back when I was eating the Christmas turkey,” said Anthony Daly, “I would have taken your hand off.”
Of some satisfaction to Daly, though, was the manner of a win which was achieved without the services of the flu-stricken Conal Keaney, the most prominent of the day’s absentees. Dublin scored 3-21 without their spiritual leader and used the occasion to showcase the benefits which Ryan O’Dwyer has brought to their attack.
Apart from Keaney, Dublin have Mossy O’Brien, Declan O’Dwyer, David Treacy, Alan McCrabbe, Peter Kelly and the promising Conor Clinton to throw into the mix and that strength in depth and competition for places will be invaluable as the year wears on.
For Wexford, exile in Division Two has left them slower in reaction and thought than top grade teams and along with Offaly they now prop up the table on nul points.
Dublin scored four early points yesterday with just a reply coming from Jim Berry in the form of a free but the momentum of the game was settled early on by two goals from David “Dotsie” O’Callaghan, whose return to form is yet another bonus for the Dublin camp.
Both goals came from the industry of O’Dwyer, one a picked pass from 40 yards away the other a ball smuggled into O’Callaghan’s path. Dublin led by 2-6 to 0-3 after a quarter of the game had elapsed and from there on the result never looked in doubt. Wexford battled gamely and asked some questions of the Dublin full-back line before half-time. A long ball from Eoin Quigley found both Rory Jacob and Berry in behind the line and Jacob passed for Berry to finish.
On the half hour Rory Jacob had a shot on Gary Maguire, whose save unfortunately popped up for Gareth Sinnott to finish to the net. The gap was duly closed to five points but Dublin never panicked.
Dublin’s fitness and support play was superior throughout and the difference this year from previous winters which bloomed briefly with promise is the composure and self-belief they are playing with. They have been scoring a lot of goals in the league and conceding almost as many. That is a fault Daly will have to remedy by summer but in the meantime there is no panic or no sign of crumbling when their defence is breached.
The other main change in Dublin’s approach is in their physique. They match the level of honest aggression of any side in the country now and have developed the muscle to go with it. The traditional Dublin ailment of running with the ball until trouble loomed and then submitting to panic has been replaced by a confident ability to break to the line or to draw the tackle and feed the ball away just in time.
The second half offered Wexford the benefit of a cold stiff breeze but little respite otherwise. O’Callaghan added an early point and then was supplied yet again by Dwyer after a 10-yard burst. Once more he finished to the net.
“We were a bit topsy turvey,” said Daly. “We started great but we tended to indulge ourselves around the field a bit for which we paid the price. We mixed the good with that. We got some brilliant scores, the last goal was a brilliant move but we gave away a bit too much as well. But we’ll take it. We had two tough games away here and away in Tullamore and we got two solid wins. We have a lot of work to do but we’ll drive on and concentrate on Galway.”
DUBLIN: G Maguire; N Corcoran, T Brady, S Lambert (0-1); S Hiney, J Boland (0-1), S Durkan; L Rushe, J McCaffrey (0-5, 0-3 frees); D O’Callaghan (3-1), L Ryan, C McCormack; D Plunkett (0-1), R Dwyer (0-6, 0-4 frees), P Carton (0-2). Subs: O Gough for Lambert (h/t), S Ryan (0-1) for L Ryan (h/t), P Schutte (0-2) for Hiney (45 mins), P Ryan (0-1), for Carton (62 mins) C Clinton for McCormack (68 mins).
WEXFORD: N Carton; P Roche, M O’Hanlon, C Kenny; L Prendergast, D Stamp, B Hobbs; H Kehoe (0-1), B Doyle; T Waters, E Quigley, S Banville (0-1) , R Jacob (0-2) , G Sinnott (1-1), J Berry 1-7pts from frees) Subs: M Jacob for Hobbs (27 mins), PJ Nolan (0-2) for Waters (42 mins), D Redmond (0-1) for E Quigley (53 mins), E Martin for Banville (67 mins), J Leacy for B Doyle (68 mins).
Referee: M Wadding (Waterford).