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Sunday 4 December 2016

'Delighted' Dunne leads Wexford from the depths

Wexford's Lee Chin Picture: Sportsfile
Wexford's Lee Chin Picture: Sportsfile

Anyone who witnessed Wexford's woebegone display against Dublin back in May, or who spied Liam Dunne's forlorn demeanour in the Croke Park media room afterwards, could never have guessed it would come to this.

A county seemingly on the road to nowhere are through to the All-Ireland SHC quarter-finals. And Cork, deservedly, are out.

"I am thrilled," the Wexford boss confirmed, just in case you'd missed his dance of joy at the final whistle in Thurles.

"We were the easy picking of the draw on form, if we're being honest. I am delighted because we put in a really good performance (against Offaly) last week and we weren't going to get any credit for that ... we backed it up with another good performance.

"Sometimes you need a break," he added, "and we haven't had too many this year with injuries and different guys not wanting to commit to it. The boys stood up and I am delighted for them."

No one stood up more than Lee Chin or Conor McDonald. Chin was inspirational at centre-forward, a trait epitomised by his 62nd minute equaliser, straight from the puckout after sub Daniel Kearney had angled home the only goal to edge Cork into an ill-deserved one-point lead.

Chin added his fourth point, three minutes later; then McDonald brought his haul to a gargantuan 13 with his tenth converted free in a near-flawless exhibition of shooting.

Liam Óg McGovern, who finished like a train, landed a brilliant late brace as Wexford tallied six of the last eight points in response to Kearney's would-be hammer blow.

All of which underlined Wexford's mettle and desire - qualities so glaringly absent in Rebel red with a few sporadic exceptions, notably Luke O'Farrell, Conor Lehane and Kearney.

Any Dublin fans looking on are entitled to ask why Cork weren't so submissive a week earlier, even if their identical wide count (15) reflected the same wasteful streak. This time, though, the malaise extended to confidence-draining turnovers and aimless balls over the sideline.

Selector Pat Ryan conceded that Wexford "cleaned us out" on breaks and on the ground, adding: "That's all about desire and workrate. As players, they'll have to take that responsibility but we have to take it as management as well - that we didn't put the right desire into them."

This completes a disastrous debut season for manager Kieran Kingston but, as Ryan correctly pointed out: "Unfortunately it's the problem with the last six-seven years that we put in one good performance, the next time we won't put in a good performance. We work hard one day, we won't work hard the next day. Look, that's not blaming the players - we as a management team have to take a big part of the blame."

For Wexford, though, it's onward to the quarter-finals on Sunday week when they'll be desperate to atone for their 2014 no-show against Limerick at the same stage.

"There is a lot more work to do," Dunne stressed. "We have won the second round of the qualifiers, but you need to keep your feet on the ground as well."

SCORERS - Wexford: C McDonald 0-13 (10f), L Chin 0-4, L McGovern 0-2, M Fanning (f), E Moore (f), J O'Connor, P Morris 0-1 each. Cork: P Horgan 0-7 (5f, 1 '65'), C Lehane, L O'Farrell 0-3 each, D Kearney 1-0, B Cooper, W Egan, A Cadogan, S Harnedy 0-1 each.

WEXFORD: M Fanning 6; D O'Keeffe 7, M O'Hanlon 7, J Breen 7; E Moore 8, P Foley 6, E Martin 6; J O'Connor 6, E Conroy 6; L McGovern 8, L Chin 9, P Doran 6; P Morris 6, C McDonald 9, D Dunne 7. Subs: H Kehoe 6 for Doran (inj 34), A Kenny 6 for Martin (inj 44), S Donohoe for O'Connor (63), C Dunbar for Moore (66), A Nolan for Morris (72).

CORK: A Nash 7; S McDonnell 5, D Cahalane 6, C O'Sullivan 7; A Walsh 5, C Joyce 5, M Ellis 5; B Cooper 6, W Egan 6; L O'Farrell 8, S Harnedy 5, J Cronin 5; A Cadogan 6, P Horgan 6, C Lehane 7. Subs: D Kearney 7 for Cronin (31), B Lawton 6 for Cooper (55), S Kingston 6 for Harnedy (61), C Murphy for Joyce (63), M Coleman for McDonnell (68).

REF: B Kelly (Westmeath). ATT: 15,540. MAN OF THE MATCH: Conor McDonald

All-Ireland SHC qualifier: Wexford 0-23 Cork 1-17

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